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When I was married to my first wife, I kept thinking about having a vasectomy. I had lived in a place where there was a population problem, big-time, and as an undergraduate I’d been taught by Paul Ehrlich, who wore a little broken male symbol on his lapel. I believed that population control should be a priority for everyone, and that by foregoing reproduction, I was doing my part.

My wife agreed, but every time I talked about getting an appointment with the urologist she said, “No, please don’t do it, because it’s going to make me feel as though you’re mutilated,” so I didn’t get snipped and tied off until after we divorced.

This went on until we were both nearly 40 and she said, “I want a baby.”

Surprise! But I’ll skip over everything between that and the first contractions.

It was time to go to the hospital, yes, so we went, but the nurse said, “You’re having contractions yes, but enough dilation no, so go back home.”

Bummer! We went back home for a while, and when we came back, yes, it was clearly underway. So we sat in a little room waiting.

We knew it was a boy. We even had a name for him, no problem there. I did tell a full-of-himself neighbor that we were going to name the kid Lud, and he believed me for a long time, at least until we got back from the hospital with the kid.

“So this is Lud,” he said, and I said, “Nope.”

But although we had decided on his name we had not decided what to do with his little dick. Some said the father and child’s dicks should match, and since I was born the child of middle class WASP parents in the forties I was cut.

On the other hand we had been living in the rain forest with men and boys whose dicks had not been cut, and had gotten used to seeing boys with intact foreskins, and I, at least, had gotten used to seeing grown men with their foreskins, such as when we swam across rivers or had to piss.

One time this old guy died and when the women were washing his body I noticed that he had been circumcised, which surprised me, so I asked how that had happened. They said that during the war with Japan he was up at the American base for a while, and he saw Americans with no foreskins and he liked the look, so he convinced an American doctor to cut his off. If I had heard that story without seeing the guy’s dick I would not have believed it, but there it was. Wasn’t, actually.

So we were in this little room at the hospital waiting, and in came this nurse. I thought she was very pretty and I liked her long hair and she was shapely, too. She reminded me of an R. Crumb woman, except she was normally-sized and not weird.

She hopped right up on the bed next to my wife and said, “What are you going to do about circumcision?”

My wife said, “We haven’t been able to decide one way or another.”

And the nurse said, “Well, I can never predict what anybody’s going to do unless I know they’re Jewish. Otherwise I never know and then sometimes when I think I probably know, I’m wrong. I get a lot of heavy-duty natural people in here and I figure they’re going to leave it alone, but then they say, all surprised that I would ask, ‘Oh no, of course we’re going to have it cut off.’ And I’m polite so I never say ‘What, you’re heavy-duty natural people so you should leave it on, what’s wrong with you?’”

I said, “You asked us.”

She said, “I asked, but I didn’t give my opinion. I never say anything, because it’s none of my business, and I’m only telling you so that you won’t think that just because you look like sort of natural people, you know, long hair, beard, I’m assuming that you’re automatically going to let it stay.”

And we looked at each other, actually all of us, and I was thinking, Well if this isn’t a clusterfuck I don’t know what is. Am I being told I’m a light-duty natural person so it’s OK to circumcise my son, or am I being told that since I’m at least light-duty maybe I shouldn’t, or am I being told I’m not heavy-duty even though I spent years in the rain forest with people who didn’t wear a lot of clothes and only one guy was circumcised, or just what am I being told here? If I do it does that elevate me to heavy-duty? Do I even want to be a heavy-duty natural person?

And I had other questions, too. If it’s my wife’s baby then at least is the kid’s dick mine? Am I being the patriarch by controlling his little wiener or is she being the matriarch and controlling his wiener herself, in which case that’s not a very good thing since it’s not her dick. Of course it’s not mine, either.

It was confusing.

I looked at my wife but I couldn’t judge what she was thinking so I said, “We’ll decide later, but thanks for the tip.”

And then of course everybody started laughing, but I hadn’t meant it to be funny. Even so I pretended I had, so as to be thought of as wittier than I really was.

The labor was long and hard and she went for the epidural block and I had no criticism of that, Lamaze or no Lamaze. But I have to say that when the midwife grabbed these big scissors and made the episiotomy I was a little taken aback. I knew it was likely to happen but it was so matter-of-fact, grab from the tray, open, snip and there’s a huge fat cut, which of course made me think of the foreskin even though I knew it wouldn’t be done like that, since I had at one time held a little Jewish infant while the mohel did his thing.

Then eventually he starts coming out and my most enduring memory of that is looking at my wife’s pudendum and thinking, Oh my God, that’s what it’s really for, which forever changed the way I thought about a woman’s sexual parts.

Then he was out, OK, head first and that was fine, here’s the umbilical cord, fine, and then Jesus Christ here are his genitals, hugely swollen, and I thought, Is that what we men really are, mostly dick?

Then when he was out and lying on her chest and I realized that no matter what I did he would always be more hers than mine, I said to the nurse, “We won’t be circumcising him.”