The woman sitting across from me has had both breast removed.
She looks like a woman.
I made the fortunate mistake of locking eyes with Mrs. Castillo in the waiting room of Dallas Methodist Hospital as we both drank the lemonade flavored barium required of our impending MRI scan. Once she locked eyes with mine she did not stop speaking for 60 minutes straight. In that time I learned more than I thought possible about her family, her medical history, Dallas in the 70s, and most impressively, me. The more she shared, the more I saw reflections of myself, my journey and my misconceptions about beauty, sexuality, femininity and womanhood. Misconceptions about myself.
Mrs. Castillo shared with me that she has had her breasts removed some years ago. I quickly fact-check this by slowly lowering my gaze from her eyes to her chest. Well I’ll be damed, she’s sho nuff right! I’m oddly surprised that it wasn’t something I noticed earlier, something that wasn’t so blatantly and uncomfortably obvious to all of us in the waiting room! I mean surly we would all notice a women without breast! Right? A women…no breast! My reaction is nearly a reflection of my own fears and how I saw my own life after my doctor shared with me the possibility of having a mastectomy of my own- everyone would see me differently, I wouldn’t be recognized as a women, I wouldn’t be beautiful, I would look like Rumpelstiltskin.
You remember Rumpelstilskin, that old, ugly, strange, little man who turned straw into gold in exchange for a child? That dude was not the fairest of them all and consequently gives my the creeps. It doesn’t help that he was so obsessed with wanting this woman’s child- you can’t just bully someone into giving you their baby! Crazy! Anywho, I digress…
The removal of Mrs. Castillo’s breast did not change the slenderness of her face, the softness of her eyes or ability to apply blush to her high cheek bones. Rose colored lip stick still adheres to her lips. Her corse grey hair still squeezes into a bun at the crown of her head. Hips still not lying. Mrs. Castillo knows that she is still sexy. This she did not tell me directly, but it’s written all over her. It’s in how she talks and walks; her confident demeanor and aura communicates that she has a knowledge of this truth: she is a beautiful woman. Cancer may have taken her breasts but it did not take her womanhood. She still makes fajitas. (Food is important to me. 1st Jesus, 2nd Family 3rd, Food. The fact that she still goes in on some fajitas proves to me that she is alright. The moment I stop eating, please locate a Bishop and some blessed oil.)
I must admit that I’m surprised by this. Rather I’m surprised by my reaction to all of this. What did I think happened to women who had mastectomies or similar traumas to parts of the body that determine sex? Did I really think I would turn into Rumpelstiltskin? A short, pruney, ugly, old, greedy, boobless, man with a complex? Clearly I needed to meditate on my idea and definition of femininity, womanhood and beauty.
I cling tight to my pink bras and lace panties. Lipstick and occasional rouge makes me feel feminine and flirty. A dress with a peak-a-boo neckline that reveals a little cleavage is considered sassy, sexy and fun. It’s my “I’m a vibrant beautiful sophisticated woman” dress, which heavily relies on my breasts to communicate. I had no clue how loud my breasts where, and how much I depended on their vocals to communicate my beauty and confidence. How reliant have I been on my breast, makeup and flirty bras to make me feel like a woman? Now that the possibility of having my breast stripped away is on the table, I feel the need to define my femininity and beauty, to reassure myself that it can’t be be snatched away from me. I can’t be Rumpelstiletskined. I won’t be.
Everything about Mrs. Castillo is feminine. I can see that so very plainly. Her femininity is intertwined with her very existence, unable to be separated from her essence by physical appearances, such as breast, hips and hair. I’m like her. My femininity and beauty is in my smile, sultry walk, attitude, gentleness, kindness, strength, passion and personality. It’s my flirtatious nature- how I bat my eyes when a man speaks nerdy to me. It’s in my affections, the gentle way I receive hugs and kisses. The careful, gleeful way I survey my naked body. It’s in my tone. It’s in the delicacy of my curves and the strength of my body. Above all it’s in my mind and my spirit. It’s in how I worship the Lord and spread the message of His love and kindness.
My femininity is in my very character and being, and it can’t be stripped away. As it turns out I don’t but put on sexy- I AM sexy! My breast are not tokens of beauty, to be reserved for sex games! My husband and I (Lord bless him wherever he may be) will have sex! I’m beautiful, inside and out, and removal of my breast wouldn’t change anything about that. I will not be Rumpelstiletskined.
Thanks. Mrs. Castillo.