I started crying at the end of yoga the other day. The class was intentionally hot and intentionally humid and when that door opens at the end of class, that stream of air conditioning is truly enough to make you cry. And that might have been part of it - but not most of it.
Air conditioning is solid, but I was crying because I was celebrating.
I have spent a lot of energy over the last 15 years covering myself up. Due to a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, a preventative double mastectomy on what my doctor believed to be the eve of cancer, and numerous failed reconstruction surgeries, my body was left scarred and misshapen. It was not the body I had lived in for thirty-five years and it was not pretty to me. My skin, tautly over-stretched in some places and loose and gappy in others, covered the implants like rough and irregular, dimpled terrain. The final reconstruction left me with weirdly square-ish implants, like over-worked pecs gone wrong. They weren’t soft and they weren’t in the right place. Not to mention, the stupid things hurt all the time.
At the end of the day, this was the best they could do and I lived with them because boobs, y’all. I’m a Gen X’er and I am cheering from the rooftops for this shift in advertising that shows real people in real bodies, but 40+ year habits die hard. Gen X did not have cellulite and real thighs in swimsuit ads or body positivity campaigns. We had Pamela Anderson and Victoria’s Secret Angels and an addiction to airbrushing. Gen X had boobs.
I lived with my ugly implants and spent a lotta, lotta energy being overly aware of them, disguising them, and covering them up.
I lived with them until I got sick. I am nothing if not an adept google researcher and I landed on immune something-or-other pretty quickly. It wasn’t long before I realized that my homeboy implants (these bad boys were definitely male) were causing my fevers, rashes, nose bleeds, and the weeks, then months, then years of “why do I feel so crappy all the time?”
These douche-waffle implants were making me sick. I made an appointment to get these silicone bags of nonsense out of my body stat.
I cried at that operation, too. I was hella ready to feel better but as they wheeled me out of the prep room, I didn’t even try to fight the tears. Boobs, y’all. Mine weren’t winning any beauty competitions, but in a well-cut, cute dress, no one was usually the wiser. This surgical round, my breasts weren’t coming back “reconstructed,” they weren’t coming back at all. It was a lot.
I had what they call an explant surgery. The implants are removed entirely and nothing new slides in to take their place, leaving the patient flat and without breasts. My implants had been pressing so hard and for so long against my ribcage underneath that I was left with hollow, rounded spaces where the implants had literally reshaped my bone structure with their weight. Like divots on a golf course, I am not flat, I am concave. That felt a lot like bad news.
The good news is I felt so much better. The rashes on my legs cleared up in three days. I had more energy recovering in bed with medical drains dangling from my sides than I’d had the entire year before. The nose bleeds decreased, the fevers stopped. I felt like me again.
But holy smokes, it’s hard to disguise chest divots, people. Lousy implants are one thing, concave, spherical depressions are quite another. I attacked my closet and got rid of form-fitting clothes, v-necks, bathing suits, and any top that suggested I had hollow spaces in my chest. None of the clothes I carefully curated to disguise the imperfect implants worked to disguise this new body of mine. I bought ruffles, blousey-blouse tops, and became a frequent shopper at Free People, the maker of trendy, oversized potato sack dresses.
What I didn’t realize until the crying yoga class was that these years of covering up was a tremendous effort and taking a giant toll on me. I was basically saying “you are not enough” to myself every time I put on a damn shirt.
The thing about yoga in a 105 degree humid room is that if you cover yourself up, you’ll pass right out. So, when the teacher directed us to dedicate our next breath to ourselves, I looked at my pose in the mirror - a balanced one-legged tree pose, arms up overhead, absolutely covered in sweat - and saw myself in my sweaty, clingy, non-disguising tank top. I clearly saw the hollows where my breasts should have been. I saw the extra skin. I saw the black and white floral tattoos I commissioned so I didn’t cry every time I stepped into the shower.
Normally, I’d quickly and automatically bring my arms down to a pose that covered my chest. Maybe it was heat stroke, but on that day, I definitely saw my hollowed chest but I also saw a woman who, in the month before her 50th birthday, fought to complete the entire inferno yoga class while people half her age stepped out or laid down. I saw ten surgeries while parenting a special needs child. I saw a patient who firmly said enough when the doctor offered another reconstruction option. I saw CT scans and antibiotics and vacations waylaid with fevers and a person who would not stop researching until she felt better.
I saw a woman who, had she been born a decade or two before, would quite probably not be alive.
You guys, maybe my tree pose was just that impressive, but I saw those concave no-breasts as war paint won in a long and hard battle and I was proud of myself. I realized just how much all this covering up was wearing on me and beating me down, stealing my precious time and fiery mojo for no good reason at all.
I took that breath for myself and inhaled the words no more.
We were in savasana, the final pose, still and quiet, when I started crying. It was a relief, it was a revelation, it was 105 degrees. With tears streaming down the sides of my face, I decided that I do not cover myself anymore. I celebrate.
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Love this and love you. Thank you so much for sharing. This was important for me to read today.
You are enough! You are more than enough! You are an amazing badass!