For most boys, summer means lots of play time. No school. No homework. On this end of the world, it is also the time when young boys are circumcised as a rite of passage to manhood. In the provinces, the boys are lined up under the sun and one by one, they face the village doctor, screaming with fright and pain as their foreskin gets cut off. Oh yes, the old man NEVER misses. For some, the screams would be more terrifying than the wait, such that they’d run back home crying. For some, the shame of facing their peers “uncut” would be more unbearable than the cries that would pierce the noon day sun. After being cut, the bloodied member would be wrapped in chewed up guava leaves [or washed in boiled guava leaves then covered with gauze]. As it heals, menfolk would tell the boys to be careful that their privates shouldn’t be seen by any female, even their mother, or else it will get infected. Despite the lack of anaesthetics and proper hygiene, everybody survives with their own stories of bravery to tell.
Since I have a son, we always had this conversation every summer. I always told him that he can decide on it when he gets older. Perhaps it’s because of relatives or classmates that have already been ‘cut’, my son decided to go through it. I opted for the safer route — to let a doctor do it in a hospital.
It was an outpatient procedure. What made the experience amusing was that there were 5 kids aged 7 – 10 before us. The kids came with their parents [aunts, sisters, uncles etc] for morale support. As the kids came out of the room, they were congratulated by their fathers, “Son, you’re a teenager now.” or “Son, you are now a man!” To which my son would whisper,”awh ma, that is so wrong. Circumcision doesn’t make me a teenager…I am already a teenager. I’m also a man. Why do they say that?”
I’d go, “it’s to make people feel good. They also believe that it circumcision makes you a man. Who are you to argue with what they believe?” I smiled. “Why are you going through this again?”
“Because I have to. I want to. For hygiene. So that I don’t have to face my gf, if I have gf, uncut.” He said shaking.
I grinned and said, “I think we better come back AFTER you’ve finished college. So that you won’t have any girl looking at your penis and being embarassed till then. At least I don’t have to worry you’ll have sex before finishing college.”
“Ma! that’s embarassing.” He laughed.
So there we were, submitting to the dictates of culture without really admitting it. We were both relieved when it was done and over with. Laughing and joking as we took the public jeep back home.
I guess in some cultures, it’s their ‘first’ sex act that makes men feel like… men. On my end, it’s just a **$)% foreskin!