Saturday, March 3, 2012

Winning! Guest Post by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel

Please, read this piece on SFGate, home of the San Francisco Chronicle, before you read this post. Then, do everything you can to employ Option 3. Thank you to columnist Mark Morford.

Taking a Risk 
Essay contestant Tanya Grove's husband and daughter go skydiving. Photo credit: Tanya Grove

It was such a thrill to read the submissions to the 2012 Third Annual Two Kinds of People Essay Contest. I discovered a host of 2KoP aficionados out there.

First, thank you to everyone who submitted. Your work was fun to read and inspires me more than I can say. It takes a leap of faith to put your writing out there to be judged (thanks to participant Tanya Grove for providing the perfect graphic.) The winning essay is posted below. As other entrants publish their essays online, I will add links to their posts, as well.

I would also like to thank my fabulous panel of judges. In addition to me, I was so lucky to have the time and attention of four outstanding guest judges, all with impeccable credentials and exceptional taste. In alphabetical order, thank you to:

Angela Allyn — arts maven, writer and multimedia performance artist; her grasp of the origin of story and literary archetypes is unparalled.

April Eberhardt — literary agent for change, champion of outstanding writers and writing everywhere, and closet 2KoP journal writer.

Ed Padala — marketing expert with an impressive ability to get right to the heart of what works and what doesn't in any piece of writing; the most well-read person I know.

Judi Silverman — master high school English teacher and life-long nitpicker, who can smell a grammatical error a mile away; trusted sounding board for all students of life.

Our Winner

This year's top honors go to Norine Dworkin-McDaniel for her fearless, funny essay called Circumcision Decision. Fair warning, this piece is a bit riskier than those usually found on 2KoP—and that's exactly what won my vote. As my own writing journey progresses, I find myself more and more drawn to writers who are willing to explore the dark corners of life, who don't feel the need to be "good" (except in the execution of their craft). It's a brave thing to commit an act of truth in writing, and I tip my hat to Norine.

Norine wins: this guest post with a link back to her own fabulous blog, Don't Put Lizards in Your Ears; an exclusive 2KoP embroidered logo tote bag; copy of the original version of William Strunk, Jr.'s Elements of Style, and a gift card to The Animal Store. Since Norine lives more than 1,000 miles from the store, she generously donated her $25 gift card to a shelter near The Animal Store called The Red Door.

Enough backstory. Here's the winning essay. Enjoy.

[Ed. note—There are two kinds of people: those who engage in civil discussion and those who hide behind anonymity or feel the need to lob personal attacks, rather than present cogent arguments or respectful expressions of a differing opinion. This essay won our contest because of the quality of the writing; it was not selected to advocate a particular position. The decision whether or not to circumcise a baby boy is a very personal one for parents, and I respect the decision of all parents in this matter. In many parts of the world circumcision is virtually unheard of. While there is evidence that the percentage of American baby boys being circumcised is dropping, upwards of three-quarters of US-born males have been circumcised. You may want to read more on the topic in this NY Times article.
    This essay takes a humorous look at one family's "circumcision decision". Some readers may disagree with the position taken by the author, and you are free to express your opinion. I must insist, however, that all comments be respectful. While it is never my intention to stifle debate or freedom of speech, I have decided to delete anonymous comments. Our author was brave enough to put her name on her words; I respectfully request that commenters do the same.]

Circumcision Decision
by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel

You know how you take certain things for granted and just assume that your world view on a particular subject is universally shared by all … or at least by the man you married and who supplied the other half of your kidlet’s DNA? And then you find out that that’s totally not the case … that in fact, said DNA contributor has a completely different take on something, one that’s so diametrically opposed to yours that you can’t even believe anyone would think that way.

That pretty much sums up my pre-baby discussion about circumcision with Stewart. I had taken it as a given, in the way that I take it as given that the sky is blue, the grass (when we remember to water it) is green, and that Paris Hilton will eventually do something even more crass and unbecoming than flash her hoo-ha at the paparazzi. In other words, we’re having a boy, so, duh, he’ll be circumcised.

Stewart apparently, was of a different mind altogether.

Here’s me: So after the baby’s born, we’ll get him circumcised in the hospital.

Here’s Stewart: Um … I don’t think we should.


Now that was a head-spinning conversation stopper. I haven’t been stunned so speechless since The Usual Suspects when you find out at the end that KEVIN SPACEY IS KEYSER SOZE! I mean, I just didn’t see that coming! Same here. You have a boy, you circumcise him. Just like you have a bag of double-fudge-chocolate-chip cookies, you eat them. You have a 10 and a face card, you sit tight at the blackjack table. There’s no discussion. You just do it. And frankly, it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t do it. But Stewart was weighing the anti-circumcision point of view. His rationale went something along the lines of: “Foreskin comes standard equipment; why should we make after-market changes?”

He pointed out that foreskin retention was gaining traction. Who knows. For guys, maybe it’s the new black. Actually, it’s thought that 90 percent of guys around the world are unshorn. Even in the U.S., it’s guesstimated that there’s about a 50-50 split between cut and uncut. Of course, I understand man’s natural desire—even pre-Lorena Bobbitt—to avoid sharp objects in that region at all costs. I don’t even have a penis (if you don’t count the one I keep in my nightstand), and I wince and squeeze my legs together when even imagining this. But damn! Squeamish or no, I was going to do right by our son.

But clipping was clearly going to be a tough sell. You’d think this would be a no brainer since I’m Jewish. But you can hardly play the whole “Covenant between God and Abraham” card when you’ve been a confirmed atheist since … oh, about age 9. And it certainly wasn’t like I was campaigning for a bris. (For those not In The Tribe, that’s when you throw a fabulous party where the baby gets trimmed as the guests eat canapés.) As if. Now I love, love, love to throw parties. You can ask my sister; I’ve been campaigning for Groundhog Day to be a black tie-worthy event for years! But it had to have been a guy who came up with the brilliantly sadistic idea to throw a major catered affair at your house, a scant eight days after you’ve squeezed a basketball out of your vagina … or been sliced stem to stern and had it removed. Either way, you hardly feel like putting on your party shoes.

Still, it’s not like you can skimp, right? On Junior’s first public outing? Hell no! You’re going to pull out all the stops. And that’s hardly trays of crudités from Costco. So no, I was looking for any way out of the bris. If we were going to do a whole shindig for Junior, we’d wait till his first birthday when I’d be back in my skinny jeans.

But if not religious tradition, I was hard-pressed to figure out what else I could possibly stand on. The standard argument—So That He’ll Look Like His Daddy Down There—held no truck with Stewart. Neither did my point that he wouldn’t look like his peers when he stripped down in the locker room after gym class either. Or that guys also have major body image issues and carry plenty of self-doubt that their peckers are “up to par.” I’m sure even Ron Jeremy had days when he wondered if his alter ego was “sponge worthy.” In the face of all that, did we really need to give our son one more reason to worry that his penis wasn’t good enough?

I even tried to appeal to my husband’s inner rational scientist and broke out the medical research. Studies do show that circumcised boys and men have fewer urinary tract infections, a lower risk for penile cancer and for STDs, including HIV compared to intact guys. Okay, so the risk for UTIs and penile cancer is minuscule to begin with, and you can probably do more to protect against HIV and other STDs with good, consistent condom use. But shouldn’t we set our boy up to have every single advantage possible?

Then Stewart placed his ace. There must be a reason the package came wrapped, he argued. He’d heard that uncut guys reported much greater sensitivity and pleasure during sex. Actually I don’t know how you measure that. Ask uncut guys to have lots of sex, then clip them and have them rate the difference? Frankly, I don’t see a lot of volunteers lining up for that study. But Stewart admitted he sort of wished he’d had more of a say in his own circumcision. “I might,” he argued, working himself into a Clarence Darrow lather, “enjoy sex even more if I had it au naturel.” He floated this idea: By clipping Fletcher at this tender age, maybe we would be shortchanging his sex life … forever. Dangling a little Jewish guilt in front of me — proof positive that he’d been taking notes from my mother — he deftly pulled this one out: “You don’t want to be responsible for ruining our son’s sex life, do you?”

Ruin our son’s sex life? YES! That was it!

And that’s when the most persuasive argument I could possibly muster came to me … the sure-fire way to finally persuade Stewart that in the “snip or not to snip” debate, circumcising would be the kindest cut of all.

“My love,” I said to my husband, sweetly, pragmatically. “If you ever want your son to get a blow job — circumcise him.”

Four weeks after our son came into the world, we did just that. In the pediatrician’s office, with little fanfare, no mini quiches and a whole lotta wincing.

To Fletcher’s future girlfriends: You’re welcome.

Links to other essays submitted to this contest:

Finding the Pony — by Mary Sigmond Ryan
Can a Safenik Become a Risk Taker — by Tanya Grove
Do You, Would You, Could You Pee in the Shower? — by Cindy Brown


brenda said...

Congrats, Norine! These are the best sorts of surprises.

Devon said...

Let's see, for EVERY OTHER body part to be discarded requires injury or disease-- and only after less invasive therapies have been attempted. Ah, but the penis is exempted from medical ethics.... and genital mutilation is irreverent and funny-- if it happens to boys.


George said...

If you wanted him to have a good sex life, you should have left him whole.

Maxim said...

Just another stupid American mutilating their son's genitals...You are a disgrace to your entire country.

Susan Bearman said...

I want to respect everyone's opinion here, and I certainly expected controversy and debate over this post. As owner of the blog, I request that you watch your language.

I also note that, while Norine was brave enough to put her name on this post, many of the commenters are not. Hiding behind anonymous does not promote an honest discussion. If the roll of anonymous posts continues within just a few minutes of one another, I will assume they are spam.

Mama Panda said...

So she is proud that she convinced her husband to go against his paternal instinct to protect his son? Yes, manipulation is super funny. She did her son and his future lovers a disservice. Her husband was right. Shame on her.

Susan Bearman said...

Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for sharing this post, even if you disagree with it.

Thank you for being respectful in your comments. Thank you for not threatening my guest poster. Thank you for understanding that I am now imposing comment moderation for all comments and will not allow personal attacks.

Soggy Mom said...

Disgusting and barbaric. Get on the right side of history.

Unknown said...

Setting aside all the reasons this story is offensive - it's actually not even funny. Are we to suppose that no European or Latin American or Asian man has ever received a blowjob? I guess I just don't get it.

La Caudilla said...

hahahaha what a fantastic essay!!!

YES!!... Yes because unethical genital mutilation of BOYS (only boys... girls MUST be protected!!) is so FUNNY!!!

I´m also amputating healthy tissue from my son as soon as he´s born... NOT. I´m not.
And I´m a woman and I enjoy sex much better with an intact guy. And yes, I give them blowjobs, miss.

Pandora Foxtrot said...

You must be a very strong and capable woman to emasculate your husband, and mutilate your son in a matter of minutes. I cannot believe that this is a winning essay, what was the object again? To showcase manipulation and barbarity?

coolcat said...

WOW, I just had to comment. Why are these "anonymous" bloggers attacking Norine? What about every other mom (and dad) who decides on circumcising their son?? As a mother of daughters, I never had to make this decision regarding circumcision...but my mom did...3 times! And my brothers support her now that they are old enough...and they're glad...I asked them...(and before you chastise complete strangers as being stupid, know that they all graduated college...2 of them with honors). I dated 3 men long-term who were circumcised...they never once complained about being circumcised. I dated one man long-term who was NOT circumcised...he complained about it constantly...wished he could change it but was afraid too. To all of you angry, uncircumcised bloggers you need to get a grip (maybe you're frustrated from not getting enough "hummers"?) ;-)

GDenico1 said...

Disgusting . Im cut and not happy about it at all. I hate the way it looks and it has led to some inferiority complexes with myself. There are numorous psycological issues that spring from this mutilation and all cut men do have them...we are less likly to trust easialy. Theres also a physical issue that takes place... Its called desensitation, so sex is not as enjoyable as it should be. I wish my parents had me in a time that was educated but in 1990 information on this issue was not a computer or phone away. I hope he never forgives you for killing his sex life. O and your little comment about blowjobs... Im not a big fan cause again its not as amazing as it should be.

Lisa Gradess Weinstein said...

Hi Noreen, I actually loved your story and found it funny. It was written tongue and check. I'm Jewish so I could also relate. I was so glad when I found out I was having a girl because I was so worried about how I was going to plan a huge Bris only 8 days after the birth! Noreen I would love to follow your blog - can you give me the link! Thanks!!! Lisa
PS - I blog about being a mom to a teen, coping with mid-life and the ups and downs of marriage. Come visit me at

Susan Bearman said...

Lisa, Norine's blog is called Don't Put Lizards in Your Ears.

Lisa Gradess Weinstein said...

Thank you Susan, I signed up to follow your blog too - I am new at blogging and I am discovering such talent!

Susan Bearman said...

Glad you found us, Lisa. I'll check out your blog. Good luck.

denninger3 said...

I found your writing style easy and pleasurable to read... Your honesty is refreshing.
Congratulations on your essay being choosen...

Mrs Dynamite aka Lorena +Wonder Women... said...

Very good .. I enjoy reading it .. If i had a boy I will do same .. no matter what the rest say .. Congratulations !!

Deborah Batterman said...

Yikes . . . What I thought would be a comment on a thoughtful post about a sensitive subject is turning into a comment about the way we live now. For someone brought up in the Jewish tradition, the decision to circumcise a son would be an assumption. And, yet, living a more secular life would seem to bring with it a questioning of assumptions. The operative word is 'questioning'. Tough choices demand a great deal of thought. In this wide wide world at our fingertips, I worry about responses that do not engage in dialogue so much as diatribe and personal attack.

Susan Bearman said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Deborah.

Hugh said...

“If you ever want your son to get a blow job — circumcise him.”

That's it? That's the killer argument that convinced Mr McDaniel to have (the best) part cut off his son's genitals? Words (almost) fail me. Do the McDanielses seriously imagine that the 2/3 of natural men in the world have a lot of trouble getting BJs? Let me assure you, we don't. On the contrary, the saying goes "A foreskin is a good airhead repellent." Puns seem inevitable in this topic, and if the cap fits....

Hugh Young

Allison B Levine said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinions of course but verbally attacking someone for theirs is what's barbaric here. Her decision was hers for her family and her child just like other commenters chose. Do not verbally abuse someone for their beliefs and how they want to conduct their lives. It's just unnecissary and mean.

Britton Minor said...

I see the intention of humor here (but couldn't laugh) I also see how it could incense some-many, actually. Two of my boys are circumcised (before I ever thought about the issue) and one is not. After I accidentally heard my son screaming during the procedure, I regretted it, and thus began my awareness that I/we had a choice. Married now to an uncircumcised European and the best lover ever, I can attest to the fact that his lack of circumcision has not hindered our enjoyment of all things intimate and sacred between a couple. our son together is uncut. Despite my changed opinion on the issue, I hold no negative thoughts towards you, and applaud an honest and well-written post. This--our ability to express ourselves openly, without censorship-- is worth protecting. These are the chances we have to learn, grow, and sometimes even shift our viewpoints. Spewing hatred towards anyone seems like a weak way to hold a strong opinion.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on a wonderful essay - although I do not share your point of view on this issue, I loved reading about it, and I loved you speaking your truth so honestly.We have that in common! It is such a personal choice! Nobody has the right to take that away from us. It is so disappointing to read some of the comments attacking your point of view. I enjoyed your humor. Writing is supposed to enlighten, not constrict!

KateBnM said...

The ire this post is raising may be due to a misunderstanding- most anti-circumcision advocates see intactivism as a human rights issue, not a choice. People get very upset about human rights violations. However the poster chose to define circumcision in a different light, perhaps to add humor to the situation? Although from what I understand, a bris would have been a much gentler option...

2raineys said...

My husband's mom thought the same thing and I definitely DO NOT thank her. In fact we both wish he had his foreskin. Not the parent's choice to make and an essay on genital cutting is NOT funny.. you wouldn't be laughing if it was a baby girl being discussed.

Jamie and Aaron Meriwether said...

I'm not sure how circumcision can still be considered a choice. This pussyfooting around the issue saying "Well, it's the parents' decision..." is a load of rubbish. Someday there will be laws thata prohibit the mutilation of infants. We already have them for girls in this country, hopefully soon we will join the rest of the developed world and prohibit the mass mutilation/rape of our boys. Until then, shouldn't we at least discourage this type of behavior when we see it instead of award it??? I could care less how well written and funny something is when the entire point of the post was about how some woman manipulated her husband into deciding to mutilate their son's genitals.

And for the record: I live in the USA. I believe in human rights. My husband is uncut. And YES I give him head. Why wouldn't I??? I hope the OP's husband reads these comments and realizes that what she said to him is complete and utter BS. It's women like this that give the rest of us a bad name.

Absolutely disgusted!

Awarding someone for promoting the mutilation of a child's genitals, no matter how "well written", NEVER deserves this kind of praise.

Judith said...

I'm so disappointed in Stewart that he let the blow job argument win out in the end. Foreksin is a great bimbo repellent, and that is exactly the kind of woman who would turn down Fletcher if he was intact (Obviously Norine is one). For shame letting this win any kind of contest. I'm more ashamed of the blog owner than the "author" of this "piece".

Heather said...

I don't believe imposing your sexual preferences on your son's body is the right thing to do. Circumcision is a very personal decision, and for that reason, it is one that should be left to the owner of the penis.
In the same way that some men like fake breasts and some like real, some women actually do enjoy intact penises. Scarred penises actually turn some women off, so his future girlfriend may rue you, and so may he, not thank you. You've done your son a disservice by having him cut, and you should have listened to your husband. He had the right idea.
Not to mention, the surgery itself is quite dangerous and risky, and could leave your son looking at future corrective surgeries, no penis, or even death.

Cyn said...

This piece of writing is far from funny or worthy of a 'win'.

It's disgusting enough that people mutilate the penis of their son, but this pushes that barbarity to a whole other disturbing level: to cut their child's genitalia because of their personal preference when it comes to sex.

It's not YOUR penis, people. You don't own your child.


Susan Bearman said...

Dear commenters on this post,

Please note that the anti-circumcision faction has been well-represented in these comments. This blog is not about this topic. If you are reiterating a comment already made, it will not be posted. If you have something new, interesting, and civil to add to the discussion, your comment will be considered.

Thank you.

Aubrie Alaniz said...

Susan Bearman, you're censoring comments? Wow. I can understand not allowing name calling, but censoring based on the opinion represented in the comment? Wow... just wow. That truly shows confidence...

Also, no one here is "anti-circumcision". We have no problem with adults consenting to the mutilation of their own bodies... the problem is that people think they have the right to mutilate OTHER PEOPLE'S bodies without their consent and against their will.

Susan Bearman said...

Aubrie, as you can see, I published your most recent comment, as you actually are adding something new to the conversation. Your earlier comment, which I chose not to post, did nothing to add. It simply restated other comments that have been made and posted here already. In addition, it did not follow my request that all comments be respectful and civil.

I apologize if I misrepresented some comments here as being "anti-circumcision" if that is not what they were meant to be. As far as censorship goes, I think I have more than fairly represented the point of view of people who disagree with Norine's decision. I think I have more than fairly represented the points of view of those who disagree with me for posting this essay. My decision to stop posting mean-spirited comments that repeat what has already been said is purely my own. I stand by it, as I stand by choosing this essay in my contest.

I appreciate you reading my blog and taking the time to comment. Your point has been clearly expressed.

Minyassa said...

For those of you upset that this essay won, please review the blogger's own words: "As my own writing journey progresses, I find myself more and more drawn to writers who are willing to explore the dark corners of life, who don't feel the need to be "good" (except in the execution of their craft)."

That says it all, really. This person was not applauded for being a good person. She was applauded for writing well about doing something horrible, but she used manipulation tactics that were unexpected and creative to pull it off. Creativity was what this contest was about, not morality. She'll find out what her morality score is later, no worries.

Aubrie Alaniz said...

Who can be civil when people joke about mutilating the genitals of their own children?? I certainly cannot... It's one thing to circumcise out of ignorance and the (incorrect) belief that there is some benefit, but to make jokes about your child wincing in pain? To make jokes about your child's future sex life (which you have affected in a negative way... don't believe me? GOOGLE)?

Sorry, that kind of attitude does not deserve civility. It deserves exactly what it got.

And it's your blog, so I suppose you have the right to censor it, but just FYI that doesn't make you or your "winner" look any better... in fact it just makes you both look a little cowardly.

I doubt this comment will get posted, but that's ok... you were my intended audience.

Riahli said...

I think it's wonderful and refreshing that your husband stood up for your son, and sad that you didn't listen.

I wanted to mention as well that not all Jew circumcise, it seems to be a wide spread opinion that is simply not true.

I also want to say that just because someone repeats what others have said is not a reason to delete a comment, I can understand that you don't want a bunch of nasty comments, but it is important for others to see how many people feel a certain way about a topic. If you delete comments you are making it look different then it is. Unfair and lopsided. You chose to post about mutilating genitalia and so you are of course going to get some strong responses.

Susan Bearman said...

Dear Commenters,

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post. My blog is not about this topic, but rather about the craft of essay. Opposing points of view to the topic of this post are adequately represented in the existing comments and I am choosing to close the comments for this post. I encourage you to continue your conversation elsewhere on the web.

Finally, before we say goodbye to this post, I encourage you all to read this well-written piece from CNN.

Thank you.