Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Part 9, Twilight Zone

We have cable now. I hate it. 300 channels of crap.

You know a TV show I liked? The "Twilight Zone." The black and white one. I still love that show. I would look for it, but it's too much work. How is a person supposed to navigate through all those channels?

Besides, we have this gigantic wall mounted TV with three different remote controls. I honestly don't know how to turn the thing on.

Things were a lot more straightforward when I was a teenager. Two buttons, two dials, six TV stations. One or the other of them used to show "Twilight Zone" around 11 o'clock Friday night.

Everybody has a favorite "Twilight Zone" episode, right? You know my favorite episode? It's the one that starts out in a hospital, and the hospital is real quiet like the graveyard shift is on, and you see an occasional person walk by, but you don't see anybody's face.

If you're a fan of the show, I'm sure you know the episode I'm talking about, so you maybe want to skip the next two paragraphs.

Then somebody faces the camera. I forget who it is. Nurse, doctor, orderly. Doesn't matter. You see this face, and it's this scary, disfigured face. Nose off to one side, big pointy chin, eyes set deep in the skull and fixed in a permanent scowl. Then you see another face, and another and another. And they all have those same grotesque features. And the people with the scary faces have a patient they're trying to operate on, but the patient resists, and they have to drag the patient to the operating room.

Then the patient's face turns to the camera, and that's when you see the patient's face for the first time. The patient is a beautiful woman. And it dawns on you that the people with the scary faces plan on disfiguring her.

The first time I ever saw that episode I must have been 15 or 16. I remember thinking to myself, "This is about circumcision."

I guess that gives you an idea of how I felt about circumcision when I was a teenager. I wasn't panicked or confused about it anymore. I had moved on from that. I knew that in all likelihood, I'd been circumcised within hours or days of my birth, and I knew that was something that happened to most American boys. But knowing those things didn't make me feel happy about being circumcised. Knowing those things made me feel like I was living in a 'Twilight Zone' episode, an episode where I, and most of my friends, had been disfigured without our consent for the sake of what? Hygiene? Aesthetic considerations? Social convention? Nobody ever told us.

One thing I loved about the "Twilight Zone" was very often the episode would end in what felt like the middle of the story, and you'd have to make up the end of the story yourself, in your own mind.

In my mind, the scary face hospital episode ended this way: The people in the hospital overpowered the beautiful woman, anesthetized her and gave her the standard grotesque face. She'd spend the rest of her life with that face. From time to time, she'd meet someone whose face wasn't disfigured, maybe a person from another country where routine face alteration was unheard of. Or maybe she'd see a picture in a magazine of a woman with a beautiful natural face. Or one of her friends would say "Oh yes, my niece has her natural face. She never had the surgery. She's unconventional that way." Or a thoughtless stranger might say "I love having a normal face. You disfigured people don't know what you're missing."

What kind of feelings would that woman experience then? Humiliation? Rage? Grief? Shame? Those are the things I always imagined her feeling, because those were the feelings I always had whenever I had to think about what my circumcision had taken away from me.

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