I’m back, bleary-eyed with jetlag but back. I really missed everyone and look forward to catching up on your posts. I feel like Scheherazade with a thousand tales to tell, but not all at once. My grandmother used to make these delicious donuts that sank to the bottom of bubbling oil; they rose to the top when ready to be plucked and rolled in sugar. Stories are like that, I think—requiring time to rise to the surface. My plan is to incorporate a biweekly feature called Turkish Delights. The first one is called Sultan For A Day. I hope you enjoy it.
I saw him when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were sitting on a bench in the old section of Istanbul between sixteen hundred year old Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, completed in 1616. This spot has been a hub of human activity for nearly two thousand years and today was no exception. Countless people strolled past our bench, including a little sultan dressed in a princely costume: a beaded and sequined white satin suit, sash and plumed pillbox hat. He had a scepter in his hand and looked like he was leading a parade. I assumed those were his parents behind him, along with sisters and family friends.
We’d seen a similarly dressed fellow in Ankara the week before and we’d asked our forty year old guide Selchuk what was happening. Back in the States, kids this age don costumes for Halloween and Mrs. Chatterbox and I thought maybe this was some sort of Islamic holiday, even though only little males were dressing up. Selchuk told us, “The boy is being paraded about before being taken home to be circumcised."
It seemed rather cruel; dress the kid like a sultan, take him out to dinner and give him
an armful of toys, and at the moment of his highest pleasure, whack off the tip of his pee
“Wouldn’t it be better to do this in the hospital a day or two after the baby boy is born, so he doesn’t remember?” I asked. “It must be painful.”
“The child is supposed to remember,” Selchuk said. “This signifies his covenant with Allah. But it is also important that the boy understands that his penis is not being cut off, which is why this is done between the ages of five and nine. In the old days, a chewy mouthful of Turkish delight was stuffed in the boy’s mouth, but today a local injection is used to numb the groin.”
“Do you remember having this done?” I asked Selchuk.
“He scratched his graying goatee and said, “Yes, I remember. It was dreadful!”
We watched the little sultan approach our bench. This was an ancient custom and I was a guest in his country and in no position to criticize, but I felt sorry for the little guy, and crossed my legs as I pulled out my camera. An adult spun him in our direction and smiled at us; evidently, pictures were encouraged. The boy smiled softly. After they’d passed I studied the picture I’d clicked. Did the little boy know what was about to happen? Had an older friend or brother leaked the news to him?
Take a look at the expression on his face, and you be the judge.