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Monday, June 4, 2012

Sultan For A Day

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

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.

38 comments:

  1. Eeek! Poor kid. One can only guess at the maelstrom that must have churned in his head that whole day.

    Welcome back- looking forward to hearing them all~

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  2. I think he knows.
    I think I'd run away from home! ;)

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  3. Welcome back! No better way to get things started than circumcising stories. Maybe some men in this country would be less promiscuous if they were circumcised at that age so they could still remember it. Though I doubt it. When it comes to that stuff the penis has a mind of its own even if the tip has been cut off.

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  4. It's as normal for him as whatever we do here is normal for us. It's part of the culture.

    Have a terrific day. :)

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  5. Welcome back. what a painful custom. I feel sorry for the little guys!

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  6. I feel sorry for him too, but like any other surgery, he'll be sore for awhile but then it will heal. All I can say is, I'm glad I don't have to go through that.

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  7. I think I detect a hint of resignation in his facial expression.

    Also, I have this image of all the male readers of this blog simultaneously crossing their legs, just like you did!

    Welcome back Stephen.

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  8. I crossed my legs as I read this.
    Side note: I wonder... do they use something like a foil cutter that sommeliers use when opening bottles of wine (had to correct that from whine)?

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  9. Welcome back. Looking forward to reading all about your Turkish adventures...but gee whiz...poor little boys...not just ouch, but eeek too.

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  10. I was going to make a joke about costumes and "trick or treat," but it's their custom and there was probably a common-sense reason to do it this way, at least when it started. Thanks for telling us something we/I didn't know!

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  11. They know, I am sure they understand what is about to happen. But the fact that they use anesthetic means it should be only as painful as having your wisdom teeth removed.

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  12. Thank goodness for anaesthetic. I often think that.

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  13. Welcom back Stephen. I too am just trying to catch up with everyone. we've been on our road trip through the Southwest...no pee pees were taken in Sedona! Looking forwrd to your Turkish Delights! I will try to start some Road trip posts of my own. Laurel

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  14. Other countries customs do seem strange but I guess, some of our customs must seem odd to others. That doesn't seem like it would be the equilvalent of our Halloween for sure. Our kids dress up and gain something (treats) and there they dress up and lose something. I am assuming it is no treat.

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  15. What a story! I would criticize. The circumcision has nothing to do with faith.
    Anyway welcome back. I had friends tout Turkey jut before you and it's a fascinating country.

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  16. Welcome back!

    He looks like he knows. But with anesthesia, I liken it to cosmetic surgery: not necessary, but so many people do it, even though it will hurt for a while.

    Looking forward to the rest of your stories!

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  17. My son is having his wisdom teeth removed Thursday morning. Maybe I could tell him this story as an example of how things could be worse.

    Yeah, that kid in the last photo definitely knew something was up with Mr. Peabody.

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  18. Gads, and i was upset my husband made us do that to the boys when they couldn't remember. Ugh!

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  19. He must know something is about to happen, but I can't imagine he has an idea of the misery he is about to endure.
    One of the old boys (80+) tells the one about being circumcised when he was one. Says he couldn't walk for another two years!!
    Good to have you back. Eager to hear your stories.

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  20. It looks like he defines the statement "Grin and bear (or should I say bare) it." Yikes! I imagine when he and his fellow 9 year olds get together their conversations are as lively as a group of women who have gone through childbirth at a baby shower, each story worse than the last! Welcome home!

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  21. Welcome back Stephen! Look forward to reading more of your Turkish Delights. This first one was funny though I don't think any of these kids would think the same way.

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  22. Welcome back :)
    Missed you .

    Well , Turkish have made this tradition/ ritual something other wise over here we don't dress a boy like that. We do it as soon as baby boy is born and done .

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  23. Woah! i didn't know that. that seems a bit kinda unusual and especially give you those feelings which makes you feel kinda uneasy in your groin region. I am looking forward to your other turkish delights :)

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  24. Welcome back! I hope that your trip was wonderful and look forward to your stories.

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  25. Welcome back! I'm looking forward to all of your stories--even the cringe-inducing, circumcision ones. :)

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  26. welcome back!! I am glad i am a girl.

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  27. Welcome back! OUCH! That poor boy! Loved your story though (Ha!). Look forward to more. Cheers, Mindy

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  28. Glad you are back safe and sound!

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  29. I break out in a sweat just thinking about it. Here the young boys are sent to the bush where the witch doctor lops off the foreskin without the benefit of a local injection. There are hundreds of boys each year that end up in hospital or die from septic penises

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  30. He was obviously trying to reach you through telepathy....."helppppp meeeeeee".

    Religious rules are such a comfort to live by.

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  31. OUCH! Boy did you make us laugh. Somehow in our Istanbul trip we missed seeing this. Maybe it was off season! Can't wait for the rest of the Turkish stories. Istanbul is a never ending source of great blogs!

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  32. I think he knew what was up- or off as it were He does have a pained expression.

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  33. Wow, talk about a good day/bad day! And that's such an interesting tradition! Also, now I want some donuts.

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  34. Ouch. I wouldn't eat again for awhile.

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  35. Poor kid! I would definitely keep running with this series--good stuff!

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