Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sex, lies and mastectomies

There's an elephant in the room.

When I talked about ugly, there was an elephant in the room that I failed to mention. When I took pictures of my scar and showed them to you, you might have thought that the elephant had been flushed out of hiding; you might have thought that there wasn't much left for me to talk about, in terms of the shock and difficulty of having a breast cut off.

Damn that elephant. It's still here.

Every woman who's lost a breast, or (god forbid) both breasts, knows about the elephant, but I haven't heard too many people mention it. It's maybe the next scariest thing to death, and eventually most people with breast cancer do talk about death. Maybe this elephant's scarier- or maybe it's just more personal, and that's why nobody dares to say anything.

The elephant's name is sex.

See, it doesn't matter how sure you are that your partner adores you. I know my partner adores me. I know he'd do anything to reduce my pain right now; he'd move a mountain if he could. He would, probably, even tell a few white lies to make me feel okay about having lost a breast.

But he can't help me with this one, because he's not in control of it.

Think about it. You absolutely are not in control of what turns you on. Some men love slim blondes, and an ounce of fat gives them the instant droops; some turn up their noses at blondes, but their eyes follow the buxom brunettes (and other parts rise to the occasion). Some women swoon over well-muscled forearms, or tight six-packs; some are dried up instantly by redheads, or hairy backs, or men who are shorter than them.

It's not something you can control. Hey, if we could control what triggers our sexual urges, there'd be a damn sight fewer paedophiles in this world. (Who wants to risk jail for sex? Nobody sane.) There'd probably be less gay people committing suicide, too. They'd just hit the switch that says 'prefer the opposite sex' instead.

And so for me, the elephant in the room is that my man is a boob man. He's always loved my breasts. And when it comes to getting down and dirty, I just don't know what's going to happen.

Will our lovemaking go merrily on along its old tracks? Will one boob be enough to keep the ol' feller cheerful? Or will his one eye, god forbid, be drawn to my scar- to the place where his beloved used to be- and will the train scream to a halt? Will the rush of blood end in a flaccid puddle of sweat and tears?

I don't know. Yet. I haven't been brave enough to find out.

Be careful about calling me 'brave'. 'Brave' means you did something you were scared to do. Most of what I'm doing with this blog doesn't scare me at all.


I can only imagine what the elephant does to women who aren't in the relationship of their life yet. I mean, how does this go down on the speed dating scene?

"Hello, my name's Monica. I like pina coladas and walks in the rain. Oh, and by the way, I only have one boob."

And across the table, Mr Hopeful suddenly won't meet your eye, and you're both desperate for the bell to ring.

The cyber-dating scene would be no better. I remember when one of my girlfriends, who is somewhat above her ideal weight and happy with that, tried the internet dating scene. She got inundated with crazies who wanted to feed her till she was helpless. It was creep city. So what happens if you declare openly that you have no breasts? Do you get flooded with weirdos who get turned on by amputees?

It doesn't bear thinking about. But some women have to think about it.

It takes a special type of woman to be able to overcome that, to be able to front up for a real-life date knowing that any hope of the zipless fuck is gone forever. There'll be a lot of explaining to do, before you even know each other. Sex on the first date? I don't think so. Sorry buddy, but please get your hand off my tit because there's something I have to tell you before you die of embarrassment. 

It takes a special type of man to deal with this stuff, too. I've got one of those, and I consider myself damn lucky. But being special doesn't mean he can control his penis.


When I was writing about ugly, I guess this was at the bottom of what was troubling me. I needed to build up the courage to get the truth out of my man, about what he thought of my scar.

And so I asked him, and I helped him to answer honestly. I took off the bandages and showed him the scar, and I asked him how he felt about it.

"It had to happen," he said. "You know I love your breasts, but there wasn't a choice."

I cut to the chase.

"You couldn't exactly call it sexy, though, could you?"

And he looked me in the eye, and said "No."

That was what I wanted to hear. He was, thank god, being truthful. Unless you are some sort of crazy fetishist, a mastectomy scar is not sexy. I needed to hear him say that. I was testing his honesty, and he passed with flying colours.

"But this is sexy," he said. "And this. And this."

I have no intention of giving you a colour-by-numbers of what he was doing just then.


Don't get me wrong. I do know that, overall, he still finds me sexy. He makes that clear every single day. And we have made love since the surgery, and it was great.

But I was wearing one of his old shirts that night, and when push came to shove, I only took the right side of it off. In the moment, that worked fine for both of us. That's as far as I'm ready to go just now.

So don't call me brave. Not yet. You can call me brave the day I take both arms out of that shirt.

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