In deepest Bavaria

Southern Bavaria, West Germany in the 1970s was a place where people simply had foreskins, and so did I. It was a place without any readily available information on the subject of circumcision, or any other information regarding the male appendage, come to think of it. I had an absolute odyssey trying to educate myself on the subject for the first part of my life, and crashed from one weird experience into the next, as you will see.

As a little boy of six, I was convinced to be the owner of one of the best looking penises going: Not too big, not too small, and with a nicely shaped, long foreskin.

Things came crashing down for me when entering primary school at that age, and seeing my classmates naked before and after swimming class. It revealed to me that, while I was largely right about my assessment compared to the average rival penis, there was one that completely stole the show. I could not get over it. It belonged to a nice, funny guy I had befriended earlier, and it was decidedly a different model altogether: It did not taper into a wrinkled hose of skin, but actually seemed to have a neat knob at its end, with a short cuff of skin around it that reminded me of a rolled-up shirt sleeve. A bit as if he was trying to make a fashion statement. A designer penis... wow.

I had never pulled my foreskin back until then, because my family's household maid had once warned me "not to do anything funny" with my appendage, lest it would "stay that way for good". I realize now she was probably alluding to the dangers of a possible paraphimosis and meant well, but the result was that I actually ended up living in mortal fear of my own organ, imagining it to be capable of all sorts of unpredictable actions I might unwittingly trigger by doing something funny, and that I would regret it, and that nobody would be able to help me.

And that is what I presumed to have happened to my classmate when I saw his thing. I truly believed that he had probably done "something funny", and the skin had sprung back like that, and stayed that way, true to the prophecies of our housemaid. I quietly commiserated and never said a word, but made sure to leave that foreskin well alone.

Years went by, I entered a monastery boarding school, and made other friends. Perhaps surprisingly for a catholic monastery school, two of them were from the Middle East – an Egyptian and an Iranian. Clowning around in the showers one morning, I realized that they also seemed to be victims of some folly, because they, too sported those rolled-up sleeve penises. Now I just had to ask what had happened to them. One was an accident, two was an epidemic. This was obviously spreading.

I was informed that the foreskin was a sleeve of skin that got habitually shortened at some stage in life everywhere in the Middle East, and that, to their eyes, we Europeans looked pretty ridiculous with ours. Somehow as if we were trying to give birth to tiny elephants. And in America, everybody had this done. This insight was a great liberation, because it meant that our maid had been wrong.

In religious studies class, it wasn't long before we studied Judaism. Circumcision was mentioned for the first time in my life, and the teacher, a Benedictine monk, described it as "removing only the very tip of the foreskin" to the class. It did therefore not seem to be the same thing as the designer penises of my two Middle Eastern buddies. Curious about this, I asked them promptly whether a circumcision was what they had had, which they confirmed. I put two and two together and concluded that removing "only the very tip of the foreskin" evidently somehow resulted in it rolling all the way back behind the glans.

To my surprise, I was not able to replicate this look through retraction by age 12, and subsequently soon found myself checked into a local hospital to have a circumcision performed. "Don't worry, we'll only remove the very tip of the foreskin," I was reassured by a nurse and a doctor, to which I nodded sagely. Of course they were. And I'd get a cool designer penis, like my friends. Deal.

Upon waking from the anesthesia, I discovered much to my delight a perfectly good rolled-up sleeve designer penis, but alas, with shocking looking, bloody stitches all around it. Still, I wasn't too worried, because I presumed this to be part of the procedure, as nobody was hopping around me with gadgetry, proclaiming life threatening problems; so I was presumably fine.

The nurse brought me ointment, which I was supposed to apply "every day to make sure no adhesions are forming." She demonstrated how, then, to my surprise, rolled the skin forward over the glans so that the stitches disappeared. Incidentally, another big misunderstanding was created in this way, and I continued applying ointment and vaseline and lotions for months afterwards, presuming it to be a necessary maintenance measure for this kind of penis. On the upside, this is how I discovered masturbation.

Everything was fine in the end, only that I never got to enjoy the rolled-up sleeve look for long before it decided to roll forward again by itself, covering most of the glans, and resulting in a sort of sleepy look. I assumed things would eventually be as they should be, and spent about a third of my days pulling back the remaining foreskin. I enjoyed the airy, new feeling, and felt like I had become part of something exotic and interesting.

I lived with this partial circumcision until my first meaningful encounter with a girl about four years later. "Aha", she said, "what's that?" I explained to her that I was circumcised. Then she explained to me that she was Turkish, and had three brothers, and as far as her culture was concerned, I was not circumcised. This irked me enormously. My Lawrence of Arabia Factor was being questioned.

I would not have it, and quite directly went to the father of my Iranian highschool friend, who was a doctor, and who had performed his son's circumcision. I told him about my issue, to which he nodded and ho-hummed in his wise way. He explained to me that German doctors have a different definition of what a circumcision is, and that he would gladly provide me with an advanced version. Medical justification could easily be found, which was required to convince parents and insurance companies.

And a few weeks later, I was again experiencing the entire hospital experience, including stitches and ointment, etc. It seemed oddly comical, even paradoxical, to be doing this twice. Friends and relatives alike were like "he got circumcised... twice??" It seemed a physical impossibility to most, and I, too found it quite Monty Pythonesque, on principle. The result was a low and loose freehand circumcision with partial frenulum remnant and permanently exposed glans, done by a German-trained, Persian doctor. To this day, I have to say it is absolutely great.

Reactions to it continue to amuse me as bedroom encounters continue. I went on to live in Canada, then England, and honestly quite relish the reactions I get from females.

None are the same. I've had French and Swiss girls commiserate ("oh no! Your poor thing...! Does that hurt?"); an Israeli girl found the stitch marks monstrous ("like Frankenstein! We don't do that...!"); Canadians and Americans alike found there to be "so much wobbly skin...?"

Whatever. In the end, what counts is that everybody is happy, which will eventually materialize if you keep trying.