Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of being sent for my first mammogram…although I am only 36, I had been having some increasing pain in my left breast- so much so that I finally went to the doctor to have it checked out. Mind you- living, as we do, in this wonderful age of Google and WebMD, I was already a complete basket case by the time I got there. I found myself waiting in my doctors exam room, in that thin, blue, paper “robe” they give you, fighting back tears, sure I was lugging around a boob full of stage IV cancer. I lay there on the exam table, fondling myself like a sixteen year old boy (only I was looking for lumps, thank you.)while salsa music played through the speakers in the ceiling, making me feel like I was in some bizarre indie movie. Right before my doctor came into the room, I found them- two small lumps I hadn’t been able to feel before.
She found them right away, too. Very cheerfully, I might add- “Oh, yep. There they are. Two lumps, here, and here!” Gulp. “They feel cysty to me.” (I swear she said “cysty”).
“They don’t feel cancery?” Was my intelligent, well thought-out question to her.
“Nah. But let’s send you down for a mammo and get it checked out.”
Great! Which is how I found myself, a few days later, at the breast care center, in another room, in another robe, standing awkwardly in front of another overly-cheerful doctor type woman. I knew she was a different woman, however, as she had a German accent. And she was white, while my doctor is not. Why all the cheerfulness, I could not tell you, but I suppose it is to lighten the mood of what could become a very, very bad day.
Lucky for me, the worst part of the day ended up being the part where I had to stick my left breast into a machine that would then proceed to be turned on and used to squash that breast until it was approximately a foot and a half long. I am not shitting you, read this sentence back to yourself, replacing my breast with your own, and tell me it doesn’t sound ridiculous. It sounds more like a medieval torture device than cutting edge technology. Which must be why, looking down at my long, flat, left breast, I got the worse case of giggles I’ve had in a long time. So much so that the radiology technician also started laughing.
“What’s wrong?” She asked me, catching her breath.
“This is fucking hilarious!” I gasped, falling apart all over again. I really did say that. I have a problem maintaining my composure in frightening medical situations that are also, oddly, funny. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has been around while I have had my babies.
So anyway, it turned out fine- whatever the “cysty” lumps were, they vanished in the minutes just prior to my mammogram, making me look like a lunatic- which I was okay with, considering. But it did make me think about the stuff girls go through as part of the routine maintenance of being female. I’m not just talking about the medical stuff, although you would think that would be enough- the yearly subjecting of one’s vagina to a speculum, need I say more? While the men among us suffer through, what? The occasional fondling of balls by a hot nurse who asks them to turn their head and cough? Oh, brother. Must be tough. I’d like to see how well they’d fare with a glorified shoe horn in one of their orifices, being cranked open like an old garage door whose contents are about to be handled and examined. I bet there would be a shortage of gynecologists if men had our genitals- it would probably be a much riskier profession.
Having lived with a man for the past several years, and believing him to be fairly representative of your average, works-with-his-hands, every day guy, I gotta say- this is some bullshit. His grooming routine requires less than ten minutes of his entire day (not including showering or baths, which take so much time as to be a little suspicious. I don’t really want to know what he is doing in there.) He brushes his teeth, he combs his hair. If he can’t find a comb, he puts on a beanie. He puts on clean clothes. If there are no clean clothes, he sniffs the ones he thinks may be cleanest. He puts them on. That’s it. If he’s really trying to look snazzy, he may shave or put some gel in his hair and wear a button down shirt that he dead refuses to iron, so it looks like it has ruffles down the middle of his chest. No amount of pleading from me seems to make a difference, so I stopped trying. Let him wear ruffles, then. Whatever. Apparently, he’s secure in his manhood, right?
The stuff I need to do to my skin alone, before I even start putting on my make-up, takes me longer than his entire regimen in the morning. I bet you women spend a quarter of their lives devoted to their appearance- thinking about clothes, make-up, acne, fat, toenails, fingernails, eye brows, teeth whitening, underwear, hair cuts, beauty products, other women’s clothes, jackets, purses, make-up…it never really ends, does it? And that is just the thinking part. Don’t even get me started on the activities we actively engage in pursuing, maintaining, recapturing, correcting and still, never really achieving more than an evening at a time of feeling ENOUGH.
You know, I started this blog with the idea that I would do a bunch of different stuff (above and beyond all the crap I already do) to my face and my body in the hope of achieving a feeling of prettiness again, which I feel has been fading from my life lately. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, though, I have so enjoyed writing about other stuff, it has made me so happy, that I have started to FEEL really great again. Because I have felt so great, I am going out into the world with this light inside of me that people respond to like you wouldn’t believe. I am happy. And wouldn’t you know it, I had it all wrong- sure it’s nice to be beautiful, and every single woman in the world deserves to feel that way, to be that way, in the eyes of the people who matter most. But physical beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, anyway, and when it is me beholding myself in a mirror, I am always going to fall short, every single time- no matter how much time, money and effort I put into it. But should I catch sight of myself in the middle of what I am doing right now- sitting in my kitchen, in my jammies, with no make-up on and my hair in a pony-tail, I bet you I would think-“Whoa!” When I see the face of a woman passionately involved and enraptured by the thing before her. Or if I look at a picture I have of myself immediately after giving birth to my oldest daughter- the look on my face, that smile…
You know that saying, “beauty is only skin deep.”? I get what it means, but it leaves a lot unsaid. True beauty comes from a much deeper place, a place that may not exist for some of us until we are older. Which is why God makes young people so gorgeous, so that they have at least aesthetic beauty until they grow up a little and have actual value. Otherwise we would kill them. So if I have to age and get wrinkly and whatnot, at least I have this- the consolation that my true worth was never my appearance at all. Even if it means I have to stick my breasts into machines every once in a while.