No, I don’t have cancer. Last November, I found a lump in my armpit. My doctor furrowed her brow, ordered tests. The scary stuff was ruled out, but she said it could be that one of my breast implants had ruptured.
I’m talking about this now, because of how much I don’t want to talk about it. And because of the countless women who no doubt share this feeling of shame, and think they’re alone. (You are not alone.) For me, it’s weird because I’m a mung-bean-sprouting, almond-milk-making, vegan yoga teacher. How does that parse with someone willing to risk so much to falsify her appearance?
Born in the fifties, I’d been flat as a board all my life. Well into my late teens (I had short hair), careless store keepers called me “sonny.” So when I was twenty-nine, after I’d had my three children, I decided to take the leap and buy me some womanhood. As crass as that sounds, that’s how I held it in my psyche. My first trip to the lingerie department where I got to buy an actual bra? Wow. Finally, I’m a woman. (We’ll unpack that later.)
Those implants were in for over a decade. They came out because they ruptured. I figured I’d had a good run, and was ready to embrace my natural self with no augmentation. That lasted about six years. By the year 2000, science had advanced, and I was tired of my natural self with no augmentation, so I figured I’d go for another set. And now we find ourselves in August of 2017.
Which brings us to the lump in my armpit and a possible rupture. After numerous in-depth tests (sonograms, MRIs, etc.), no rupture was found in the current implants. My doctor told me, “The lump is probably your immune system reacting to the first rupture. It’ll probably be there forever. Nothing to worry about.” She went on, “You could have your implants removed. But the insurance company won’t pay for it unless it’s a medical necessity; so you could just wait until there’s a problem, and then take care of it.”
I had them removed. And because of this, we learned that there was indeed a significant rupture in the left implant! (Wish me luck as I get the insurance company to reimburse me.) Side note: What would it have looked like if I had waited until there was a problem? What kind of problem would we be talking about?
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. My thing is: I’m embarrassed about my original decision to exaggerate my body into a socially sanctioned shape. I am ashamed that I didn’t consider myself a “real woman” unless I had that shape. I had birthed and nursed three children into their healthy childhoods. I had helped run a multi-million dollar enterprise. I had navigated many difficult situations in grownup ways. But I wasn’t really a woman until my breasts were bigger?
We could exhaust women’s studies, research, theory, youtube and Ted Talks trying to understand why I thought that. Why I fought the shape I was born with. But none of it matters. The truth is simpler:
Different things were important to me.
I wasn’t the me then that I am now.
I didn’t know what I know now.
Can I let that be so without pathologizing it? Without blaming my parents or society? Without waging war on patriarchy? Or nailing myself to the cross for having caved to convention?
I wanted to be that shape then.
Humans have been altering their appearance, stretching skin, poking holes, painting bodies for millennia. It’s a basic human inclination. I bow to this. I honor the many ways in which I made myself happy. I love my former, flat-chested, yearning-for-more self. I enjoyed my years of wearing sexy bras, looking great in bathing suits, rocking low-cut sweaters. And, now that the lump in my armpit delivered its message to let go of all that, I love and honor myself in my new configuration: Flat, free, and so, so fine.
If you like this piece, please give it some love by clicking on the little green heart at left, or sharing it on your social media feeds. Tina Lear is a writer, yoga teacher, and founder of the Long Island Dharmata Sangha, living with her beloved wife and dog in Floral Park, NY.