Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
circumcision/ mario beauregard - Fotolia.com
Multicultural marriages are sometimes hard, sometimes war, sometimes sweet and sometimes exciting, but one thing is for sure—multicultural marriages are more tiring than marriages between people from one culture because you have to spend more energy understanding and sometimes adopting, or in my case fighting, a new set of customs and beliefs. What is more, when children come into the picture, multicultural marriages can become even more complicated in deciding whose set of beliefs the child will adopt.
The first major difficulty in my multicultural marriage was over circumcision. Having left Bosnia & Herzegovina, I tried to adopt my husband’s Turkish customs since I was living in Turkey. So many things were different from my customs, even the way you have a cup of coffee. Some things were easy for me to adopt. Other things I became frustrated with and felt I was losing myself in the process of trying to adopt. The Turkish custom of circumcision was the first custom I downright refused to go along with.
When my son was three months old, my husband and I decided to circumcise him. This was revolutionary in Turkey. The family was shocked, even our doctor. In Turkey, circumcision is an elaborate ritual accompanied by a huge party that takes place when the child is older, anywhere from four to twelve years old, as a boy’s first step to becoming a man. Isn’t he masculine from the first day he’s born, I wondered? Then I understood that Turkish parents love the ceremony, the party and the fun. It is not about religion. It is about culture.
I was very against waiting until my son was older to be circumcised. It is much better to circumcise as a baby in my opinion. A baby has no fear, pain or tears. I also didn’t want to throw money away on a large ceremony and party. Something else bothered me about the Turkish circumcision custom too. There is no similar party for a girl. It’s just not fair. I like to joke that Turkish parents should throw the same party for a girl’s first period.
My mother-in-law argued that it was too early to circumcise, we could not even–gasp–buy the special circumcision outfit for a baby. Then she tried a different angle. Our son would be upset when he grows up because he would not be like his friends at school, he would feel left out. I have never observed kids talking about circumcision. In fact, they avoid talking about it. They feel ashamed. I tried to compromise with my in-laws. I agreed to have a small party but my mother-in-law kept pressing for more. More guests, this type of meat, this type of cake this type of party. My husband started to waver out of respect for his parents.
My in-laws thought I was rude. They blamed me for not respecting their customs. They wanted to see their grandson circumcised in the tradition they knew which involved dressing him up in the special clothing when he was about ten years old, walking around the city visiting family and friends and giving them invitations to the party. They wanted the large party with hundreds of guests. But the way I see it, everyone spends so much money for nothing. Maybe I am rude. Maybe I don’t understand their culture. Maybe I am wrong. But for me there were so many more important things to get right culturally. As Muslims, we circumcise for religious and health reasons. It is simple and clear. Waiting until age ten to circumcise was not religious. It was purely cultural and a tradition I would not adopt.
In the end, our son became a man when he was three months old. Our ceremony was finished in one hour. Our son felt maybe a little bit of pain, but it was quick and most of all, he forgets. The most interesting thing is that now some of our friends and relatives are following our path. They understood our logic and agree it makes more sense. I fought for my son and won my first war. He was the secret of my courage.
© 2010 – 2013, Vildana Aliç Hocaoğlu. All rights reserved.
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