A man, altered

Today, I got circumcised. This represents the end of a long journey with my body and self-image. Growing up as a middle-class, white midwesterner, a foreskin was a rare sight. My parents were always quite adamant that circumcision was cruel and unnecessary. My mom lived off and on in Norway, and had a heavy Scandinavian influence in childrearing. And my dad’s family was just very granola; in fact, none of my cousins are cut either.

Being uncircumcised made me really uncomfortable growing up. And no, it wasn’t the locker room nightmare new parents dream up to assuage their guilt of circumcising a newborn. Nobody ever called me “anteater”, or to my knowledge, even took real notice. (Though certain cues were bothersome, like foreskin not even appearing on the male anatomy in sixth-grade sex ed. The teacher decided to mention that the foreskin was missing from the graphic, eliciting confused looks and questions from the boys in the class. But, if it’s covered in skin, how do they pee?”)

Later, of the fifteen guys or so who handled dick sexually, only one (an exceptionally pigheaded North Dakotan) indicated direct dissatisfaction with my foreskin. And even that didn’t stop him from sucking it. And it’s not even that I dislike foreskin on others. Sure, most of my porn is of cut guys, but the hottest one-night-stands I’ve ever had were with intact dudes. Yet my dislike of my own foreskin was strong, and the feeling of being an outcast, or the fear of being unclean, was constant.

My foreskin has become materially problematic as I’ve gotten older too, making me self-conscious even with my long-term boyfriend. When topping, the foreskin would interfere with a condom, making it bunch up at the end. Even bareback, the foreskin was long enough when erect that it got in the way of the far more sensitive inner-skin and head.

So I finally decided to bite the bullet, and about a month ago I scheduled a circumcision. (Since my foreskin problems were not significant — like phimosis — it wasn’t eligible to be covered by insurance.) As the time neared, I was getting more and more nervous.

Finally, today came. I arrived with my boyfriend in the late morning to the urologist’s office, a suite in a dull, gray building on a suburban hospital campus. After finishing my forms, we sat for an hour or so in a dark waiting room. I was getting more nervous by the minute, while my boyfriend sat contentedly on his laptop. At one point I had to get up to use the restroom, in the common area of the office building. I briefly contemplated just running for it and leaving my boyfriend there. Then I talked myself down and returned to the waiting room. Finally, the door opened, and “Andy,” the (obviously gay) male nurse brought me back to an exam room. The doctor entered shortly thereafter, asking with a surprisingly amount of drawl, “So what are we doing today?”

"Uh…" I asked, wondering if this is some sort of test, "a circumcision?"

Apparently I’d misunderstood. He was cutting (no pun intended) right to the chase: what outcome I was hoping for. This guy has a reputation for very fine cosmetic results. While I was thrown off by the question, I was quite prepared to tell him what I wanted. We went through my hopes, and he told me pretty realistically what my particular penis would probably do. He also warned me that at least one of my choices would make the healing process a little uglier… apparently the frenulum, which I wanted to retain, would resemble a swollen turkey wattle for the next couple of weeks. Unpleasant, but well worth keeping that piece of my anatomy.

Then the doctor and I went through the consent form, which went through a horrific number of very unlikely, but remotely possible outcomes, including amputation of the penis and death. At the end, it asked me to confirm that “I am aware that I am having a normal body part altered.” That gave me a twinge of guilt.

Andy came back and led me to the surgical suite. He put me into a changing room, where I was told to drape myself in a large piece of paper, in order to, you know, preserve my dignity. This felt silly more than dignified, but I walked out with the paper around my waist as instructed. Andy started with a shot of antibiotics in my ass, and then told me to get comfortable on the table.

Andy, gaydar likely beeping, asked me who was waiting for me in the lobby. My boyfriend, I replied. We’ve been together about two years. Apparently Andy has been with his partner for ten, and I felt comfort in the solidarity of being prepped by a fellow gay. The doctor came back in to do my initial anesthetic (the surgery is done only with local anesthetic). This was probably the most painful part of the procedure, especially an injection at the base of the penis on the raphe. After he finished that, Andy did a more thorough scrub to ready things for surgery. Taking out a bottle of iodine antiseptic, he commented that it had a bit of a dye to it, so it would “match your pretty little hair.” I laughed, somewhat uncomfortable. As things were slowly going numb, he explained that certain sensations could still be felt while numb. Among those, apparently, is the feeling of abrasive gauze rubbing iodine on your dickhead. “Yeah, I can still feel that,” I told him, “it’s kind of abrasive.” “Yeah, you’re not numb enough yet,” he replied, “and uncircumcised guys tend to have a pretty sensitive glans.” Andy had clearly had some out-of-work experience in the matter, and I again acknowledged his comment uncomfortably.

The doctor returned another five or so minutes later, ready to start poking to see if the anesthetic had set in. I was doing my best from this point on not to look at what was going on, so I’m not even sure what the instrument he was using was. A large blunt needle would have to be my best guess. For some reason, one area of my dick was exceptionally good at transmitting pain, and had to be re-anesthetized several times.

Next came the marking and the cutting. The doctor explained earlier that he would do it as a two-step process. He first marks and cuts the outer layer of skin, right at the edge of where it rests on the glans. Then he pulls it back, and cuts the inner layer, just inside the ridged band. Then he cuts vertically into the the “sleeve” of skin formed between the two cuts and removes it. From there, somewhat analogous to a barber, he pulls the two still-attached ends of skin together to see if he needs to — you know — take a little more off the top. Andy and the doctor seemed very pleased with the initial eye-balling, only needing to take off a little more when he tested the initial cut. Since I knew the inner-working of my penis were on full display at this point, I tuned out as best I could, chiming in only if the exceptionally pain-aware part of my penis had started to complain again. The only particularly grotesque part of the procedure was the electrocautery (used to stop bleeders), since, while I couldn’t feel the burning sensation, I could feel the shock going through my crotch. I was completely unaware when he was actually cutting and removing the skin. Andy did his part here, talking incessantly about some movie he’d recently seen — the most helpful smalltalk I’ve had in years.

Finally, I was sutured and packaged up. After the doctor left the room, I asked Andy if it would be okay if I took a picture of the skin. “Sure, let me just clean it up, get it picture-worthy,” Andy replied, yet again seeming to enjoy this a little too much. I wiped off the iodine and got my clothes on, and Andy had laid out my skin cleanly on a paper towel. I took a few pictures, with a credit card for scale. While I had quite ample foreskin, it looks surprisingly meager after it comes off the body and has a chance to dry up. I won’t be sharing the picture here, but I’ll just say it basically looks like a very thin piece of seitan. Here’s a nice mental image:

image

Andy asked — more seriously than I would have imagined — if I wanted to take it “to go”. I politely declined, figuring it would become one of those tedious possessions, like a childhood art project: you don’t really want it around, but you’d feel guilty throwing it away. And so Andy rather unceremoniously picked up the paper towel and tossed it, manhood and all, into the regular trash. “Buh-bye!” he said, as he walked past the bin.

About an hour after the surgery ended, the numbness started to wear off. At this point, the most painful thing was probably the various injection sites. Fortunately, I was just about to pop my first hydrocodone, which has kept me on cloud nine ever since.

So now I wait to heal. Swelling is apparently the enemy; I’m to wear a compression bandage for ten days, and for these first few days, try to stay as level as possible. Already, though, I feel a sense of relief. Of taking this step I’d wanted to do for so long, but was terrified of.

Today I am (a little bit less of) a man.

Locker room

I feel like I can see my locker room relationship in phases:

<8 years

Uncomfortable largely because I was like the only uncut white kid. I noticed that pretty explicitly (started looking at cocks at a young age, clearly). I don’t recall being ashamed of the rest of my body yet.

8-11, 13-18 years

Would very reluctantly even be in my underwear. I don’t think naughty bits were ever revealed. Except to guys I was going to get fucked by. And a doctor, once.

Age 12

This was one of my fattest years, but the closest I ever came to being really comfortable with my body. We were in Oslo that year, and the attitude toward nudity was just a lot better. Somehow things just felt less intimidating.

Age 19-

I finally sucked it up and started changing and showering in public, in Scandinavia and in Minnesota. I was terrified of getting an erection if I saw a hot guy. I’m mostly over that fear.

It’s not like I love my body now; I wouldn’t have this blog if I did. But I think it has helped to force myself to be naked in front of strangers and hold my head high.¬†We should be naked more.

I have

I have avoiding running to avoid people seeing the fat kid run.

I have walked “The Mile” in school to avoid this. My best time was 16 minutes.

I have swum in a T-shirt because I somehow thought that wet cotton clinging to my boy-moobs was better than people seeing the skin directly.

I have spent my entire allowance on paying to take a city bus home every day instead of walking the two kilometers.

I have dodged so much as a first kiss till I was nearly 19.

I have, at BMI ~20, had sex with at least three men, just to reassure myself that I wasn’t too fat to get laid.

I have flirted with dozens more for the same reason.

I have cried for over an hour because a friend told me I should “lay off the oatmeal” when a shirt was kinda tight. That was six months ago, and I haven’t worn that shirt since.

I have stared at, grabbed at, pinched angrily at my lovehandles.

I have gone to different stores to get a smaller pant size. Not actually smaller pants, obviously. A smaller number. I’m 30 if I play my game right. Not at American Apparel.

I have grown up in a family where every immediate member was overweight or obese. All are still at least overweight.

I have been raised to learn to try to be loved despite my physical being.

I have wondered if I will ever overcome that.

Make me beautiful

I was a very fat kid — at my heaviest, age 14, about 240 lbs and a BMI of about 32. I lost a lot of weight in mid-high school, and have maintained my current weight, give or take, for about four years. In the last year, I’ve made a conscious effort to put on more muscle. I’ve been largely successful, but I have not lost any fat in the process. If anything, I’ve gained some.

So, my statistics for today:

  • 6’3
  • 175 lbs
  • 21% body fat (according to an electrostatic scale)

Need to work on figuring out my goals.