To circumcise or not to circumcise, that is the (next) question

Once you’ve made a dictatorial decision about your wife’s body (to thong or not to thong) it’s on to making one about your son…

As a good old fashioned American you will be happy to know that I am in fact circumcised. Phew…what a relief right?! Now you can relax and get on with the rest of your day. While only 1/3 of the world’s men are circumcised, sources say that 75% of American men are mushroomin’ it. Why is it that so many American parents have made the decision to snip the tip? Is it for religious beliefs? Is it for health benefits? Is it because uncircumcised penises look super duper silly? Or is it simply because of tradition? These are all very good, legitimate, scientific questions that I’ve never had to ponder until very recently…when I found out that my wife and I would be having a boy! Thank you, thank you…thank you.

Now, if I was living in the states, which I am not (Spain), and if my wife was American, which she is not (Spanish) I think the decision would be much easier. They say that generally speaking the health benefits outweigh the risks and normally the procedure is covered by insurance. So I’d probably just go with the foreskin flow baby. Besides, I’m not sure if I could put my son through the potential ridicule of being the 1 kid out of 4 whose sword is still sheathed…especially not without his consent. You remember how mean kids were in school don’t you?! I can just hear my future adolescent son now, sarcasm dripping from his voice, “Gee, thanks dad, thanks for the pencil when everybody else has erasers. Reeeal cool.”

We’ll focus more on my son’s future later but for now, back to me. As I said before, I belong to the majority of Americans who have lost the epidermal edge, who are missing the pink point. But I spent the first few years of my life living in Europe. Belgium to be exact. Yep, you may have heard of it, beer and waffles, but not together. In Europe circumcision is quite uncommon. Almost non-existent due in part to the fact that the surgery is excluded from the free public health care system. Do you know what this means?! It means I saw my first uncircumcised penis before you did! Nanny-nanny boo-boo! And more importantly I saw it before I could properly process what I was seeing! It was like something from another world. I remember it like it was yesterday…

A couple friends (Europeans) and I were playing soccer (big surprise) in their back yard one day. We couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old at the time. These kids were brothers and after playing for a while they needed a pee break. While standard operating procedure would have led them inside to the private confines of a bathroom, you must remember we were in Europe! In Europe you can pee anywhere, anytime, and for whatever reason. The certainty that someone else will see your private parts is the very least of your concerns. The fact that they were in their own yard only made them that much quicker to drop their drawers. It wasn’t my intention to look but they were being anything but discreet and once I caught a glimpse it was hard to look away. It was difficult to control my laughter. I didn’t understand what I was seeing but all I knew is that where their penises should have been, were the tiniest little elephant trunks I had ever seen!

In hindsight the story is quite ironic. Firstly, because I was outnumbered, two elephant trunk-ettes to none. They should have been the ones laughing at me! Gosh, can you imagine how frightful a circumcised penis would have looked to them?! Down right horrific, the ghastly result of some freak zipper accident or such. Panning out into broader contexts, I was in the clear minority, not only in Europe but on planet earth!

So start the clock, let the countdown begin, 5 months until it’s decision time. To circumcise or not to circumcise? I’m torn. (No pun intended). My son may spend a few years here in Spain but will most likely grow up state side. Will the surgery be safe and worth paying for in the private health care system here in Spain? Will he be healthier one way or the other? Will his scars be psychological as well as physical? Will he be made fun of by his surrounding culture if his skin salmon swims against the current?! I don’t know! What would you do, if you were me? Feel free to leave any constructive advice you might have in the comments section below!

UX designer & researcher hoping to encourage thought & laughter wherever life might take me. linkedin.com/in/jp-bowers/ @UnIinthemirror