My girlfriend and my breasts

25Mar10

Yesterday the topic of my breasts came up between my girlfriend and I. She had just seen an artwork which included a collage of women’s breasts in plaster of Paris. She told me it made her think of me and mastectomies. I was taken back a little. The way she described the artwork, it didn’t conjure up any of these images for me. I saw it as a piece talking about privacy and exhibitionism. There was a little heated debate over these different interpretations. It cooled down some when I accepted the fact that my issues with BRCA are also weighing heavily on her mind. So naturally it comes to her mind when she sees these images.

My girlfriend shifted the topic slightly. She brought up a story of people holding ceremonies to grieve a loss of their body. I was a little taken aback. “You’re talking about holding a funeral for my breasts if I cut them off?!” I acknowledged that I have heard about it before but I could never imagine myself doing it. Right now (things may change later), if I have a mastectomy I don’t want reconstruction and I don’t want to feel I am losing anything. I rather view the surgery as a transformation. I’d like to think my post-surgery body would simply be a new shape for me which I would learn to accept just as I have with my current body.

She protested, “But your breasts are part of you!” I reminded her of a joke she showed me before: academics think of their bodies as a vehicle for transporting their head. To me that’s not really a joke, it’s seem quite true for me as well. I think everything interesting about myself is the product of neurons firing in my brain. Everything else is just practical function.

I looked at her reactions to what I was saying. She didn’t seem very comforted by my way of thinking. I asked her, “So you want to have a funeral for them, even if I don’t want?” She nodded, “Yeah, there should be a day to commemorate it like St. Patrick’s Day!” (We’ve never celebrated that holiday, by the way. That’s part of her humor that I love so much.)

I never assumed that my girlfriend would be oblivious to my BRCA issues. But I am a little taken aback to realize just how much it affects her. Much earlier when the topic of preventive surgeries first came up, she was clearly afraid of it and didn’t want to think about it. I remember one of her first comments quite well: “But that would make you a man!” I have to smile a little bit about this line. It makes me imagine conservatives out there who feel their prayers are being answered. Imagine how they would frame the headlines: “Lesbian couple becomes straight due to God’s will.” Seriously though, it seems a lot straight people in society do not appreciate that lesbian identity is as near and dear to us as their straight identity is to them. And indeed, a radical change in my body does have implications for my girlfriend both socially and personally.

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4 Responses to “My girlfriend and my breasts”

  1. Hi – lots of people do have ‘ceremonies’ to say goodbye. I actually had a tampon burning party before my hyst/ooph, but didn’t feel the need to have a party for my boobs before surgery. Not sure why, maybe because I had the hyst/ooph first and had time to digest it all pretty well. I was sympathetic towards your girlfriend while reading this – after all, being BRCA positive doesn’t just affect us, but the people close to us too. I did cringe when I saw that she initially thought that would ‘make you a man’ – hopefully she’s changed her mind now that she’s learned more..

    Have you seen The Scar Project? They are online, and facebook and have beautiful images of woman after their mastectomies, some haven’t gone the reconstruction route. ..pretty awesome site..

  2. 4 Janine

    I was thinking along the same lines as your girlfriend after getting rid of my uterus, cervix and ovaries and eventually the boobs that I wouldn’t have any female parts anymore. And then I remembered I’ll always have my vagina!


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