“Undress from the waist up and put this on. It opens to the front and is fragile at the shoulders. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Everything he says comes out like a memorized script. He’s been here so many times before. I’m just another woman, just another surgery, just another pay cheque.
When he returns, he flips open the front of the paper gown as casually as one might open the newspaper. A quick set of measurements, from neck to nipple. A grab, a tug, a lift.
“This one sags much lower. Definitely need a little extra work on this side.” He lifts them as he speaks. I nod. Of course I know that – have always known that. Have always been painfully aware of that every time I've had to find a way to surreptitiously tuck the bulges back in on the left side. “We’ll do an incision around the nipple, move the nipple and areola up a few inches, make a couple of incisions on the bottom, and cut the excess fat and skin from the bottom.” With his pen and finger, he makes the appropriate motions, then wraps both hands around one breast. “This is about the size they’ll be when we’re done. I’d also recommend a little liposuction under the arms.”
The tone of his voice hasn’t changed since I first walked in and he recited the list of risks and precautions that his legal advisory told him he had to. It sounds more like he’s preparing a cut of meat for tonight’s supper than handling something as sacred as my breasts.
Just a couple of pieces of meat. Not the pieces of me that make me a woman. Not the vessels that have nurtured my three daughters and carried the weight of grief and unused milk when they couldn’t nurture my son. Not the objects of so much shame, hatred, resentment and pain. Not the reason why I wear baggy clothing and can never find a bra that fits. Not the part of me that caused me some of the worst pain in my life when yeast infection threatened to interrupt breastfeeding. Not the parts of me that have been so lovingly caressed by my husband and have been the cause of both pleasure and frustration in the bedroom. Not the reason I can barely look at a picture of myself in a bathing suit. Not the source of back ache, neck ache, and deep shoulder indentation where the bra strap struggled to hold up the weight.
When he leaves, I pull on my double H bra, tuck in the left side, and wait for the nurse to tell me when to expect surgery. Nine to twelve months - lots of women waiting for the same thing.
Fighting the tears, I leave the medical office. The tears are not regret over my decision but sadness over the impersonal clinical feel of it all. Nobody has really bothered to ask why I want this done or questioned whether it’s for the right reasons. (What ARE the "right" reasons?) Nobody has tried to talk me out of it or wondered whether there’s something deeper than breast level that needs to be dealt with. Nobody has asked me about the years of agonizing struggle to come to this place. Nobody has asked about the shame, the insecurity, the ugliness, the sadness. Nobody has asked whether I can cope with the guilt over cutting off a piece of myself. I’m left to deal with that on my own.
Back at my own office, I pull a poncho over these pieces of meat and try to focus on the report I need to write for next week’s deadline. I lose patience with a few people and try to hold it together for the rest of the day. "Dealing with it" will have to wait for tomorrow.
This is the first and last time you'll see a picture of me in a bathing suit on this blog. I can barely stand to look at it, but for some reason, I feel compelled to share it. I remember the deep cringe of shame I felt at the time when I noticed Marcel pointing the camera at me. For obvious reasons, every other picture I've posted of myself does a fairly good job of disguising what I see when I look in the mirror every day.