I spent most of my childhood thinking I was circumcised when I was not.
Upon passing water at a urinal whilst in my thirteenth year, a com padre of mine instigated passing water next to me. I was unaware that during these ablutions he had snuck a peek at my penis and as we left the high School toilet block together he suddenly burst into a chorus of “His penis is circumcised, his penis is circumcised!!!” The gaggle of ‘chums’ I mistakenly called friends took up the chant and there it was, one more reason to destroy another child’s sense of worth. In hindsight, I realise two very important points. One, I am, in actual fact, not circumcised. And two, none of those idiots even really knew what a circumcised penis was.
Regardless, I was crushed, devastated, morose even. Providence intervened and whilst watching my usual staple of late night SBS films in the hope of seeing some European nudity, I stumbled across the film, Europa Europa. In this brilliant film, the main protagonist tries to fake a non-circumcised penis by tying his foreskin together in a bundle over the head of the penis itself in the hopes of stretching it. Well, you can guess what I did next.
Nowadays, a simple google search would alleviate all my concerns, but in those dark days, all I had to aid me was the Dewey decimal system and the stern eye of the local librarian. Of course, the complexities of male inadequacy did not start there. For many years prior, it had become increasingly difficult to hide my disdain for ‘sport’ of any kind. I despised competition. I also grew up in a small Welsh town of breath taking violence, but I abhorred fighting. I liked reading. I thought deeply. I was sensitive. I would sit and stare at the front door waiting for the ‘Man’ police to burst in and take away my ‘Man’ card.
My brother and my father were of masculine discipline; boxers, fighters, drinkers, burpers, rugby players. I still can’t muster an effective burp to this day. Mine sound like the farting of frogs and occur somewhere in my mid chest.
And so it is, that male insecurity is born. Yet no one speaks of it.
That is the insidious nature of the ‘Male’ gene you see, a terrible affliction that sustains itself through its very symptoms. For to talk about feeling ‘unmanly’ is to confirm how ‘unmanly’ you really are! It is a self perpetuating condition. Yet silence does not mean absence and I am sure that men feel inadequate in the most real of places.
Brad Pitt makes me feel like shit, despite the fact he looks like a Geography teacher now. A very handsome Geography teacher, I grant you, but a Geography teacher none the less. I remember watching Fight Club and feeling like an ugly, deformed street urchin when we first saw the Bradster (as his friends call him) as Tyler Durden take his shirt off. What a fine specimen of man. At one point Tyler and his less spectacular human counterpart point out a poster of an Adonis-like male model and state, ‘is that what a man is supposed to look like?’
I felt like smashing the Bradinator (as his friends call him) in his perfect teeth. Brad WAS that poster and instead of feeling inspired by his lack of inhibition, I saw Tyler for what he really was; a threat who made me feel like a girly man.
He made me feel insecure, like my place in the world was eternally under threat from an invasion of Bradley Pitt types. Perhaps that’s what the underlying cause of insecurity is; the threat of attack upon your self. Not your physical self, but the true self; the elements that make you who you are. Sex is obviously a large part of this and my ‘Europa Europa’ experience from my childhood locked me on a path of physical, emotional and sexual insecurity which pursued me for most of my life.
Just recently I was in the changing rooms at my local pool, getting my six year old, Littlepants dressed after a big swim, when a chap of Mediterranean extraction entered. His body was possessed of muscles I’ve never even heard of, never mind possessed and when he took all his clothes off to dry himself I was waiting for sound effects and the sounds of crowds going oooooohhhhhh to appear. He was an impressive specimen of man and next to him, I felt like a cardboard cut out of a human being. I felt like what a three year old might draw if you asked them to draw Pee Wee Herman. I am not ashamed to say that I caught a sly glance of his penis and, yes, it was huge. It looked like Dwayne Johnson’s arm hanging out of a hammock while he has a nap. I considered retirement, from being a man, from any sexual activity ever again and running away to a monastery to become a nun. I was tempted to call my girlfriend, El Cohen and tell her that it was over as, inevitably, when she saw this man or the fifty million others like him out there in the world she would cast me into the nearest bin and never look back as she ran arm in rippling arm with this fleshy dildo on legs. I felt inferior. The awesome handstand I had done five minutes earlier in the pool to the roar of my army of fans (Littlepants) was rendered impotent and my sense of self worth soon followed.
But it was okay. These feelings happen. I’m pretty familiar with them now and, in my more optimistic moments, even see them as a necessary part of my journey. Hopefully, for all of us, they end in consolidation regarding the traits you do have that make you special; unique. I bet the Italian Stallion couldn’t make Littlepants snort milk through his nose with his impression of a man falling off a cliff. I bet the Mediterranean marvel can’t draw dwarfs vomiting as hilariously as I do. I bet, I bet… I could spend weeks comparing, whittling away at each of us, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. You can’t win when it comes to insecurity. You just have to accept you feel it, look at why and hopefully come to some resolution.
While all this is happening though, I hope that men start to talk about it. Let’s face it, we’re not fooling anyone anyway. We need to set some new, more fragile and human role models for the men, young and old around us. Personally, i will endeavour to strip my clothes off with all the fanfare of a swarthy, exotic Adonis every time I undress, even if the end results looks more like a pipe cleaner being removed from the lint basket of a tumble dryer. I will let my children know that I feel inadequate and that it’s okay, because I am not. They are just thoughts, fumbling ideas trying to grasp at the world around them and work out where you fit; who you are in the eyes of others. I will tell them that sexuality has nothing to do with muscles or the size of your appendages, but has everything to do with your soul.
Then i’ll tell the to go pee in the pool, just next to where that Italian bastard is swimming.
All’s fair in love and inadequacy.