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" There I was, brand-new, the cheerful survivor of a rattling and fearful experience already,
When masked men with implements of destruction went for my private parts with malice..."

does circumcision really hurt, or are men like trout, with no real feelings in their major parts?
by brian doyle


Asked, from the back row, in an anatomy class I am visiting briefly as a traveling jester.
There is a long and remarkable pause, the sort of pause you might call a pregnant pause.
Well, I'll tell you, maybe I am a rare being, but as I remember it was the worst pain ever
In my experience up to that time, I say. The already-riveting silence in the class deepens.
I cannot say that I recall the scope and extent of the pain now, some years having passed,
But I can say, without fear of contradiction, that it seemed a wholly unfair state of affairs.
There I was, brand-new, the cheerful survivor of a rattling and fearful experience already,
When masked men with implements of destruction went for my private parts with malice
Aforthought, and escaped from the fray with scraps of my skin as, apparently, souvenirs.
This seemed then and seems ever more so now to be utterly barbaric, to say the very least.
And it's not like anyone ever had the courtesy to return the tiny scalp to its rightful owner.
No, we are all supposed to move on from that awkward event and let bygones by bygones,
But me, personally, myself, I wonder what that was all about. Many years ago an authority
Decreed that all male children would have to undergo this ludicrous and essentially savage
Deletion, a deliberate scarifying that appears to have no medical benefit or use whatsoever,
And here we are, or there I was, innocent as all get out, suddenly confronted with a scalpel.
To say it didn't and doesn't seem at all fair would be an understatement of epic proportion.
To conclude, I have not noticed that trout are much for circumcision, so you might wonder,
If you are in the wondering mood, which species is the more advanced, the one that scars
Its larvae on purpose for reasons no one can remember, or the one that gobbles caddisflies?


Brian Doyle is a muddled male mule who has committed eight books rather like a series of venial sins: five collections of essays, nonfiction misadventures about hearts and wine, and a collection of "proems" that the great American poet Pattiann Rogers says darkly will ruin the word poetry for ever and ever. More from Brian Doyle can be found in the Smokebox Archives.

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