Years back, an ex of mine joked with me that, post-conversion, they’d make a big scene of slicing the bottle caps off the soda bottles at my party.
But as thematically (in)appropriate as such a scene is, accurate it ain’t: I’d already had my circumcision. I was only going through the ceremonial version, before jumping into the mikvah. Instead of snip & dip, it would be prick & dip: The urologist took what essentially was a diabetic needle, pin-pricked me and let out a drop of blood — הטפת דם ברית, as they put it in Hebrew.
It was a humbling experience, though I knew well in advance what to expect. Two witnesses were there for the “bris,” along with the doctor. As I was laying on the table with a cotton ball over the cut (if you can even call it that), I did my utmost to make the rabbis feel more awkward than I did:
Do you guys want to go get some pizza after this?
I can see how a guy can feel uncomfortable, even at 21, being naked in front of grown men. But it takes a special kind of insecurity to think one’s been emotionally scarred from a circumcision at the age of, say, eight days. And yet, here we are, and innumerable people claim psychological repercussions from their circumcisions.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are other nonsense claims as to why circumcision is inhumane: it leads to death; it detracts from sexual pleasure; it’s equal to female genital mutilation. But the supposed dangers are hyped-up exaggerations — nothing to be bent out of shape about.
In 2011, no babies died at all in the US as a result of circumcision (as a general rule, no stats are even kept on the subject, because it’s so rare). On sex, articles talk about subtle differences, but all in all, when it comes to a guy’s satisfaction and performance, being circumcised or not makes no vas deferens. Any comparison with female genital mutilation is just grossly misleading, because — as opposed to women who undergo mutilation — a man’s pleasure parts remain intact after circumcision.
In the words of Hanna Rosin:
It’s perfectly clear that on a grand public-health level, the more boys who get circumcised, the better it is for everyone. Twenty years ago, this would have been a boring, obvious thing to say… these days… it puts you in league with Josef Mengele.”
But alas, I
dissect — I mean, digress.
Here I am, five years later, talking about the whole thing (well, what’s left of it, at least). It’s a truly monumental decision for someone who’s never been circumcised to convert to Judaism. It’s not a simple operation. The commitment to such a life-changing experience has to be solid, and we should all appreciate the kind of character and strength it requires.
And life-changing it is. The physical pain may not have been present at my “second’ bris, but the emotional gravity was obvious as the week bore on. What a road it was, encountering Orthodox Judaism and deciding to undertake this process barely a year earlier. It was a major moment. It was a great feeling.
But when people ask me what it was like converting, I’ll respond, “It still hurts.”