Monday, November 23, 2009

But, he did beautiful work

What you see above is a man preparing a brisket, the one meat that is both universally Jewish, and a red neck delicacy. 

Better you see this than a picture from my Bris.

Why do I bring up my circumcision?  Well, yesterday was the 47th anniversary of my birth.  So it would follow that this coming Saturday would be the 47th anniversary will mark the covenant that my parents made with God for my well being by slicing off part of my penis on the seventh day of life.

Am I bitter?  You bet I am. 

As the story goes - according to my late great cousin (and God Mother) Joyce, the morning after my birth at Mount Sinai Hospital in Cleveland, my mother awoke to find three old Jewish men standing around her bed smiling.  Each, the story goes had a present for the baby.  One had a satin skull cap and prayer shawl, the other had a sterling silver rattle with a Hebrew letter on it symbolizing "to life!" and the third had a sterling silver mazzusah for the nursery.  Each spoke in broken English and each made a sales pitch for the business at hand on the seventh day.  My mother, drugged out of her mind, waved her hand at one of the men and the deal was done.

She picked, one Saul Shenkman.  A moil of great repute, and as my cousin Cousin Joyce pointed out, had a nickname on the street: Shaky Shankman.  Why Shakey?  Evidently Saul was in the beginning stages of Parkinson's disease.  "I can just imagine him serving a plate of Jell-O," Joyce said.

When I found this out several years ago, I confronted my mother.  "You gave of your only son over to man with a tremor?"

"What are you upset about.  You're here and in tact. The man did beautiful work.  Pediatricians admired Saul for his finesse."  Finesse?  I was a bit stunned: "finesse" is not a word that one usually associates with circumcision.

"And besides," she said, "it was easier for me to keep clean."  Boil any issue down and it always comes back to my mother and how its always about her needs.

Turns out I wasn't only one in the family to come under Saul Shenkman's artful hand.  He also had a go at my cousin Chip and my Cousin Brian.  Chip was adopted and I Joyce, Chip's mother, pointed out that the bris was done at their home.  I asked her, was it different for her when she handed her sons over to Shakey Shenkman.  "I was frantic.  But not because it was Saul so much as I was about the new carpet we had laid a couple weeks before.  And then there was the food.  Brisket. Oy."

While I am not one to bemoan the loss of things that I never knew, I am a bit honked about being snipped. In tact, I would have been in demand (wink, wink), but at the same point, how do you miss something that you never had?

And things could have been much worse than they turned out.  My two brothers - 13 and 9 years my senior - had been pestering my parents for weeks before I was born to name the baby Chauncey Oswald if it were a boy.  To be circumcised is bad enough.  But Chauncey Oswald?  

Seriously, what the fuck?

Still, I'm bitter. I just don't see why a male child has to go through this when it serves no real purpose. Its mutilation. What I want to know is: does God love me and more because I was circumcised?   Wasn't I made in his image?  Wasn't I perfect just like God intended?  Was it really necessary to Him, the Almighty and All Knowing that I lose part of my penis for Him to accept me?

Who knows; and God ain't talking.


  1. Darling, I've been hiding under a rock lately (not under a foreskin) - so many apologies for this belated Happy Birthday!