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I did it, I told a story in front of people. It was scary and fun. After, I was a little bit numb. I would do it again.
I always liked my boobs.
When I didn’t have them, I stuffed my bra. I was probably 8 and in dance class. The teacher looked at me with pity as the white toilet paper peeked out of the top of the black elastic of my leotard. Later, in college, my boobs weren’t so big, but they were cute and perky and me and my girlfriends were always flashing each other and anyone else who would look. I remember, barely, yelling “tits for Jager” through the fog of a weekend trip to Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
I really didn’t understand the work breasts could do, though, until I had kids. I nursed both of my biological kids for about three years each. My boobs got huge, stayed huge, even after I stopped nursing. I think it’s because I got bigger and they didn’t shrink, but still, they were big. Double D.
They were shapely too, because I didn’t get pregnant until I was in my 30s and had my second kid at 40.
It was around the time they started feeling gravity’s effect when I went in for a mammogram. Then a needle aspiration. Then a biopsy where they use some kind of automatic grabber inserted into your body. It reminded me of the teeth in the Alien movie, shrouded until they get close to their prey, then cha-chang! They bite the spot right out of your flesh.
Next, surgery. I didn’t realize it was a lumpectomy until it was over. “You have cancer, we just don’t know what kind.” Turns out it was something called LCIS, a rare marker for cancer. “You’re not really in the club,” one oncologist told me.
A few years and as many mammograms and MRI’s later, after hearing, “Oh, we’ll just watch that, it’s really small right now” and waiting for another shoe to fall, I was offered the option of the prophylactic removal of my breasts. You remember- the ones I liked. Mastectomy. One of my oncologists said, “Get rid of them and get rock star boobs.” I’m fifty. I don’t need rock star boobs. But I don’t want to die. Like Ever. I want to be 100 years old. Like Keith Richards (knock on Ron Wood.) There’s pretty much no reason to write one of those DNRs for me. Do resuscitate! I am actually waiting for the singularity so I can be assured my own spot on the internet forever.
So, if I am willing to give up my body and go into a machine, I could get rid of the boobs. Even if I did like them.
Waiting for it to happen was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The days leading up to the surgery were filled with research online, and taking that test, the one that predicted my risk of getting cancer to be 63%, over and over. As if I could change the answer. I made lists, so many lists, up to the last day, of stuff I needed to do before and stuff that needed to happen after. I spent hours wondering if I was doing the right thing.
Even when I checked into the hospital, had the little cap and gown on, and the plastic surgeon had made all kinds of marks on my body with a sharpie, I thought to myself, “I can just get up and walk out. I don’t have to do this. What if I never get cancer?”
What if I do? Odds are I will. I stayed.
The doctor came in after surgery to check on me. He moved to open the surgical bra that velcroed in the front that was stuffed with white gauze and bandages.
As the velcro crackled, I turned my head and closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see me.
The doctor noticed. He stopped. I opened my eyes. With pity he looked at me and said, “Yea, it’s pretty brutal.”
Maybe it was the pity. I took a deep breath.
There was something defiant in me, then. I was okay. I was okay with brutal. It was the choice I made. Sure, it fucking hurt, but it was just the path to rock star boobs or living forever. I was gonna be okay.
I looked. It was weird. Wrinkly, like a shrunken head. But not so bad.
So, reconstruction is a process and not a precise one. They take out the breast tissue, replace it with an expander, then they slowly expand your chest muscles, (beat) then exchange the expander with a breast implant. I was okay with the expanders although they were like bricks, and when they filled them, about 50 ccs at a time, with a really long needle, it hurt. The expanders were ugly, and jut out of my body at odd angles. For a while I even had a shark fin on one side. But they were temporary.
It wasn’t until after they exchanged the expanders for implants that I broke down. I had romanticized how it would turn out. I thought they wouldn’t look the same. They didn’t, exactly, but it wasn’t different enough. I cried every day for weeks, sobbing in the shower. Was this the new me? I hated them. They were stiff, uneven, rippled and just… not right. I decided I wasn’t done. I wanted to fix them. Get fake boobs I could look at without crying. I felt alone and ungrateful. More surgery and more healing and more burden on your family who take care of you. Plastic surgery reminds me of what any artist might do, a little here a little there until you’re satisfied, have to start all over or run out of money. I recently had the revision surgery and I’m not sure how I feel yet. I know, I know. Sisters not twins, and they’ll look good in a bra. But is it too much to want to look good naked? I may not be a spring chicken, but I’m not a dead chicken.
I still look for affirmation that this whole course of action has been the right thing to do. I read this or that about breast cancer research and treatment. I have friends who were diagnosed before and after me, who are dealing with similar treatments and outcomes. I fall down rabbit holes online. Too many mastectomies, random metastasizing, pictures of boobs on social media. It feels like no one knows anything, really. I don’t think I will ever get the verification that l look for.
What was confirmed? My husband is a badass caretaker, person, lover, friend. My friends and family make me laugh. My kids are seriously nice people. I am loved.
I named my new boobs. Poppy and the Wanderer. They don’t behave like they’re supposed to. I like em, for now anyway.
And then Comey was fired. I tried to explore the feelings of violation, embarrassment, anger that came to me in my dream. Why, I wondered, do you feel embarrassed when you get robbed? Because you think you could have done something to prevent it all.
After it happens to you, you find ways to make yourself more safe. You find ways to prevent it from happening again. Time to shore up our defenses.
Wow, this story really hit me hard:
Can you imagine, just giving up? Laying down and …
This is what happened in Serenity, on Miranda after having been dosed with PAX, but I don’t remember ever hearing about it happening in real life. Is suicide the result of this giving up? I find Americans are so much more active. Americans commit suicide. This is not even making a choice, except to lay down.
Maybe it’s because these are refugee children, they have seen violence, and they don’t want any more. They don’t mind not being in charge, as long as they get an outcome. But they aren’t forcing action, they have seen too much action. They want no more. The result of familial post traumatic stress. “She (Lotta Spangenberg, a Stockholm child psychologist) sees the illness as a form of communication after words have failed.”
Facts about Syrian refugees children who see dogs eating people, parents having sex in the open, lies and suspicions about parents, it’s too much. So at first the reports of anxiety and anger and depression (2013) have made way for depression, PTSD and schizophrenia only 6 month later. The main kid in the story says he was locked in a glass box that was filling with water. He was becoming the water, the water taking over, drowning, feeling like “every move could kill you.” And the only time he decided that it was fake, that the glass box was not real, was when his family wasn’t being deported.
It hurts me to think about the choices we make that affect our children and the children of our friends and adversaries. It hurts me and fires me.
Sleeping beauty might just have been threatened that she would lose her home, would she have just fallen asleep, in her glass box, becoming more and more transparent like the glass she was in, as it goes on. Maybe she’s a different princess, a Syrian. Fawzda? Something to think about, but now it’s time for sleep.
Now on my second half of season ticket, I am really enjoying this author series! Last night was Colum McCann and Edna O’Brien. I haven’t ever read any of her stories that I can remember, but she seemed a contrary old feminist. Her books were banned and burned in the 1960’s and she hob knobbed with movie stars. She seemed to think that her creativity came from her loneliness and embraced it, mostly, until she was called on it. That is when Colum McCann said he was joyful about his ability to find the darker parts of humanity and remained a happy man.
I have read Colum McCann, but only Dancer. And it was magnificent. I guess he takes history and personalizes it, fictionalizes it. It’s amazing. He is a deep thinker, you can tell, but still humble. He said that when you read Joyce (admired authors) were generous that they would give the gift of personalizing experience. Not giving or creating art as much as a giving a part of themselves. It made me feel hopeful.
The most impressive thing of the night is a project that McCann is part of called Narrative 4. It’s goal is to get people to tell each other’s story. So I would tell yours and you would tell mine, and in that way, we would understand each other. It’s brilliant, really. So simple yet so powerful. What if we could use technology to slip inside each other’s skin and know what it was like to be them?
It will be increasingly difficult to carry out mass protests and civil disobedience. Repression will become steadily more overt and severe. Dissent will be equated with terrorism. We must use the space before it is shut. This is a race against time. The forces of despotism seek to keep us complacent and pacified with the false hope that mechanisms within the system will moderate Trump or remove him through impeachment, or that the looming tyranny will never be actualized. There is an emotional incapacity among any population being herded toward despotism or war to grasp what is happening. The victims cannot believe that the descent into barbarity is real, that the relative security and sanity of the past are about to be obliterated. They fail to see that once rights become privileges, once any segment of a society is excluded from the law, rights can instantly be revoked for everyone.
My daughter and I were driving home from dance class. She had just learned the shuffle ball change and we were both proud. We were deep inside the maze of our neighborhood when I noticed a car creeping behind me. We were being followed. I pulled into my driveway and he pulled in front of my house. I held my breath, hoping he would drive away.
The man fell out of his car, picked himself up and started lumbering towards the passenger side of my car, the side my daughter was on. He had a cell phone in his hand and appeared to be filming my car and my daughter. I told myself to be cool, but my insides were blistering.
I got out of my car and quickly walked around the front, towards the door where my daughter sat. He held his cell phone like a shield. He was standing a few feet behind my car, not getting any closer.
He shouted, “Go back to where you came from. You don’t belong here. You are ruining our country!”
Back to where I came from? He didn’t make sense. They never did. I was from here, idiot. And just what would you do without me?
I opened the passenger side door. I looked at my daughter and sighed. She looked at me, frightened. I said, “Don’t worry, sweetheart, it’ll be okay.” I took her hand as she got out of the car. “Go on inside,” I said, standing between her and the irate man.
I didn’t know she would be okay, I didn’t know I would be okay.
“You’re ungodly, you shouldn’t be driving, you shouldn’t even be out.” I heard click, click, click as he took pictures from his phone. “I live here!” He paused as if he couldn’t make any more words. “Harlot. You’ve been warned.” I heard the front door open, relieved that my daughter had made it. As the front door slammed shut, he looked toward the house.
I kept my eyes on him, fingering the stun gun in my coat pocket. “I’m calling the police,” I said. Sadly, I knew what they would say. “Guys will be guys” or “He doesn’t mean anything by it.” Because that’s what they said.
He turned toward his car, mumbling what sounded like “you’ll see” under his breath and shaking his head in disgust. I backed up slowly, watching him as he got back into his car and drove off.
He had my car plates, he had pictures of me, I wondered how long it would take before they came for me. I still had the law on my side, but how long would that last? The police in my town were men after all. The judges? The lawyers? Where any of them women anymore? The news was lousy with women taken away and never heard from again. I wondered how the female newscasters could report it without screaming or jumping out of their skin.
My daughter was waiting at the front door when I got inside. “Mama, did someone steal his happiness? Is that why he’s so mean?”
“I think so honey.”
“Should I get a string?”
“Yes, baby, you should get a string.”
My daughter went into the kitchen and got the spool of string we kept in the drawer for these moments. She cut a piece about 20 inches long and joined me in the living room.
“Mama, do you want to start the chant?”
“You can baby, do you want me to tie the knots? How many should we tie today?”
“Lets tie three. I’ll start.
Kirkvesh, Kirkvesh, let go the man’s humanity.
Give it back, give it back, let go of your vanity.
Kirkvesh, Kirkvesh we tie one,
We will keep you, you won’t run.
Kirkvesh, Kirkvesh, we tie two,
We collect you round the noodle and will review.
Kirkvesh, Kirkvesh we tie three,
When you give up your loot, we let you be.”
She chanted our familial evolution of the old Turkish “Tying of the Devil” I learned from my great-grandmother. I tied the knots, picturing a man’s pale penis, with the string wrapped around it. I pulled tight on the string, fixing him, wanting this devil to feel the constriction. I hoped it would take the stupidity and malevolence out of the man, but it seemed nothing would do that. There were knots tied for the monsters set upon Muslims, Hindus, people of color and now for me, for us, for all women. Would they succeed? I fear this monster was already in too deep.
“Mama, we do this so that it ties up the monster, right? And we will untie the knots when the monster goes away, right?”
“Yes, my Beloved.”
She looked at me and smiled. I handed her the string, and she put it in the bowl on the bookshelf, where it joined the hundreds of other knotted strings.
I always saw that I had privilege. I always saw that black people, their neighborhoods were different than mine. I had been taught to be afraid of those neighborhoods and those people. Not just from my family, but from everyone around me. We were taught to be scared, to not trust ourselves from the time we are born. I remember a man who worked for my dad who was so nice to us when we were really little, like three or four. I didn’t think anything about it and probably gushed about him later when I was told that he was black and that made him a lesser person. I remember wondering why this went against what I felt, but I let it go against what I felt.
I wonder too about other countries and if all of them “worked hard” to get where they are on the backs of slaves or prisoners. To me that is the worst! Thinking, I did all this and knowing it was at the expense of those too weak to cry out. I see the Chinese, Indian, etc, and now can say without any denial, that the US is just as guilty. It’s heartbreaking.
My biggest take away is to challenge people to watch this. I feel like it’s so important. And if you don’t have a bad taste in your mouth from your oblivious complicity, you may just be dead inside. I feel like it has strengthened my resolve to do whatever it takes to make the United States a better place, where all people are free and have a voice. Because I have kids, because I care. Because deep down inside I have always wanted people to be happy.
I have always loved people. I think women are that way. But we serve it up in sex and in providing for our families without serving it up to the world. That’s why so few of us run for office or fight to have the salary. We are satisfied that we made the most important people happy. It’s not good enough for me. I know those important people are happy, but I make people happy for me, too, and there’s more to it for me.
OK, self aware rant done for today.
It’s official, all the Hillary Haters were duped. By Russia. Because it fit their narrative. What they wanted to believe. They are no longer bound by reason. Sold a line of goods they would gladly buy again. These are our neighbors. True Believers.
They are the perfect, imperfect protagonist. They are the Operative in Serenity. Believers until too late, until countless lives are sacrificed, until they push the heroes to do fantastic and superhuman things.
They accept no reasoning. They believe no facts. They have been largely ignored because of that. Then they all got together. And voted. Fucking A. How does this end? Does the life need sacrificing? Isn’t education enough? I don’t know. Their misbelief has held them securely. How long will it hold them? If and when they come to the truth, who will have paid the price?
Tada! New Year’s Resolution Time!
And this blog is one. I don’t really care if no one reads it, but I need to get used to putting myself out there. Part of it is trusting my thoughts. I make no promises they will be consistent, congruent or congenial. So, here it is the first.
I am so happy that there are some who see a silver lining in the political and social events that were in 2016. I don’t think I do…
I keep looking to Darwin. Is this social evolution? Is there a rule of evolution? Is it unique in all instances, you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need? Which is something echoed in the Trump camp for some time. I wonder if he sees something we don’t, the underbelly that we want to ignore until it goes away. The basest part of us that we work to overcome and conquer.
Has our society just become sick of it, the trying to be better? What about those who are more religious? Are they caught up in the rules so they miss the point? Will we devolve into the primitives that we have come from? What if, just what if, we get to choose, and those that won’t choose to move forward in our social evolution are bringing us down collectively? We still have our individuality and some solidarity with those that think what we do. Does it become a battle as it seems to have developed into or can we just meditate our way through it like a Buddha? What happens when the ascendant do actually become the majority and steer the social fabric? What happens to those we leave behind?
It’s not that hard for me to understand people who want for themselves at the expense of others. “Take care of mine” mentality is surely Darwinian…it reminds me of the zombie apocalypse in World War Z or any other zombie movie… Too many people on the planet, gotta save your own ass or lose it trying to care for others. But if we are to survive and thrive on the planet realistically, don’t we have to take care of everyone and the earth, too? I wish I trusted humans of our planet to follow this logic, but I really don’t. They certainly would be happier if they were convinced that it is true, but is it possible? I can’t image it logistically, what it would look like. Is it less than humble that I believe I am right? Do I care?
Engage? Live it? Be a leader. And do it for your children and the other children on the planet. Find hope and hold it.