I sometimes wonder what Mother Nature was up to when it came to willies? She must have either been drunk or suffering from really bad morning sickness when she drew up plans for The Willy. I should actually say The Scrotum, as all the bits involved suffer from the same design faults; they look wierd, they dangle about outside of the body prey to all sorts of predators (tennis balls, angry neighbours, dumped girlfriends), they get all sweaty and itchy squished down there between the legs and they don’t actually look very sexy when in dangling mode, which is ironic as their function is to reproduce the human race. What? Why? Who? How? It is a mystery. And at the moment I’m finding the whole thing even more incomprehensible as I, mother of a nearly-three year old, am responsable for the décalotage of my son. This word doesn’t exist in English, which makes me think that it just isn’t done in England, which in turn makes me think that maybe it isn’t necessary. Like bidets. The French have to give themselves a thorough scrub-down, the Brits just fall asleep all squidgy. Who’s right, who’s wrong? But back to the subject of this entry …
So what does it mean, décaloter ?
It means – and this is my very own homemade dictionary meaning – “to push back the foreskin of the penis to reveal the bulbous head (the glans, in technical terms)”. It sounds utterly barbaric and downright wierd in the context of a toddler. The first time our French pediatrician asked me if I had started to décaloter Tommy I thought she was going on about about teaching him how to count. She wasn’t. I looked at her blankly. She explained so fast I didn’t catch the willy-unsticking technique and certainly wasn’t going to ask her to demonstrate on Tommy. “Sinon c’est une opération” she snapped. “Ca va coincer – it will get stuck, an infection will set in and he’ll have to be operated on.”
“You mean … ?”
“Oui – la circoncision.” She frowned a scary hairy eyebrow frown and handed me a prescription with the name of a special un-sticking willy cream for little boys, marked in illegible writing. Tommy was a little over two and a half years old. I googled décaloter and discovered that here in France it’s the done thing. In the bath, or just afterwards, everyday, from the age of one year old.
So how come I’d never heard of this before? How come I don’t have a single memory of either of my younger brothers having their foreskin slipped back on a daily basis? I’m sure they never had any problems. Curiouser and curiouser. I asked a couple of my French friends who have little boys. I may as well have asked them if you’re meant to keep milk in the fridge. “Mais bien sur il faut le décaloter!” Apparently little boys with stuck willies are rife and the operation to remedy the problem is, as can be expected, very painful.
So I tried. Very gently. After the bath. And it was one of the strangest things I have ever done. And not easy on a little soft willy to get the “glans” to pop out. I wasn’t at all comfortable with that sort of intimate manhandling of my little boy’s jiggly bits but I explained what was going on and how it was important and how I would be very gentle. Tommy seemed to understand but kept reminding me “gently, gently Mummy”, so I assume it was not a totally stressfree experience for him. I’m not so sure about doing that every single day though. Do we practise décalotage in the UK? I’m sure we don’t. And I don’t remember there being an inordinate number of circumcised British chaps running about in the UK. So why do it in France? An obsession with hygiene? With control? With efficiency? Why attack those little willies? Surely this should all happen quite naturally without us having to help things on their way?
Then again, when I think of how the rest of the male genitalia are badly organised, I start to wonder whether this isn’t yet another design hiccup.
This is a genuine request : could those of you with any experience whatsoever in this subject please let me know what you think. And Sisters One and Two, I know you already think I’m the most barbaric Wicked Witch of the West for slipping little suppositories up Tommy’s bum when he’s got a fever, but this is different. In my humble opinion I’m not at all convinced this décalotage malarky is worth continuing whereas suppositories are the bees knees when you have a feverish toddler fighting you to death’s door when you try to get him to take a spoonful of Calpol and thus raising his tempertaure even further. As L’Homme says: “hop! – la petite fusée va dans la lune”. I shall let you translate that for yourselves.
This post was originally published here.