Fore! The Skin Game

She just dated a guy who was uncircumcised,” said Sam, a sassy 23-year-old brunette, pointing at her friend Lauren.

“Oh, thanks a lot,” said Lauren, a pretty 24-year-old blonde who works in advertising and whose hair was stylishly parted to one side, her neck swallowed by the enormous collar of her black pea coat. They were in line to see He’s Just Not That Into You at the AMC Loews theater on 19th Street and Broadway.

I asked Lauren what it was like.

“It was … fine,” she said, blushing.

“Don’t lie; no it wasn’t!” said Sam, a violently tanned graphic designer who said she prefers her men trimmed.

She just dated a guy who was uncircumcised,” said Sam, a sassy 23-year-old brunette, pointing at her friend Lauren.

“Oh, thanks a lot,” said Lauren, a pretty 24-year-old blonde who works in advertising and whose hair was stylishly parted to one side, her neck swallowed by the enormous collar of her black pea coat. They were in line to see He’s Just Not That Into You at the AMC Loews theater on 19th Street and Broadway.

I asked Lauren what it was like.

“It was … fine,” she said, blushing.

“Don’t lie; no it wasn’t!” said Sam, a violently tanned graphic designer who said she prefers her men trimmed. “It’s cleaner. What do you do with all that skin? I don’t know what to do with it.”

“I guess I prefer it, too,” Lauren sighed.

“So long as it works,” chimed their other friend, out of the side of her mouth.

Nearby stood a clutch of shivering lasses, seniors at the Groton boarding school in Massachusetts, in town to see a motion picture. After much deliberation and chatter, Danny, the tallest of the crew, delivered a unanimous verdict. “We’re all pro.” Then again neither Maddy, Emilie, Haley nor Danny had ever encountered the hooded snake dragon.

But chances are, they’ll be playing pop goes the weasel before long.  Circumcision rates have steadily declined nationwide, down from 90 percent in the early 1960s, according to National Health and Social Life Survey, to 56 percent in 2005, according to a Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project study. Locally, a Park Slope pediatrician told me,  about half the new willies wheeled into her offices are of the anteater variety.

Even more terrifying: Ron Low’s business is growing by 20 percent a year. Who is Ron Low, you ask, and what is his business? Helping adult men “re-grow” foreskin by the use of his handy-dandy TLC Tugger devices; he’s sold 10,000 of the little rascals in the United States, and several hundred in New York — maybe to that cute guy in the next cubicle! Business has been so good, in fact, that last spring Mr. Low was able to quit  his job at a toothbrush factory in Chicago.

Are New York women ready to stare the weasel in the eye? I spoke with Jo, a 28-year-old writer who lives in the West Village and had been struck by Cupid’s bow the night before; it was her first experience with an uncut suitor. “It freaked me out,” she emailed. “I didn’t know what to do with it. I was v. confused.”

Can you blame the poor girl!

More bad news: States are increasingly removing circumcision from Medicaid coverage—16 states and counting, including California!

Back to the toothbrush maker–turned–tugger-plugger. “It does seem, especially in the last few months, that I’ve been getting a lot more phone calls,” said Mr. Low, who is a married father of two teenage girls. “And I am surprised at the way people are frankly discussing their genitals with me, in ways they didn’t in the past—they were always sort of shy about it. People are calling up to say, ‘I just can’t believe it. I’ve only recently realized that I was missing anything. Can’t wait to start.’”

I spoke with Bryan, a 37-year-old IT account manager at a media company, on the phone from his midtown office. Under his slacks, he said, an O-ring was holding a fold of shaft skin over the head of his penis. He’s been wearing the device—such rubber rings are common in plumbing and can be found in various sizes at any local hardware store; his cost 39 cents—ever since his TLC Tugger kit arrived in the mail a week ago. The kit set him back $53, plus shipping. He prefers to wear the Tugger at night, securing the straps over his shoulders, as recommended, for optimal tension.

“It was a little awkward at first, but I’ve been using it at night, and then during the day I use an O-ring just to keep the foreskin over the glans,” he said. “[The Tugger] actually pulls everything forward, so you’re not foreshortening the penis while you’re doing the stretching. And one of things I liked about it, as opposed to some of the other methods, is that it doesn’t use tape.”

Let Mr. Low, an industrial engineer by training, explain how his nifty gizmo works:

“With my device, it’s a cone, kind of shaped like an ice cream cone, but imagine there’s a metal handle on the pointy end, and imagine the size is such that it’s only as wide as your penis. So you press your penis against the wide end of it and you roll your shaft skin up past the head of your penis onto this cone-shaped device. And then you grip the skin there with another cone-shaped shell with a hole in it. The metal handle pokes through. The harder you pull, the tighter it grips—kind of like Chinese finger cuffs.”

Bryan, for one,  is already seeing results, though he allowed this might have something to do with the fact he had a lot to work with. Back in Georgia, young Bryan was born with a partial foreskin, what is known in the Jewish tradition as a “hidden foreskin,” a condition that eliminates the need for circumcision. (Unless it becomes unhidden later in life, in which case—run for your life.) Relatively new to restoration, he’s only told his brother and one friend, who had also dabbled in restoration. “Some people you know just don’t want to hear it,” he said. “And I can respect that boundary.”  

Dylan Drazen, a 29-year-old techno DJ, called me en route to a gig in Madrid. He, too, had attempted sharing a bed with the TLC Tugger. Last August, he’d randomly Googled “reverse circumcision.” (Note to self: Beware of random Googling!)

“The background is that I’m gay and that I’m very much turned on by uncircumcised guys, to the point where it has almost become a requirement,” said Mr. Drazen.

“Then I just discovered this Pandora’s Box, this whole world of restoration community. I felt like this kid in the candy store. I never thought that I could have my own foreskin, it was a totally new concept to me.”

He tugged, but bailed after two weeks.

“Having to wear the strap and the stretching—it doesn’t hurt, but it’s a little inconvenient,” he said. “When you get the cone on at night, and you’re forcing the skin over the glans, and you get an erection, I think it’s kind of dangerous; you’re really stretching your skin and you can tear your skin. One morning I woke up and I had a hard-on, and the thing was really tight and it was hurting and it was just like, ‘O.K., that’s enough of that.’”

Fore! The Skin Game