Warning: Gentlemen - if you're at all squeamish, I suggest you skip this post.
Last weekend my friends C and B and I spent a girl's weekend up at our cabin by the lake. When we got back home, J wanted to know all about what we'd done and what we'd discussed. Unwilling to counter the visions of panties and pillow fights flying through his head, I described our hike and hot tub, the wine we drank, the movies we watched, and outlined a few of the conversations we'd had. What I didn't mention was that we'd had a long and detailed conversation about circumcision. B is the only one of us with children and also the resident expert on Judaism so I was asking her about the rules around it, her personal experience, American norms, and other alternatives (not because I have a child on the way - please don't get any ideas! - but it's always good to be prepared right?). It was an interesting conversation.
Imagine my surprise when, while driving back from lunch today, I heard a story on Day to Day about an Oregon court case regarding circumcision. A divorced couple with a twelve year old son are having a dispute about whether he should get circumcised. His father, who has sole custody (I wonder what the mother did?) converted to Judaism a few years ago and now wants his son to convert as well, and therefore get circumcised. His mother is not Jewish, and objects. She's being supported by an organization called something like "Doctors against Circumcision" who argue that circumcision under any circumstances is bad, although Jews, Muslims, and a large majority of Americans do it. The Rabbi interviewed in the story said that because Judaism is inherited from the mother, the son wouldn't necessarily need to get circumcised if his mother had converted, but because it's his father he would. Other groups are concerned that if the mother wins the case then circumcision might eventually be outlawed entirely, or, as in a case in Chicago, left to the individual to decide when they turn 18.
I've never thought all that much about this topic (until this weekend I suppose) but I don't have a problem with circumcision. However, if there's an appropriateness scale for voluntary surgery on your kids that goes from acceptable ear piercings to horrifying genital mutilations, is it just custom and social norms that puts circumcision closer to ear piercings? I understand the surgery itself, with local anesthesia, is pretty painless for infants, but I don't know how it feels for twelve year olds. And obviously you're not in pain during sex for the rest of your life the way you would be if you were a girl in Africa who'd had genital mutilation. But still, it's a pretty strange thing to do. I don't think this changes a decision I'd make for my own child, but in answer to your question, J, this is what girls really talk about. Along with the pillow fights.