I’ve got some battle scars. My right breast has a one inch mark from a lumpectomy that was benign. There’s a leftover trench, a hidden valley of sorts from that surgery. My left breast has a larger disfigurement from the removal of a malignant lump; the lymph nodes were taken as well – sacrificial innocents. There’s a thickening of tissue between my left breast and my underarm. Thirty-seven radiation treatments have made a rough-hewn road between these two camps. And above my right breast, there’s a pot-holed scar. Where the chemotherapy port resided. I had to go in for surgery when this soldier was inserted; but when it was taken out, the surgeon ripped it from its combat zone with just a local in an office exam room, an intern looking on.
So I’m not supposed to wear underwire bras anymore. And I mostly don’t want to because with three scars and road track, they’re uncomfortable. I like to wear sports bras now, or those camisole tank tops with the support bra built in. OK. Not exactly a bra, but a stretchy hammock slung inside for the gals to relax in.
I’m not big breasted, and I’d say with as much humility as possible, that for 50, my boobs are not bad. Plus I have never been super modest in the upstairs arena. Back in the 70’s, my friends and I used to drive up to “Oil Piers” beach (north of Ventura on one’s way to Santa Barbara), the north end of it, and lay out topless. Not because we were showing off our stuff. On the contrary, this beach was deserted. We just didn’t want strap marks. One time, we noticed a guy had worked his way along the boulders shouldering the beach and was checking us out, half hidden. Which we ignored, until we realized that the half of him that was hidden was doing something disgusting while he starred down our way. I really think he thought we’d be so freaked out we’d scream, cover up maybe. Give him some more thrills. But we started laughing, and then the feistiest of us, a 5’2” petite little thing, got up and started calling him out for being such a disgusting loser. Walking toward him with her finger wagging accusingly. He ended up being the one who looked freaked out. I’m pretty sure he never finished what he started as he ambled back down the beach trying to act like he’d been looking for something lost in the rocks. Perhaps he thought he’d find his pride ground up and spread across the sand and if he stepped in it he could carry it back along the bottoms of his feet.
Anywhos, awhile ago my daughter’s performing arts group was having a dinner show to fundraise. My husband and I decided to make it a date night, since we hadn’t been out for months while we paid off my medical bills. Our first date since my hair had grown back enough to not look like a recovering chemo patient. On the night of the event, I was in my bathroom, almost ready. I had on a camisole tank for a bra, a long ribbed tank layered over the cami, a decent pair of jeans and low-slung heels. My short, spiky hair was gelled back and had come out really Euro-chic. I’d just finished my make-up (thrilled that I once again had eyebrows) and was adding the finishing touch – a pair of silver earrings, when my daughter walked in, took one look at me, and said, “Mom. I can see your nipples.”
“There are three layers of material over my nipples. The tank, the camisole tank, and the built in bra.”
“That’s NOT a bra. No one wears a spaghetti-strap tank without a bra unless they’re an A-cup and twelve years old. Can you PLEASE put on a bra and not show up at the fundraiser with your nipples showing.”
Well, I did not have a strapless bra as it had been an underwire bra and I had gotten rid of all of those. But… I did have a pair of silicon enhancers I had bought recently to wear to a wedding. When I went to the wedding I was in the middle of chemo and wanted desperately to not look too forlorn. I had worn a beautiful scarf around my head, topped with a summer straw hat, and a summer dress that was deep pink with wide straps. I had needed something to smooth out the uneven terrain of the battle scars and a friend who is a wedding planner had suggested the free floating implants to fill out the bottom of my bra. I had to go to Neman Marcus to get them and at $50 they were quite the investment. But they were so worth it. Instead of rough seas, there were smooth swells.
Remembering how pretty I had felt that day, I slipped the jelly pads into the camisole’s hammock. I figured that after all those months of doctors, nurses, radiation techs, not to mention their interns, best friends, and publicity agents feeling up my boobs and then leaving me topless while they discussed my boobs in front of me I had become a little too cavalier and perhaps my daughter was right. So, for my daughter’s peace of mind, I smoothed out the nipplage with silicone pads.
The dinner before the show was a buffet and after claiming our seats my husband and I made our way over to get our dinner. As I leaned over to ladle something onto my plate, there was a slight feeling of slippage in the old hammock area. One of the gals was separating from her false friend. I eyed out the “waiters” (theater teens) on the other side of the buffet to see where they were looking. I was hoping I could just stick my hand down my top, grab hold of the jelly half-boob, and slap it back into place. No such luck. The kid was standing there with a pair of tongs and waiting to see if he could offer me some chicken. Hmm. As I moved down the line, I held my plate with both hands and lined up the inside of my right bicep with the renegade and gave a squeeze and a push. Nope. I tried to use non-obvious muscle movements to force the errant falsie back into place all the way down the buffet line. My right boob must have looked something like a confused and insane puffer fish.
I gave up hope of straightening incognito and took my plate back to my table, resigned to having to excuse myself to the restroom. Besides, it probably felt worse than it looked. I smiled over to my daughter who was working the soda bar across the room.
After I put my plate down and before I cut loose to the facilities, my daughter magically appeared in front of me. She hissed at me under her breath. “MOM! You need to go fix yourself. NOW. You look like you have two boobs on one side.”
Meanwhile my husband, who has been at my side the whole time and never noticed a thing, is already eating. I glare down at him and he looks up at me and asks me if I got some of the orange chicken because I really should have gotten some of the orange chicken, and by the way daughter, do you know where you guys ordered the orange chicken from, because THE ORANGE CHICKEN IS REALLY GOOD. He has NO IDEA how close he came to wearing his orange chicken.
So now I have to walk clear across the room to the exit by the bathroom and suddenly it feels like I AM THE ONE ONSTAGE.
“Daughter,” I whisper, “why don’t I wait until the show starts and the lights go down?”
“No mom. I know you know what's rude and unacceptable in theater. You need to fix it now.”
So I walk across the room, the whole way pretending to scratch my chin so my arm can crook over my right side, which apparently is in possession of two boobs.
In the restroom I square myself off and look in the mirror.
OK. Not pretty. But not exactly TWO boobs on the right side. More like a double-up. You know, like those waves that have a wave on their backside.
Apparently I missed a flush. Or been too self-occupied to realize someone was using the facilities. But as I started to pry open my cami, the jelly boob free fell out and plopped onto the floor as a young woman of about 17 simultaneously walked out of the stall. For a second that stretched into eternity, we both stood there, the quivering mass of flesh-colored jello on the floor between us. Then the girl politely stepped over it, washed her hands, dried them, stepped over it again and exited. She was way cool.
My inner monologue was not so cool. It was SO HARD to just stand there. And though I lacked the fortitude to JUST PICK UP THE FUCKING THING AND STICK IT BACK IN, at least I did not blurt out the train wreck going on in my head. No. I am NOT some wanna be MILF. REALLY REALLY REALLY. I’m just a battle scared survivor who can’t wear most bras. TRYING TO NOT SHOW MY NIPPLES.