I was a little wobbly in front of the urinal. Left and Right seemed to call my shoulders from center, while my head surfed evenly above their oceanic bobbing. My aim was good at least.

I caught the guy to my left, a short chubby fellow with long hair and a black leather jacket, peeking down.

He saw that he’d been caught and smiled. “American?”

“What?” I shook. “Yeah.” Stuffed. “How’d you know?” and zipped.

He kept his eyes up as he gestured towards my nethers with his whiskered chin. “You’re cut… and you don’t strike me as the Jewish type.”


“Your Peepee wears a V-neck, mate.”

I sat down at the bar next to my friend Elaine. She was a good friend from Chicago who’d lived in London and taught high school science for five years. Her friend Isabella was tending bar. Isabella was from Argentina, but had been in London long enough to sound British. I had a bit of a crush on Isabella.

Elaine looked tired. It was a school night. “Well, I’m heading back to the flat if you wanna come.”

“No,” I said. “I think I’ll stay for another drink.” In the hope that maybe I’d be able to walk Isabella home when the bar closed.

As Elaine left, the man from the bathroom emerged and took her stool. “So, what’s that like?” he asked.


“Being circumcised.”

“I dunno. Fine.”

His eyes excreted an angry flame, like a solar flare, that was gone as quickly as it came. “Fine my ass. It’s bloody child abuse.”

I felt a little ashamed. “Well, I didn’t do it to myself.”

“Damn good thing. I’d a kicked yer ass if ya had.”

I nodded.

Isabella smiled from behind the bar. I wondered what her feelings on the subject were.

“You know it steals the sensation.” He pointed towards his own crotch.

“It’s been alright for me. Sex, I mean,” I said loud enough to be heard by both the bar’s patron and tender.

Now he smiled. “That’s cause you haven’t tried it with my cock.”

Another nod.

Another smile from Isabella

At that point a six foot blond Asian with a waist as thick as a pipe cleaner and roughly head-sized fake breasts threw in her two cents. “I don’t give a damn if it’s snipped or it isn’t as long as there’s coke on the tip of it.”

“Well, that’s just filthy, doll,” said the man as he put his arm around the small of her back.

The woman made a gesture as if sniffing coke from the tip of a handheld phallus, and the man and I exhaled long-lost breaths from the deepest places in our diaphragms, united in some primordial frustration that can only be tapped by the mimicry of sex acts.

Isabella was closing the bar, but it seemed that the man and a few others, including the Amazonian Asian Brit, and myself would be allowed to stay.

He ordered drinks for everyone. Shots of whiskey and pints. “You a musician mate?”

“Not professionally.” I took the drinks he offered. “You?”

“I play a bit.” He sipped thoughtfully. “Where you from?”


His head tilted like a puppy that hasn’t completely grasped that human speech will always be unintelligible. “Is that the one with all the buildings and whatnot?”

I decided to go along. “Ummmm… yeah.”

“I think my band played there.”

“What’s your band called?”

“The Darkness.”

I nodded.

Two hours later, we were still talking foreskin. I’m not sure where he obtained his stores of knowledge on the subject, or even if the facts he was spouting were accurate. There was a world out there, conspiratorial without a doubt, but frighteningly feasible, in which every human peril was symbolized in this one little snip of the scissors: Global warming, Ebay, the Iraq invasion, Mel Gibson… I can’t for the life of me remember how, but it all came together, ever so briefly, that night only, in the act of circumcision.

The giant Asian woman was now sitting in his lap, which made for the impression of a greyhound sitting in the lap of a pug. He continued to explain it all. I continued to absorb.

Finally, Isabella said it was time to go, and we all ushered ourselves under the metal shutter and stood their beneath sharp pellets of rain on the cold London street.

He lingered like a little kid under a tree, protected from the rain by the arching branch of the giant Asian’s arm. “Come back to our place for a drink?”

I was tempted, but thought better. “I gotta get back, man.”

“Make it worth your while.”

I couldn’t even begin to imagine exactly what his making it worth my while would entail, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t up for it.

Isabella and I stood in the rain and watched them walk off.

“Who the hell is the Darkness?” I asked her.

She sang in her highest pitched voice, “I believe in a thing called love.”



I thought I might want to touch her hand, but I didn’t.

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Ryan Day is a writer who lives in Madrid. He runs The Toast Cafe, and Roll, restaurants that double as cultural spaces. His articles on arts and culture in Madrid can be found at Vaya Madrid.

48 responses to “A Thing Called Foreskin”

  1. “and the man and I exhaled long-lost breaths from the deepest places in our diaphragms, united in some primordial frustration that can only be tapped by the mimicry of sex acts.”

    Ain’t that the truth.

    This would have been a great story anyway, even without the addition of a guy from The Darkness. What were his teeth like?

    • Ryan Day says:

      I gotta admit that my memory of teeth is pretty limited by the absurd amount of whiskey that hanging out with a rocker apparently requires. I just remember lots and lots of foreskin talk… and as you may notice from the lack of detail, I can’t even recall the specifics there, which is a shame, cause I think they were pretty glorious details.

  2. Great post Ryan! Was the tall double-head-breasted Asian a transvestite?
    Here’s a little tid bit about clipping: in the olden days, and for the very Orthodox Jews even now, after the mohel cuts the foreskin, he takes a sip of wine and then stanches the wound with his mouth, exchanging blood for wine, back a forth like that. Weird, huh.

  3. Ryan Day says:

    Hmmm… Now that you mention it, maybe she was… but this was back when the Darkness was still on the radio (2003?), and I think my imagination has heftily contorted her proportions.

    There are so few circumstances in which that exchange of fluids would be appropriate.

  4. Zara Potts says:

    Great story, Ryan. It felt so surreal just reading it.
    But I don’t envy you guys having to use urinals, I wouldn’t like some stranger checking out my bits like that. Women are very lucky when it comes to public toilets!
    And Jessica – that stuff about exchanging blood for wine: made me shudder!

    • Ryan Day says:

      It’s not so bad. Breeds a certain openness and leads to insightful cultural exchange… apparently.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      The NYC Marathon used to have this astonishing contraption called the World’s Longest Urinal. Want to see wieners waggling, a true snake house? And then there are waves of piss rushing down the hundred yard long 4″ open half-pipe, depending on how many guys are draining their dragons up above you . . . it’s truly frightening.

      You don’t dare get close, so all the guys are acting like a bunch of little boys shooting their pee up in the air as high as they can go. Going ballistic.

      No way to notice foreskins, that.

    • Zara – I just wrote a blog post on my Korean blog about urinals and toilets in Korea… You girls ARE NOT lucky in this country. Neither are guys, but it’s a bit easier.

      • Ryan Day says:

        Yeah, I can’t say the situation as to toilets was so great for girls in China either.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Dare I ask? And dare I go read it, David???

        • Zara, if you want to go read it, you’ll find it at: http://koreanrumdiary.blogspot.com/2009/12/on-squatting-and-shitting.html

          Otherwise, let’s just say that there’s a good possibility that when you first have to use the bathroom in Korea you’ll either fall in, pee on your leg or drop your wallet in… And that’s before you have to consider what the rancid bucket is for… Bleh!

        • And Ryan, I only went to nice toilets in China (and one time I peed on the Great Wall…) but in Korea everyone hates Chinese people. They make up (or maybe they’re true) twisted stories about how the Chinese poop on each other…

        • Ryan Day says:

          Ha… Yeah. I heard a lot of that “Chinese poop in the street” stuff in Spain too. The weirdest thing I saw in China as to fecal matter in public was butt-less baby suits that allowed for holding baby out on the sidewalk to do its biz.

          But as far as adults were concerned they kept it to the toilets as far as I can tell. Squatters of course, which I imagine is the way in Korea too, no? I like the squatter. More anatomically reasonable.

          The funniest thing I ever saw was footprints on the toilet seat of a McDonald’s, leading to believe the stool was used as a squatter.

  5. I’ve always hated ‘The Darkness’… Damn perverts.

  6. You know, I’ve heard of the debate and all, and I sorta get it, but then again, the guy from the Darkness never had sex with your cock, either, so how on Earth would he know? I mean, me personally, I tend to take my medically related advice from people who attended enough school to add titles before their names and suffixes after, not from the guy who sang “Love on the Rocks, No Salt.” I’ll take advice about hookers and blow from that guy, but so far as my physiology? I lean more toward medical convention there.

    What a night, though, eh? How surreal? Cool post.

    • Ryan Day says:

      I tend to sympathize with the anti-circumcise crowd myself, but you make a good point: a true comparison is an impossibility. It’s like trying to find out what blue looks like to your neighbor. Not gonna happen.

  7. Oh man, this is a hilarious story. And a love story of sorts too? It’s almost too much for my brain to handle. Though I wanted more.

  8. OMG I’ve been wanting to write a piece like this forever, but I think you did a way better job than I ever could have. When I was heading to Ireland to study abroad I told all of my friends I was going to have business cards printed up for would-be one-night-stands that had my phone number and said, “If you’re not circumcised, don’t call.” I’ve always had a major fear of the uncircumcised man, even though my girlfriends have assured me that there’s really no difference. Strange how circumcised vs. uncircumcised can take over conversations for such long periods of time. It’s definitely a fascinating subject (IMO). Nice read, man.

    • Ryan Day says:

      You may be limiting your Euro one night stand potential with that phobia, but I would love to see the business card.

      • I never actually had the business cards made up. Such a bummer, I know. And, I did finally have my foreskin experience recently. It wasn’t so bad as long as I didn’t think about it. It’s kind of like when you eat something disgusting – if you think about it, you’ll gag, but if you don’t you’re solid. And, luckily, the dudes here in Turkey are all cut (at least from my experience). TMI?

    • Major fear? Really? Admittedly, a few people die in foreskin attacks each year, but the danger’s exagerrated. Media conspiracy.

  9. Thomas Wood says:

    We few American men who weren’t circumsized all, eventually, find out about one another. The topic might come up, and those secret soldiers catch each other’s eyes. It’s like being in the movie the Sting. We even have a handshake (insert penis/handshake, etc joke here, please). I’d love to write a piece out on this topic as well. Well done.

    • Ryan Day says:

      You know, I sort of wish I was in your legion. It just seems to me that most body parts aren’t extraneous.

      • Thomas Wood says:

        It’s funny, I have loads of friends who, now comfortable with bodies and maturity and all, all kind of want to join the club too. Unfortunately, we’re a fairly exclusive group, and tend to exclude people even from infancy.

  10. Thomas Wood says:

    Ps. Just watched a video of the Darkness. Not knowing who, precisely, was giving you the once-over, I have decided that I’d like none of them discussing my penis for any length of time.

  11. Dana says:

    Great post Ryan, but I must admit to wishing you’d gone over to his house cuz I’m certain he had something special in mind for you. I bet there was going to be some sort of experiment involving blow and at least 2 penii. Yikes!!

    From a woman’s point of view, wouldn’t circumcision generally be considered preferable as it makes the man less sensitive? Because, seriously aren’t they sensitive enough?

    If I’d had a son, it’s definitely something I would have debated about though. It doesn’t seem much different then female genital mutilation, other than it’s performed on an infant so the little guys don’t get a say. It’s such a weird custom and I know of TWO boys who had theirs performed improperly; one is apparently quite disfigured. Can’t even imagine how those parents feel.

    Jessica, I’ve heard that before about the mohel. It’s no less disturbing hearing it a second time!

    ps. LOL Thomas “unfortunately, we’re a fairly exclusive group, and tend to exclude people even from infancy.

  12. Hugh7 says:

    Dana, it’s not just more sensitive, it’s better sensitive (is that English?). Imagine if you’d had your fingertips cut off and had to do something (read Braille, say, or just find F and J on your keyboard) with the second joint. Men circumcised in adulthood (unless they wanted to be- yes, some do, there’s nowt so queer as folk) describe the difference as being like going colour-blind. So contrary to popular (circumcised) imagining, intact men are not having heart attacks all over the place. The foreskin gives more feedback, hence more control, not less.

    (@Rebecca) It’s a good airhead repellant, too.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      It’s fucked up, Hugh7. Foreskin isn’t nature’s mistake, and it shouldn’t be corrected, and no amount of spurious medical evidence can convince me otherwise.

      But, Ryan, I can promise you that I would never argue the point with you for two hours. Hell, I won’t even argue it longer than this comment. You’re welcome.

  13. Stefan Kiesbye says:

    Well, really, I think you missed an opportunity, no? The Darkness is weird, but that might make for fantastic half-remembered memories.

    On another note, I do agree that circumcision is child abuse — then again, it’s a better look.

    What a funny piece!

    • Ryan Day says:

      Yeah, I know. I’ve kind of always regretted not going to his house, but at least having chosen the path I did, I’m sure I Iived, whereas the other route seemed potentially perilous. Though, there could have been a future in roadying… not a very long future, but still.

  14. Marni Grossman says:

    Child abuse, my ass. As a Jew, I’m aware that the damage inflicted by circumcision is far less lasting than that exacted by years of guilt tripping and manipulation.

    I feel certain that your v-neck-clad member is fine and- er- upstanding.

    • Ryan Day says:

      V-necks are just cooler, I think. Though, again, I have nothing against which to compare.

      • Turtleneck. V-neck. Who cares how it’s dressed? Just bring it to the party, yo!

        • Ryan Day says:

          You make a good point. The only thing as cool as a V-neck is a turtleneck… Sadly, it seems that all the contents of the penii’s closet are nerdy… Can we get the little man some Denim? That brings to mind my favorite Chinese condom brand… “Jeans” by Durex.

        • Are you kidding me? I’ve never seen such a panoply of dressing options in the condom aisle: Ribbed, lined, flavored, colored, lubricated, non, lambskin, laytex, extra thin, extra thick, “Special Fit”, resevoir tip, her pleasure, his pleasure, extended pleasure… every CVS is like your own personal Men’s Vogue Closet!! And women think women have a hard time wondering what to wear??

          (Do men ever wonder: ‘Does this condom make me look fat’?)

          Side note: I can’t help but mention that I have The Flaming Lips’ song Detachable Penis looping in my head since I started reading this…

    • Jason says:

      Circumcision is child abuse, Marni, and your fake God’s covenant BS can’t convince me otherwise!

  15. Stephanie says:

    Great post! I feel like you told me this story very briefly on a drunken night in Chicago, except that story ended with a photo of the guy.

    • Ryan Day says:

      Come to think of it, there is a picture somewhere… I should locate and upload… But that would require driving to Oklahoma and digging through my sis’ attic.

  16. Mariana says:

    was the “bar” (pub) called “the dublin castle” by any chance???

  17. Carl D'Agostino says:

    The cruel initiation into the world suffered by American male: As soon as you emerge the doctor whacks you on the but. Then he cuts your pee pee. They print your feet, give you a social security number, a name and a little blue T-shirt that says Miami General Hospital and Immigration Center. This is all in the first few hours. Now you will begin your journey to peruse the American Dream which will include a broke social security system,child support and even though you graduated with a 3.7 in college a minimum wage job, no insurance, pension or parking space. So that first day really does prepare the little boy for the future and we shouldn’t change a thing, even the pee pee stuff, because we must toughen up this fellow real early for life. And his first experience of suffering the loss of the irreplaceable will be when they take away the teddy bear they gave him at birth as early as age 6. At least they didn’t circumcise the bear too.

    • Ryan Day says:

      Hey thanks for the read Carl. I like your take. Maybe it’s a blessing that we get a little hint of castration early on.

  18. Scarrex says:

    It’s almost like a vapid Gatsby. I mean Daisy.

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