I have a very special friend, someone I can talk to about anything. He's decided for purposes of this narrative he would like to be called "Vlad." Personally, I think that's kind of a silly choice, but I would ask that you honor his wishes and visualize him as whatever sort of person the name Vlad conjures in your mind.
Here's something I've heard Vlad say in one way or another many times over the years:
I don't get not having a foreskin. How do you not have a foreskin? If I didn't have a foreskin, I don't think I could ride a bike. I don't think I could run or play sports. It would be like not having an eyelid.
And I always tell him, yes, that's exactly what it's like. That's exactly what it is. Being circumcised means not having a protective membrane on a part of your anatomy that evolved with a protective membrane.
But if the only life you've ever known is a life without the protective membrane, you learn to make all kinds of accommodations for your unprotected, easily irritated body part. That's just how life works for you. You don't think to yourself, "Boy, all these activities I enjoy sure would be easier if I didn’t have to keep thinking up new ways to compensate for my missing membrane."
No, you make adjustments without ever thinking about it. I put a lot of energy into making adjustments when I was growing up. I didn't know that's what I was doing, but that's what I was doing, making adjustments.
"Now wait a minute," I hear you say. "What do you mean you didn't know that's what you were doing? I thought you said you knew all about foreskins. What about your friends who had foreskins? What about the Everything You Ever Wanted to Know book for teenagers? What about the animated NASA penis?"
Well, those experiences didn't teach me anything about a foreskin's function. When I was a teenager, the only thing I knew about foreskins was, if you were circumcised, you didn't have one.
So when my penis felt irritated from all the friction resultant from all the normal boy activities I used to do—running, hiking, playing baseball, riding a bike—it never occurred to me that the irritation was a result of being circumcised. I thought I just hadn't found the right kind of underwear yet. I'd say to myself, "My underwear's not working out for me. I need to try something different. Tighter this time. I need to go tighter."
By the time I was 16, I was wearing the tightest underwear you ever saw in your life. I would always buy the smallest size jockey shorts I could fit into without cutting off the circulation to my legs. The idea was to keep my penis locked in place, completely immobile, because if my penis didn't move, there wouldn't be any friction, and if there wasn't any friction, my penis wouldn't chafe against my underwear.
But after ten or twelve trips through the washer machine, my jockey shorts would start loosening up, and I'd end up wearing loose underwear again. Then as I walked, ran, rode my bike or played baseball, my penis would move around in all the ways made predictable by the laws of Newtonian physics. My penis would chafe, and sometimes the glans, the part of my penis that would have been covered by a foreskin if I hadn't been circumcised, would bleed.
A few times my penis bled that way, and I didn't know about it until I took off my underwear, at which point I felt the coagulated blood tear away from my penis, taking who knows how many layers of skin cells with it.
What did that feel like? There are so many different kinds of pain in the world, and it's hard to convey how a particular kind of pain feels, isn't it? But let me try. When you were a kid did you ever fall off your bike and plant your face or your hands on asphalt or gravel? Imagine if instead of your face or your hands it was your genitals. It felt like that.