An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA
by Riley Jericho
Food for Thought
February rolled around. It was a weekend and the Summers clan were out for lunch because, on most Sundays, they usually worshipped at that greatest of American institutions.
Luke felt that a good Sunday lunch made up for Sunday afternoon. Okay, to be more honest, usually it made up for Sunday evening; a time often consumed with trying to complete the homework assignments, that were currently coming thick and fast.
Most Sundays, they ate out. Because America knew how to do food!
Back in England, other than to McDonalds or to a pizza place as a treat before the movies, they hardly EVER went out. Here, people seemed to do it all the time. He knew some families that almost never dined at home, spending the week trailing around the huge variety of restaurants. IHOP, Chilli's, Cracker Barrel, TGI Fridays, Frankie & Benny's, Outback, Ruby Tuesdays; Luke was happy to eat at any of them, but 8 times out of 10, they all voted for Longhorns, for a serious meat fest!
* * *
Even Dad had been seduced by the eating culture, and would often leave the house early on a workday, to 'do' breakfast. It was code for an early morning start to the work schedule; a business meeting with colleagues, over hash browns. No wonder he’d put on weight!
I'd been out to breakfast plenty of times too. Trust me, I've got no problems eating the food. It was working through the choices that had been freaky, at first!
Back in England, the few times we'd eaten breakfast in a restaurant (usually if we'd been doing B&B in some hotel), there had usually only been a couple of options. You could either go for the artery blocking ‘Full English’, or the less than appetizing, and slightly anemic, ‘Continental Breakfast’. That was it. Whatever option you chose, you got whatever was dropped on the plate in front of you.
Not here. Here, whatever you ordered, the choices were complicated. It went something like this:
“Oh, errr, yes please.”
“On a plate...?”
“Boiled, fried, scrambled, poached, steamed, baked, coddled, omletted, benedicted...?
“Oh, right…mmm. What was the list, again? Never mind…I’ll have fried.”
“Over hard, over medium, over easy?’
“Over here would be good…”
“Sunny side up?”
Then you had to go through it all again, with the bread, having access to every variety and stage of toasted-ness!
GRITS? Now there was a culture clash! For a young lad, like me, coming here from London, the idea of eating grit seemed hilarious!
The first thing to avoid getting confused with, were WalMart Gritters. They were a different kind of grit altogether. Theirs was a grit you couldn’t eat it; neither would you find the Gritters in the huge parking lot, throwing sand at everyone, just in case there was snow on them! No, the WalMart Gritters were a bunch of extremely jovial old folk (clearly well into retirement), who wore the WalMart uniform and stood at the door to grit (greet) you, as you entered the store.
Paid to ensure you were having a nice day, the Gritters were fabulous people!
Okay – ‘nuff said about food!
* * *
However, though it was the weekend, that particular day wasn't a Sunday. In fact, it was Saturday, and the Summers family were heading up to the lake. They were due to go over to the Kears the following day, and that messed up the normal schedule. To make up or it, as they headed to the lake for an afternoon of sailing, they unanimously voted to worship at Longhorns on the way. Arriving at the restaurant well ahead of the crowds, they planned to eat early. Inside, it wasn't busy, at all.
The four of them were promptly seated around one of the secluded round booths they preferred and, within a few minutes, a girl came to take their order. They recognized her at once. She'd been there a couple of months - one of the many young people, of Luke’s age, who took part-time jobs in places like Longhorns, to earn extra cash.
"Hello Stacey." Lucy Summers smiled brightly, as the young girl first gave their table a quick wipe-over with a cloth, and then whipped out her pad and pencil. “How are you today?”
"Hi y'all," she beamed. “I’m good thanks!” The smile wandered over to Luke and twinkled. "This is a nice surprise. Don't you folks usually come in on a Sunday?"
Simon smirked and kicked Luke under the table. Retaining a polite demeanor above the waist, he kicked back. Stacey pressed on. "So - what can I get y'all to drink?" They ordered their usual iced, sweet tea, and she bustled off.
"She’s a nice girl," Lucy Summers noted, to nobody in particular. "I think her mother teaches at Creek Elementary." Unlike many of the girls her age, Stacey didn’t doll herself up with layers of make-up. However, that didn’t mean she was plain.
Stacey returned promptly, balancing huge glasses on a tray; not that they actually needed to be big. That was the other thing that made America a great nation - free refills!
She distributed the drinks and pulled out her pencil again. "Y'all ready?" she chimed in her dulcet southern tones. They nodded and she began to work around the table, until she got to Luke. "Will that be the Ribeye, as usual, Luke?"
He tried to look cool, whilst his innards remained fully flustered. Oh my God, he thought, a little embarrassed. Not only had she remembered my name, but even what I liked to order! "Oh...errr...yes, I guess so." It came out, in a less than distinguished croak. "Errrr...thanks." As Stacey eyed him coyly, he saw his dad smirk from behind his menu.
"You're welcome!" She beamed at him. Luke happened to be sitting on the end of the circular seat that curved around their table, and she 'accidentally' nudged him, as she leaned over to gather the menus.
Once she was out of earshot, Simon made some rather obscene kissing noises. "She has SO got the hots for Luke!"
'Pack it in!" Luke muttered.
His dad's smirk grew. "She does seem nice..."
Actually, he was right. She was nice. In fact she was a stunner, with a personality to go with it. It’s not that he wasn’t flattered – it was just things were a little more complicated than that.
"She's not my type..."
"Oh yes - and what is your type then?" teased his Dad, leaning back, amused. "It's obvious she likes you. You could date worse! Why don't you ask her out?"
What was his type? To that, Luke had no answer and sipped at his drink, glowering at the table, in silence. Simon giggled, earning him another kick.
"Ouch...stop it," Simon whined and rubbed his leg, milking the moment. "Mum, tell him to stop kicking me!"
"OK - break it up you lot,” ordered Lucy. She’d been watching quietly from the side, and came to Luke’s rescue. “When, and who, Luke chooses to date is his own business. He certainly DOESN’T need you two to arrange it for him! Let's change the subject shall we?"
"Well, I'm going to the salad bar!” Simon sucked at his drink and then scrambled out of the booth. “But, I think I need a pee first."
His mum called after him. "Don’t forget to wash your hands!" She considered the menu again. "I think I'll pass on dessert today. I'll have some salad too." With that, she followed her youngest out of the booth, leaving Luke and his father alone, both of whom holding out for meat AND dessert.
As they waited, Geoff Summers picked up the menu again, squinting at it. He took off his glasses and squinted again, trying different combinations of glasses and distance, to see if any of it made a difference.
"Either I need new specs, or they're making these menus smaller!" he grunted.
Luke couldn’t hold back a grin. "It's ‘cos you spend all day looking at computers and spreadsheets, Dad. And you're getting old!"
"Alright, alright. I know you think I'm an old fart,” laughed Geoff. “You don't need to remind me!" He gave up trying to see the menu and put his glasses back on. The two of them were sitting next to each other and he stretched out his legs, comfortably. Lowering his voice, he broached what had been on his mind that morning. "Mum and I were talking about you last night.”
“Oh yes? Good or bad – and what about?”
“Surgery.” Geoff paused and tried not to grin. In the circumstances, grinning wouldn’t help. “Mum and I got the last paper you printed out for us.” On a regular basis, for months now, Luke had been printing out, and passing them, what he saw as relevant information, with regards to circumcision. He'd become a persistent little blighter...a bit like his father, Lucy had complained!
“Did she read it?”
“I think she glanced through it," It was a generous claim. He kept his voice low, for which Luke was grateful. They’d been talking about the subject, on and off, for a while now. It wasn’t new. "I see you’re still keen to have the operation?"
"Nothing’s changed, if that’s what you mean?”
Playing with the glass in front of him, Geoff nodded. However, it had been going on far too long. Enough was enough, and these endless ‘papers’ needed to stop. It was time to put this one to bed and to talk some sense into his son. "Luke, what if we’d still been living in the UK?"
Geoff waited a moment, while some other diners passed out of earshot. "I mean would you have still wanted to be circumcised, if we were there?" Surely Luke could see what the point was.
Luke shrugged. "I doubt it..."
"...but we're not living there are we," he finished.
Geoff’s forehead furrowed. "But, then why..."
Luke interrupted. "Dad, will we ever go back to England?"
The question took him by surprise. It wasn’t as if he and Lucy had never thought about that particular question before. He’d always assumed they would always go back – when the time was right. Wondering where Luke was going with it, he sat up, leaning into the rounded table, as he considered the question again.
"Sometime, probably. When, I'm not sure." He shrugged as he computed the options. "At the very least, it won’t be until schooling for the two of you has finished; probably college too. Then would be a good time to go back.”
“But why would we want to?”
His son’s question surprised him. “Why wouldn’t we? I don’t get you? It’s…”
“Home?” Luke completed, with a wry shrug. "That’s the thing, Dad. It's not home anymore. Not for me." Luke spoke softly, pouring salt from the shaker onto the table, stirring complex patterns into it. “When we came here, I admit, I hated it - but that's years ago. It’s different now. Everything I know is here. All my friends. I’m even beginning to sound American, for goodness sake!" He’d never really verbalized it quite like that before, and he could see his dad considering him in a new light.
"What about you?" Luke took it a bit further. "What if I did fall in love with someone from around here - maybe even married? Simon too? Would you go back to the UK, or would you stay here with us?"
Geoff shrugged, at a loss. He had no answers. "This is a bit heavy for Longhorns isn't it?" Belatedly, he realized that his sons would need to make their own choices in life.
"Yep - a bit, you're probably right.” Luke grinned. “But you started it! You're the one who wanted to know if I’d still have wanted to be circumcised, if we’d been in England."
At that point, Stacey swung by to check on them. "You folks need a refill?" she inquired, checking the glasses.
The conversation switched.
"No, we're good thanks!" Luke smiled at her. She was nice. He just needed to stop being uptight about it, he realized.
"Have you made a mess, Luke?" She scolded him playfully, seeing the trail of salt scattered in front of him.
She reached across him and skillfully magicked it away, leaving him with a faint scent of roses.
"Thanks." Luke had leaned back to study her, as she did her job. So what if almost every other conversation at school these days was about some girlfriend? He didn’t have one, but that didn’t mean there was anything wrong with him – at least Stacey didn’t seem to think so, and that had to count for something!
She moved on, and he observed her as she began to take the order from another table. "The thing is, Dad, supposing I did date and get into a serious relationship with someone here?"
"Someone like Stacey?"
Luke turned quickly, and could see he was being teased. “Don’t start THAT again!” He smiled, rolling his eyes. "Who knows? The point is, everyone here is used to young guys, like me, being circumcised - if you get what I mean. It's the norm. That's why I want to be the same - because this is where I live now. The truth is, when other guys in the locker rooms see me, they tend to think I'm a bit of a freak – it’s not cool! What if I married someone here, and they thought the same?"
"Oh..." Summers senior had never been good at anything related to the birds and bees, and had left all that kind of thing to the boys’ mother.
In fact, neither of them had been much help in that area but, as the other two returned with bowls of salad, Luke hoped that the penny was dropping for his dad at last. As the food arrived and Stacey made sure they were all ‘good to go’, he had the uncanny sense that things were going to work out.
Stacey passed by their table quite frequently and he enjoyed chatting; relaxed and quite friendly. Whether he would ever date someone like her, he’d no idea, but he was sure that, in time, the girlfriend thing would eventually sort itself out.
* * *
Comfortably fed and watered, they returned to their van and Geoff Summers checked the tow hitch.
Geoff knew he was like that. A bit careful. Give him a column of figures, or a clever financial strategy, and he’d sweep through it. But, when it came to going back to check whether he’d actually locked the front door?
He was glad they were going to the Kears, again. As much as anything, Anne Kear had brought a good friendship to Lucy, and friends here – at least, in the way they’d had friends in England – were hard to come by. Of the two of them, it had been harder for her in this country. He’d got his office and his work, and plenty of colleagues that he counted as friends. But, Lucy? Well, she’d struggled.
Of course, everyone here was so warm, and had been genuinely welcoming when they’d first arrived, and this new world seemed to offer everything they’d ever wanted as a couple. A beautiful home. Top quality schooling and the potential that offered, for the boys. A good life, and money to spare, that would top up investments, for them and for the boys, in years to come.
And everyone was so friendly…except ‘close’ friends were hard to come by!
Steven Kear – who was also from the UK - had a theory. Friendship, he’d once quite aptly said, was a bit like the games of baseball played by the Braves, down at their stadium in the city.
It went like this: take the UK, or in fact, anywhere in Europe, he’d explained, it often took ages to get a good friendship going. It was tough to get to first base. But, once you got there, moving on to 2nd and 3rd base, to deepen that friendship, could happen quite quickly. Here in the USA – at least in their part of it – you hit first base almost immediately… to find that there was no 2nd or 3rd! Those didn’t seem to exist!
At least not in the way Geoff and Lucy had been used to.
The outcome was this: over here, it was easy to know lots of people who, in their own way, would be delighted to count you a friend. But what did that mean? They would rarely invite you into their home to share a family meal with you, other than ‘doing lunch’ out at some restaurant. Dropping in, uninvited, for a cuppa, was frowned on.
Even the schools were different, with their 'drive through' culture. On the daily school run, dropping off and picking up the boys, Lucy found that she couldn’t easily meet other parents. There was no tradition of finding a place to sit and natter, while waiting for the children to come out. Here, parents drew up in their minivans (and the queue of vans often stretched way out the parking lot and down the road), until they arrived at the pickup point. Doors slid open. Kids got in. Doors closed. Drive-through school!
Although it took some getting used to, it was at school that the boys had found good friends fairly easily. Lads like Luke’s pal, Ryan; a great kid, though his parents were total crap, Geoff Summers thought. No, it was the adults that had found the transition harder and, for his wife Lucy, families like the Kears were a godsend!
When they moved their family to the States, both boys – particularly Luke – had been steaming mad with them. But that had passed, as he knew it would. Now, to hear Luke talk about this place, as being ‘home’? That was quite a turn around!
He and Lucy hadn't talked about it much, but both assumed they would eventually return to the UK – probably when his job called for it. But, to hear Luke describe the life that he and Simon now lived, even though it made complete sense, had touched a nerve. Could it be that they, and any future generations of Summers family, would become American residents?
It was a price he'd never anticipated when he'd done the math to cost out the move. Would they ever be able to go back to the UK if the boys made there lives here? Could Lucy even contemplate that?
The tow hitch was fine, of course. But he noticed he hadn’t bothered to lock the attached boat before they’d gone in to eat. Strange that - the place was rubbing off on him. Like most, these days he hardly ever bothered to lock the van before they went to shop in Kroger. Now, THAT you would never get away with in England!!
The boat had been a rash promise he’d made to Simon. When they’d left the UK, and the Sailing Club that he loved, they’d agreed to find a way for him to continue the sport in America. Making promises was easy; delivering on them a lot harder - and that one had come back to haunt him! They’d finally got the sailing dinghy, though it had taken quite a bit of negotiating to agree the when, what and how much. Not just for Simon, but for Luke too, who’d had to be bought off as well!
They’d eventually got Simon linked into a club, one that centered up at the lake. But it wasn’t cheap! Mind you, having your own boat cut the rental costs substantially, so maybe it was a sound investment after all.
It wasn’t a large craft; a one or two man racing dinghy that he’d bought off a colleague – a guy who’d claimed that the two greatest days of owning a boat were the day you bought it and the day you sold it! Still, he’d pushed for a good price, and it’d come with the trailer. The van already had a hitch, so they were good to go.
The purchase was in lieu of both Christmas AND birthday presents for that year – plus a TON of goodwill thrown in. When it had come to budget, and the actual style and standard of boat they should buy, the negotiations with Simon had been intense. Budgets he was quite happy with. Boys – particularly teenage ones – were a lot harder to understand!
Naturally, Luke stuck in his own oar, complaining that it would be completely unfair for Simon to get such a gift, and he get nothing. He’d bartered his own package deal (covering his birthday and Christmas gifts, of course). He ended up with what HE really wanted. One of the new MacBooks.
Now THAT was something that Geoffrey Summers could understand. Like his eldest son, he loved anything Apple!
Lucy had said it was all a small price to pay.
It WAS just money, he’d tried to convince himself, and he couldn’t deny it, the boat had been something they’d all come to enjoy over the last couple of months. As the two of them sat together on the bluff and proudly watched their sons skidding across the choppy waves in front of them, he realized she was probably right!
Simon steered the boat close into the Point, and he waved to his boys, watching as they sliced across the water, laughing; eyes bright through the spray.
‘You won’t have them for long’, a small voice whispered.
As any parent does, he realized the natural way of it. As Luke had instinctively known that lunchtime, the day would come when they would eventually make their own way in life. Did it have to be so soon? Watching the lively pair, the sadness of it touched him.
He sighed, coming back to the present. Now was as good a time as any. Whilst the boys cut through the water, he talked to his wife about another cut they needed to reconsider.
In the latest article that Luke had pushed at them, there had been a reference to what had been called, ‘The Kindest of Cuts’. A clearly pro-circumcision stance, the article had been an exploration of the cultural and positive health aspects of the procedure. He’d read it, but ignored the conclusions; and ignored what was right in front of him. Maybe, for Luke, in the life that he now led - the life that he and Lucy had forced on their boys in the first place - he needed this more than they realized. Perhaps it would be the ‘Kindest of Cuts’ after all?
* * *
After an afternoon on the water, the family had made it home around six. Quickly polishing off a couple of homework assignments that just HAD to be done, Luke fired up his MacBook to log into Facebook, checking to see if anyone had left any messages.
Over the last six months, he'd added quite a few more friends. Basically, almost everyone from school was on Facebook, though by no means did he add them all! Neither of his parents were on the social network, and thought the whole thing ridiculous. How on earth can you have so many friends, his dad had asked him once? Do you actually know them personally? Of course he didn't, but on Facebook, the term ‘Friend’ didn't really carry the same meaning that they had grown up with. He knew they would never get it!
He logged in, and up came his page. His username, on almost everything, had always been 'londonlolly' (from the old nickname, lolly) and his Facebook page was to be found at www.facebook.com/londonlolly.
Since that fateful day in December, when Simon had spoken about his sexuality for the first time, they’d talked about it, on and off. When it came to Toby, Luke hadn’t pried.
With the purchase of the boat, Simon went to sail on the lake as frequently as he could. He would get up to the club (where the dinghy was normally moored), alone if he had to, picking up lifts from other club members. Toby had come along a couple of times, but wasn’t keen at all. During the last couple of months, Simon seemed to see a lot less of him and Luke had even begun to wonder if the gay thing had been a passing phase, after all.
But, when it came to guys, Simon wasn't the only person that Luke knew who seemed to be gay. As he logged into Facebook that night, he noticed the other one, currently registered in the 'online now' box at the bottom.
On impulse, he flicked up the messaging box.
There was nothing for several minutes, as his message waited patiently. He was about to give up and log out when the reply popped up.
[DAMONJ] “Hi Luke - how's things?"
[LUKE] “Cool thanks. You?”
[DAMONJ] "I'm good! Bored …"
Luke grinned to himself. From the number of recent Farmville requests Damon had generated, he could tell!
He’d been wondering for a while, but why Luke decided to ask that particular question, just then, he was never sure. They chatted about nothing of importance for a few minutes, before he got round to what was on my mind.
[LUKE] "Can I ask you something?"
[LUKE] "It's a bit personal..."
[DAMONJ] "OK, try me...(smiley)"
It was personal and Luke hesitated after he’d typed the short phrase. He decided to go ahead and press send.
[LUKE] "Well…I just wondered if you happened to be gay?"
After it fired off, there was a pause, before Damon replied.
[DAMONJ] "Damn - that's quite a question!"
[LUKE] "Sorry - too personal - forget it!"
Embarrassed, Luke had typed hurriedly. There was a pause again – long enough to make him squirm, wondering whether he’d crossed the line, big-time!
[DAMONJ] "Well, if you really want to know…yes, I am. Is that a problem?"
Now what to say? He’d broached the subject, but without any idea where to go with it. He had to say SOMETHING.
[LUKE] "I kind of thought you might be...from stuff on your pages, I mean. No, it's no problem at all. I didn't mean it like that."
[DAMONJ] "So why do you ask? Are you?"
The reply had come quickly and felt probing.
[LUKE] "No, but..."
Luke paused a moment, thinking it through. There was no way he was going to identify Simon, and reveal what his brother had told him - even in a private Facebook chat, to a guy he hardly knew, in New York! On the other hand, it wouldn’t do any harm to get another perspective. He continued typing.
"...someone I know - a friend I've know a long time…is gay, I mean. I was just trying to understand it more."
There was an extremely long pause before the reply popped up.
[DAMONJ] "He actually told you that, or are you just guessing?"
[LUKE] "No, he told me. We go back a long way."
[DAMONJ] "Oh. Well, he was brave!"
[LUKE] "Why do you say that?"
[DAMONJ] "It takes a lot of trust in someone, to tell them something like that. Trust me – I know! So, how do you feel about it...and him?"
That was easy.
[LUKE] "It was a surprise, I guess - but he's still my friend. It makes no difference in the end."
There was another long pause.
[LUKE] "Are you still there?"
[DAMONJ] "Sorry...was just thinking...I need to go...talk soon...bye."
[LUKE ] "Bye..."
Luke was a little surprised by the abrupt end, and stared at the screen thoughtfully. He read a few of the messages that had piled up on his email, sent out a number of replies, then logged off and went to go run a long hot bath, in preparation for bed.