We all have those memories. Sitting in the bathtub. Staring at your brother’s penis. Trying to focus on building your bubble-bath mustache but arrested by the question why is his different than yours, etc.
I guess in the 1980s sometime parents stopped compulsively slicing skin off their baby boy’s member…but, well, I was circumcised. (I’m not going to get atop some frat kegger and announce that with a bullhorn—but I’ve never had complaints.) Still, I suppose there was something immoral, dangerous, medically unnecessary about circumcised peeny-weenies. So, they stopped. And that’s why my brother’s—at least circa like 1991—was different. You know, more dog with a stocking cap pulled over its face, less firemen’s helmet.
ANYWAY. CHRIST. OKAY. So we’re past the worst. And that was the last of it. Surprisingly, you don’t think much about your brother’s dick as a grown man. Seriously. I mean there is the occasional moment, up north at the cabin, when he walks to the fridge in his swimsuit and you’re laying on the floor playing Risk against a stuffed animal, and you spot what appears to be a half-erection, and you start up, like Bob Vila, making rough measurements in your head of the lumber. But, honestly, it’s mostly not something I journal about or whatever.
But the other day, right after picking him up for Easter brunch, he told me, with no drama, “So I got circumcised Tuesday.”
If conversation were waiting in an airport terminal holding the last name of a stranger you’re waiting for, this was like greeting the 900-pound, club-wielding ogre with a few shoulder bags instead of a mild-mannered businessman.
Turns out, as my brother described, this wasn’t an act of hedonistic subversion. He had a condition. A CONDITION, PEOPLE. It was medically-necessary, no matter Rick Santorum’s protestations. My brother essentially had what happens to a water balloon that moment you realize you’ve filled with too much water and it’s gonna pop in the sink and piss your mom off a lot. He needed some adjustment.
So, for awhile, months perhaps, he is not only unable to engage in any pogo-sticking fun, he is basically uninterested. And you may think a man without libido is about as much fun at a party as a mannequin—fun to hang stuff on and fake-crotch thrust—and you’d generally be right.
As my bro’s social experiment revealed, men without sex drive really aren’t much. He went to a show. And since there was no end game. Since there was no sloppy kissing and grabbing at his crotch in his near future by strange or familiar girls at the bar, all interest in the evening was gone. No witty banter in the conversation. No exhibitionist dance moves. Just enjoying the music. And that’s frightening. Music, it turns out, is much easier to enjoy with the promise of a pay-out at the booty bank, even if that bank is a elusive art student bank with a pretty Scandinavian name who rarely returns your text messages.
Anyway, so at the show, my bro got bored and just went home early. I think he passed out watching cartoons.
Now here’s the kicker. This was an enlightenment for me. I’ve never been into those He-Man-Circle-Jerk-in-the-Woods-and-Talk-About-Man-Stuff-With-Other-Men clubs that populate AA groups and recently divorced chat rooms. And for years in grad school, I was a product of the Passion of New Eve school of thought, in which it appeared to be only politically appropriate to admit, upon first meeting a woman at bar, that, hey, yes, I would like to cut off my genitals, stick them into a freezer next to deer meat, and then chuck them into the ocean.
But my brother’s torturous travels into the land of the Johnson-less has helped me double-down on my appreciation for my rod. It is a central figure for men. It does have a certain gravitas, eminence, and artistic jouissance. And beyond that, it shouldn’t be ignored. That’s why I was proud that my brother felt so nonchalant in bringing up this topic to me and others—for treating what could be an embarrassing subject just as any other health issue, like a common cold or case of the flu. Now there’s a man. And I think we’d all be a little better off if we listen carefully to “What’s the Difference” off 2001, when Eminem challenges us to figure out who’s a real man by offering to, “start at the penis, or scream ‘I just don’t give a fuck!’, and see who means it.” Eh?
Photo courtesy familymwr