Saturday, July 16, 2011

Part 20, A Scientific breakthrough

kurt_t, teen cancer researcher
The important thing is my extra credit research paper strategy worked.  Mr. Hodges bumped my grade in Biology up to a B with a wink and a nod and the unspoken understanding that I would not pursue a career in health care or veterinary medicine.

Well, no, I guess that's not the important thing.  The important thing is my "research" into cancer taught me something new about circumcision, something that made me think that having an unnatural-looking, scarred penis might have its advantages after all.

Women with circumcised husbands, I learned, had lower rates of cervical cancer.

Now, at what point in my research I unearthed this critical finding I don't remember.  Maybe it was in that pamphlet I found in the booth at the Dairy Queen, or maybe I read it in Women's Day or Dear Abby's column.

Doesn't matter.  What mattered was now I had a reason for being circumcised, and a reason was something you could bargain with.  "Yes, part of my penis is missing," went the bargaining logic in my teenage head, "but the part that's still there won't give you cancer."

Looking back, I think bargaining became my preferred grief mode pretty early on in life.  When my parents split up, my mom and I moved out of a house in the neighborhood where all my friends lived to a walk-up apartment across the street from my elementary school.  "I won't have to walk as far to school," I told myself.  "Maybe I can sleep in."

Now, I knew that, in all likelihood, the suspected carcinogenic properties of the human foreskin had nothing to do with why I'd been circumcised.  By the time I was a junior in high school, I'd already figured out that infant circumcision was just one of those inexplicable absurdities of mid-century American culture, like green eye shadow, or putting a can of cream of mushroom soup in the lasagna.

But that wasn't important.  Knowing that my circumcision had resulted from a mass cultural delusion didn't figure into the bargain.  Or maybe it figured into the bargain, but I could balance out that side of the bargain with this new information, this welcome assurance that my penis was healthful and wholesome like honey-sweetened herbal tea, not poisonous and deadly like an artificially colored diet cola.

It didn't matter that my Biology class crush on a boy with sandy blond hair and dimples and an accent like Conway Twitty made it clear to me that I was about as likely to give somebody cervical cancer as I was to win an NIH grant to study the anti-oxidant properties of Dairy Queen fruit toppings. 

No.  The only thing that mattered was, after all these years, I finally had something to bargain with, something that made me feel like maybe spending my life in a disfigured body wasn't quite the tragedy I'd made it out to be.

That's how I felt for a while anyway.

Until I got some more information.


  1. I chose circumcision at age 5 and was happy until puberty on. Now at age 54.
    With the www I studied circ, for 6 1/2 months 8-12hour days. Only after that point did I see I was out of the circumcision box and able to look in at the absurdness and cruelty. But! I find a tugging thought - circumcision is really not all that bad. Just skin right? Not having ever experienced the pleasure of developed sexual receptors (that happens with puberty). I can then see and feel what uninformed men speak. These thoughts I found annoying nonetheless. I knew circumcision to be the worst mistake of my life. Would these "not so bad" creepy thought ever stop? Yes they did JUST LAST WEEK.!

  2. Your grandma was right. You did look like Mark Hamill.

  3. Hey Anonymous, watch it with the inside information.

    KOTFrank, I have to tell you I've read your comment about twelve times. It's so poetic. It kind of reminds me of Graham Greene. I feel like it should be the opening of a novel.

  4. I see some amouris spam came in while I was camping. Debunkation appears here.