03 October 2013

Daniel Pucca’s Mini, and Adolescent Memories

Yesterday I discussed Daniel Pucca’s mini-comic My Dutch Foreskin, focusing on the lettering. Because that’s the first thing you think of when you read that title, right?

Pucca was an American in a Dutch intermediate school when word came down that the health exam would require boys to roll back their foreskins. He didn’t know what that meant. (The comic establishes that at that moment Daniel was living with his grandmother, so he didn’t have anyone he felt comfortable asking.) When he found out, he thought something was terribly wrong with him.

Like Pucca, I was born in the period when almost all American boys were circumcised soon after birth. So was my father. I don’t think I saw an uncircumcised penis until I was in junior high, when gym class included showers with a single classmate, a newcomer from Australia, who still had a foreskin. He was thus in the opposite position from young Daniel in Holland. I didn’t know that fellow well, so I have no idea of how his experiences mirrored Daniel’s, but that memory helped me appreciate My Dutch Foreskin.

A few years further on, I recall another immigrant classmate—a nice guy from Russia—feeling acutely embarrassed on a high-school trip to Montreal when he had only a tiny European-style men’s bathing suit while the rest of us boys were in baggy American trunks. (Mind you, the baggy shorts of the 1980s were nothing compared to the voluminous fashions of more recent decades.)

I remember my immigrant classmate standing at the side of the Montreal Olympic pool in his snug swimsuit, asking if anyone had another suit to lend him. But of course we were all away from home, and in the pool besides. We kept telling him to just get in the water where none of the girls could see clearly. But of course the only cure for adolescent self-consciousness is time.

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