Monday, November 10, 2014

Meditations Abreast

I never met my maternal grandmother. She died at 46 from breast cancer, when my mother was eleven. I've watched at least three good friends around my age experience breast (and other) cancer diagnoses and treatment in recent years. Breast cancer robbed my own mom of a mother, and several other women I know have had it or died from it. So you'd think I'd have a deeper reverence for my own intact and presently healthy breasts.

However, like anything in life that hums along just fine at any given moment, I like to indulge in a shame spiral about my deficient appreciation for it. I serve myself a huge scoop of guilt for criticizing it; sprinkle it with fear; and then drop a giant dollop of self-loathing on top to finish it off. (I could write a song to the tune of "The Candyman" from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory").

My boobs play perfectly into this thought pattern. The best part of every day is unleashing my usually-at-least-D-cup-tatas from the confines of their fabric prison. This ritual is especially satisfying when no one's coming to dinner and I know the bra is off for good. (I've totally given up convincing certain house guests that my tits aren't down to my knees after two kids. Everyone else gets the bra).

I look in the mirror at the deflated, shriveled-up, Nat Geo specials that were never a source of much pride or joy to begin with, and that have now served their only purpose: feeding two humans. Yet this is the part of my body (along with my stomach and wrinkles) that I most fantasize about getting "fixed" with plastic surgery. The part of my body that I resentfully pour each day into a molded, $68 Nordstrom underwire bra: my accomplice in the charade that my boobs are still (or ever were) perky and perfect.

Lately when I get dressed for work in the morning, I think of the grandmother I never met and wonder if my breasts are time bombs waiting to go off when the clock strikes 40. I think of my brave and stoic friends who've endured breast cancer and cancer treatment, and whom I've been so lucky to know. And I feel ashamed of myself for scorning my breasts. After all, they simply, dutifully, and beautifully did the only thing they were meant to do. Their only crime has been to look "bad" and "ugly" by our culture's standards.

I silently chastise myself (again) remembering that this too, like nearly everything else in life, is about luck. Good or bad, lasting or fleeting. I reach behind my back, clip my bra for the zillionth time, and finish getting ready for work.

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