BellaOnline Literary Review
Shades of Rock by Jill Florio

Non Fiction


Blue Heron

I could play tough with the best of them, boys that is. From my earliest memories I crossed the gender boundary lines. At 5 years old I hung around the backyard trenches anticipating my duties as a wartime soldier. My older brother ran across the battlefield, nearly blown up by enemy fire if not by the hidden mines. His enemy was of course a fellow male GI Joe from the neighborhood. The war that hot August day, mid 60’s, was as real as the Vietnam War, looking out from my mind. Positioning myself in the middle of the battlefield I imagined myself invisible as to eavesdrop and choose which troop to join. My sibling admiration chose for me. “Get out of here,” yelled my fellow soldier. “I want to play army too,” said I emphatically in return. The words, “You can’t - you’re a girl” stabbed me to death. It was a slow painful bleeding and I wasn’t even in the war. This ‘boy’s rule’ wasn’t making sense to me on any level. I reluctantly retreated to the ‘woman’s place’ to supervise my dolls, still envious that the boy’s war outside seemed so much more alive and engaging.

After moving to a new neighborhood a few cities away, I naturally migrated toward male-dominated follies once again. At first I stood girlishly on the sidelines watching neighborhood boys play football, baseball and basketball. But one day my new girlfriend, a confirmed tomboy it turned out, was running on the field. Not one male batted an eye, but rather, she was chased down and tackled hard like one of them. This was indeed an awesome new place I now called home. Yes, I was home. People weren’t defined by gender roles in this wondrous new neighborhood. It wasn’t long before I was spitting globs of grass out of my mouth and wearing bruised badges of courage. It all meant I was tough, equal to boys and in my mind, envied by my more feminine counter-parts. Being tackled with no regard for any softness, which I had none, I went in deep with the neighborhood boys in an intimate way.

Its funny how just a few short years can throw so many curves into patterns of child behavior. We all arrived without warning into the budding preteen stage of life. A tackle was no longer just a tackle. The skinny boys, who formerly looked much like me, were taller, wider, stronger, and more manlike. Fellow girls were taller too, but it was the sudden inward dip of hip bones rolled softly beneath those two breasts boys called boobs that everyone was suddenly tiptoeing around. Everyone changed, everything changed. I didn’t change. I still had a young boy’s body - tall, lanky, and boxy. Nothing was softer on me. Nothing was curving on me. And definitely, nothing was budding on me. And yet, the neighborhood boys no longer played rough and tough with the neighborhood girls. Even my good pal Pete, my best friend’s younger brother, looked at me with a different set of eyes. It was spooky witnessing everyone metamorphosizing into their stereotypical gender roles once defined in my backyard battlefield.

I found myself lost in the transition. Inside I was still and always a confirmed tomboy. A couple of breasts weren’t going to deter me from being equally tough in this world. Quick, like lightning, soft curves and round soft breasts were appearing all over the place in the female Queendom. Yet still, nothing was happening to me, at least on the outside. Inside I began dreaming of dancing with boys instead of tackling grass stains and battling for bruise badges.

Girls that changed the most seemed the most ready to strut their stuff like full fanned peacocks. The mating game began and had begun without me, or so I thought. It turns out some boys just are too threatened by the sexuality of a blossomed, fertile filly. I was the sweet tomboy safe haven for the still slender, boy-like boys. It’s important to play the part just the same. The summer after 7th grade, the Community Center hosted teen dance nights. I sat on the cool hard fold-up chair feeling nervous, insecure and stiff in my silky sleek dress that revealed my hard lines and flatness. Surely I was delusional when I selected a frilly flower print which did nothing but emphasize my feminine lacking. But then something magical happened after dancing all night long with my silly friends to John Denver, the only music the DJ played. A boy, an older boy, approached me and asked me, not my curvatious friends, to dance. At first I looked to the other girls and back at him as if to say, “There must be a mistake; did you mean to ask me?” As it turned out my friendly smile, amidst my athletic build, caught his attention. He even liked the way I moved my body. I was thrown into the pit of sexual power with the rest of them that evening. I dominated him with my feminine lure. He flirted, I think, and I flirted back. Nothing was the same after that. My mother quickly put an end to this high school boy calling me on the phone, but she couldn’t squelch the late arrival of my sensualness.

Middle school was a miserable reminder how little my body was keeping pace with my peer’s bodies as well as my internal emotions. Gym class was particularly painful. To say every girl my age was developed more than me, is no distortion. I dreamed of growing breasts. I fantasized in class about growing breasts. The mirror became my best friend and enemy, as it never lied during my daily study sessions.

At first, I was excited and anxious in anticipation of my body changing. I was nervous and scared just the same, but I was ready to welcome a new me. As I watched others bulge nicely in their T-shirts and shorts, I watched my own body remain unchanged. Envy is a terrible thing to live with, especially when you envy every fellow female around you. It became an obsession I couldn’t escape. Everywhere I looked, there were boobs on everyone but me. It didn’t seem fair. Why me? I felt as though God were punishing me for some crime I had forgotten I committed. My own mother seemed content to keep me little girlish in my cute white undershirts with a bow centered on them, to make matters worse. I suppose the bow was sewn on so girls would feel like the tank they were wearing wasn’t like the tank shirts boys wore. As far as I was concerned it might as well have been a boy’s tank shirt. It wasn’t a damn bra! It meant your body was still like a boy’s.

Showering after gym one miserable day, my humiliation had reached an all time high. Rachel Whatever was a size 36D at 14. Hell, you could see her boobs if you were standing behind her! It wasn’t enough that she received admiring stares from all the boys in the entire school. Her flaunting was ten times worse in her wet nudity. My towel was never hung far from my shower head in order to conceal my male-like chest. Miss Rachel watched as I put my under tank shirt on and said, “Oh my God; Patten is wearing a t-shirt!” If I could have slid down the shower drain I would have right then. My shoulders bent inwards and my head hung low. I couldn’t speak. If I could, what would I say? “You’re right, I got a God damn flat chest and you have big knockers - are you happy?” At that point in my life, in most people’s lives, peer ridicule was painful. Public humiliation, especially concerning my body, was humiliating beyond recovery. (Proof of that, is I’m an adult at the time of this recollection.) I’m not sure who it was, but some kind sole made the comment that I was lucky I didn’t have to deal with big breasts getting in my way when I play sports. Yowsa. What a nightmare.

Around the same time my mother’s friend dropped off several bags full of hand-me-down clothes her children had outgrown. I rummage through the bags and found the most incredible find of my life - a bra! I immediately grabbed it and bunched it up deep inside my fist. It felt like a sinful, dirty secret. It was the leftover remains of a strangers’ parting from girlhood to womanhood. And it was mine now. I owned it. I was stealing a ticket to finally feeling more grown up. I hid it in my underwear drawer amongst my under t-shirts and panties. Just having it in my underwear drawer made me feel like I had arrived at my initiation to peer acceptance. Nothing would be sweeter than having that bra strap bulge tellingly under my shirts. Luckily the miraculous arrival of my first bra was in fact a trainer bra and so it fit beautifully. I now had a fitting place to at least park my beautiful hard tits. Even the big-boobed girls didn’t have the kind of perfect hard tits that stood erect with the slightest cool breeze. It was only respectful that I cover them with my hand-me-down trainer bra.

My confidence level raised several notches as I wore my trainer bra to school. Upon safely storing it in my dresser at home one day, my mother, in her prowling way, discovered my secret quest for womanhood. As she placed freshly washed clothes in my drawer she came upon it. Between her index finger and thumb she slowly held it up and dangled it like it was a pornographic magazine. I watched her critical, over controlling eyes pierce right through me. My heart pounded. I felt as though I had been caught wearing her underwear. She said, “You haven’t been wearing this have you?” I dug down deep to get my voice out of my gut and managed a “Yes.” “You don’t need to wear a bra, you don’t even have anything.” Those words cut me deeper than those thrown at me in the school shower. Just once I wish she could be a nurturer, a comforter, a soft place to land. It didn’t seem like I had a right to be agitated, but I was. I was angry. The humiliation of my underdeveloped body belonged to me. At least I had a right to own it. It was my body, not hers. In my anger I snapped, “I’m the only girl in the whole middle school that still wears a t-shirt instead of a bra.” There, I said it. It was her turn to back down and apologize for her unwarranted, unwelcome acknowledgement that I indeed was not developing as I should - that I was flat-chested. But of course that would be asking too much of a narccistic mother who habitually reminds people she is always better than you are. She said, “I don’t understand it. I was in a size 36C bra and wearing a girdle when I was in the 5th grade.” Yep, that’s my mom. Kick a dog when the dog is down. She at least came back and said, “If you want to wear a bra than you should at least get your own, one that fits.” I was shocked. Wait a minute, why is she assuming it doesn’t fit? Anyway, at least she accepted it was time to give in and let me wear a bra whether I truly “needed” one or not. I still was self-conscious about my flatness, but in the back of my mind I knew it I would eventually get breasts. I’d have to. It’s biological nature.

But, I didn’t. A new year of school was approaching which meant clothes shopping with my wealthy grandmother. My mother always told us, “She’s buying, so if she doesn’t like something you want then you get what she suggests.” My grandmother ruled over my mother with an iron fist and intimidated us kids just the same. She said very little to you, but when she spoke, it was often something demeaning. No 15-year-old wants their grandmother picking out school clothes for them, but alas, she was paying. She handed me several things to try in the dressing room and remained inside with me, scoping my body as I undressed. “I don’t think you’re ever going to develop. Your mother was completely developed at your age.” I felt my shoulders curl down in attempt to conceal my lack of breasts. My head hung low once again. I shrugged her comment off like it meant nothing. After all, I had to get my school clothes paid for. All I could think about on the ride home, however, was that I might have to face the fact that I’m simply not going to develop a woman’s body. Her words were no more hurtful than the other’s, but the pile of comments was getting bigger than I could cope with.

My 16th birthday arrived with a new driver’s license, but no new breasts. Being the tomboy I used to be seemed more like a life sentence now. It was no longer admirable. It wasn’t funny. At least I wasn’t laughing. Tomboy or not, I still was an athlete nonetheless. I would not forego sports just because I didn’t have a developed upper body to flaunt. But did I have to be a gymnast, of all things? Even the cheerleaders wore more than the gymnasts. I boldly put my flat chest out of my head, well at least buried into my subconscious, in order to proudly compete in nothing but a skimpy leotard in front of a bleacher full of spectators. Just for the record, that is the ultimate test of self-consciousness. My strong muscular physique carried me through as well as my high scores on the vault, floor and beam. Again, the big-boobed gymnast told me how lucky I was that I didn’t have to worry about my chest getting in the way. For once, they were right. That’s one sport where you don’t need extra baggage upstairs.

I had a feminine role in the school play, but countered it by playing the tri-toms with a mostly male drum squad in the marching band. Just being a complete balanced person became my M.O. Nothing stopped me regardless of gender stereotype, but I always felt insecure and inadequate about my body. I didn’t like the way I looked in clothes. I didn’t like the way guys didn’t look at me. I didn’t like that I had many things going for me, but that which seemed more important than anything in society. Despite my athletic, extra curriculum activities, and good grades, I felt like God jipped me out of a set of breasts. How was I to survive in the adult world without boobs? My high school boyfriend tired of my insecurities. We eventually broke up. I wasn’t heavy on top, but I was heavy in other ways.

High School graduation came, but no breasts came for me. Upon graduation I traveled that summer to Virginia Beach with two classmates. The bathing suit-wearing times were painful and we were in our suits the whole trip. Hell, I even smoked cigarettes for the first time in my life during that trip, I suppose as an attempt to feel more grown with my boyish body. The subconscious obsessive madness, it would appear, would never end. That fall I went away to college and along came my ready-packed bag full of insecurities. I didn’t have penis envy; I had breast envy. In an odd way I felt male like. The University was crawling with vivacious cleavage everywhere you looked, except on me. Sadly I overcompensated with binge drinking; priding myself on being able to drink any guy under the table. Not the lady-like thing to do, but I just never arrived at feeling like a lady.

After a while I decided to flaunt what I did have, my rock-hard tits. This same person who once would do anything to where a bra, now chucked bras aside altogether. People all my life had been telling me I didn’t have enough to warrant a bra. At 19, I accepted it. I wore see-through blouses and low-cut sweaters. I wanted guys to see my sexuality shine through since it wouldn’t be as blatantly obvious as most young women on campus.

After a year in college I met and dated what would eventually become the love of my life and husband. I was beautiful to him and he loved me just the way I was. He would tell me time after time how he thought I had beautiful breasts and that I had the best tits he had ever seen. I heard his words, but never believed them. I told myself he was only saying I was perfect the way I was because he loved me, but that I was still defective as a grown woman. The flat-chested woman was not the norm in society; it was the undeveloped oddball in my mind. Perhaps it was my middle school peers in the shower that damaged my psyche the most. Maybe it was my “I developed better than you” comments from my mother that heightened my insecurities. Then again, my critical and judgmental grandmother’s conviction that I may never develop may have done me in. Or what if my own sensitivity and disbelief in my worth as a flat-chested woman pushed me furthest over the edge of habitual distortion? It would seem our conglomerate experiences in life all contribute to whom we are or believe ourselves to be.

During the three years we dated, my husband watched in vein as I struggled with my image. Dress and blouse purchases revolved around my lack of fullness. In my desperation I actually bought into one of those seedy back magazine ads guaranteeing “2 cup sizes larger with breast cream.” Sadly I rubbed and rubbed the breast enlargement cream all over my chest until it was gone. At first my fiancé went along with the scam in attempt to help me feel better. Eventually, he caved in and said the cream was no more than body lotion and didn’t do what it claimed to do - grow breast tissue.

As a girl I dreamt of one day being this spectacular, stunning voluptuous woman in a bridal gown on her wedding day. Everyone said I was a beautiful bride. Isn’t that what people are suppose to say? Inside I felt ecstatic. Happiness smiled all over my face. But the dress just didn’t fit right on top. It was semi off the shoulder so I couldn’t where a bra with it. There was little to press the white beaded fabric against. “Don’t bend over” was the little voice in the back of my head throughout the ceremony and reception. Dancing can be difficult when you’re trying hard to keep your top from flopping forward without you. Defectiveness even haunted my happiest day.

Recalling the place and time I came upon the idea of breast augmentation, eludes me. By now I was married and had returned to my university studies fulltime. It was something I just had to do, for myself, for my self-esteem. My husband said he loved me the way I was, but supported my decision. “Just be clear on one thing,” he said, “You’re doing this totally for you.” Yeah, whatever, I’m doing it was my sentiments. My childhood pain along with my childhood heart condition struggled in surgery. The surgeon later revealed to my husband that I fought him during surgery, trying to grab his hands while he made incisions. My heart also stopped causing them to have an ambulance outside of the clinic in case they couldn’t revive me. Those old demons of mine were struggling over something. Desperation had driven me almost to the point of madness over the whole issue of being flat-chested to the point, it would seem, that I risked my life for a set of boobs. They sent me home with pain that was worse than getting hit as a kid with a baseball bat. It was worse than the pain of gymnastic-induced shin splints, broken tail bone, and tendonitis. The swelling and bruises received as the tomboy pinned in football were nothing compared to this. This pain was the worst because it was induced voluntarily by me.

For the first time in my life the mirror was kind to me. With surgery came instant beauty - everything I dreamed of. With my instant exterior change I had to learn how to cope internally on a different level now. I was made to look like most every woman does - with boobs that is. My breasts didn’t develop over a long period of time. I went to a clinic one day and came home that afternoon with them. I didn’t grow to appreciate their beauty and allure to men. I just suddenly had these incredible breasts attached to me. It was magical, as if a fairy god mother just waved a wand and said, “My dear, you now have breasts.”

Every piece of clothing in my closet was instantly a new outfit. It was my style to wear heavy boxy jackets and sweaters with shoulder pads all to conceal my lacking. I figured if I didn’t wear revealing tops, I could perhaps fool people into thinking I probably had breasts under all the layers. I had even started wearing thin black ties with my blouses to work. I didn’t feel feminine and so I didn’t act feminine. A tank top was suddenly like provocative lingerie. Yet, I wore tight-fitted tanks more than anything now. I just couldn’t get enough of playing this new role. My sister-in-law who was unhappy with her own cup size boldly asked if I would lift my shirt and show them to her. In the back of my mind I had a little voice that said they weren’t completely my body because I didn’t grow them myself. Like having an artificial limb, I appreciated them, but didn’t quite connect with them as being more than objects to be stared at by men and envied by women. After all, they were perfect.

I was registered for summer classes at the University which meant for the first time ever, I would look good walking across campus. I’d feel more confident with myself, anyway. I wasn’t prepared for the attention many women routinely get in that environment. I was late arriving to my first class and so was forced to sit in the front row. I chill easily in air conditioned rooms, which meant the same original tits were standing hard on my big round breasts. I crossed my arms across my chest to shield what felt like private parts. The professor was lecturing the class about what to expect for the term, though it was obvious to a room full of people why he was distracted up front. Losing his train of thought, he unfixed his eyes off my chest and shook his head hard, in attempt to knock some sense into his perverse head. I am and was a studious, respectful, intelligent young woman, but I felt dirty and ditsy. He made a few comments about thanks to the lady in the yellow tank top he was a bit entertained. I wasn’t sure if I needed to feel angry at him for publicly humiliating me, or thank him for noticing the fine quality of my surgeon’s latest creation. I have to say despite my annoyance I loved that I had this guy so turned on that he felt compelled to tell a whole lecture hall what great boobs I had. Suddenly I was Rachel Whatever – 36D from my Middle School locker room. But his comments didn’t stop there. He went on to say that he likes to have lunch with students, then said, “That’s an invitation big yellow.” Minutes later he was saying he has flexible office hours and is comfortable discussing student’s personal problems, such as their sex life. That’s when he once again, invited me specifically to spend extra time with him. When I was leaving class he said, “By the way, I really like that yellow shirt.” This man was old enough to be my father, but more importantly, he was in a position of authority. I rarely size up an instructor so fast, and had never dropped a class for that reason either. I was so repulsed with this dirty old professor I marched directly to registration and changed my class. Even if he backed off, I lost total respect for him before I even gained respect for him. After hearing my complaints my husband laughed it off and said I loved the attention. But he agreed I did the right thing. I did do the right thing, but wondered just how powerful these new set of boobs were going to be setting on my chest. I was a bit scared and excited and the same time. Deep down inside I was doing somersaults over the attention I had never gotten before in my entire life and a tear rolled down my cheek.

And so it began, the constant gawking and lewd comments from men everywhere I went. Depending on my mood, the attention was either flattering or an unwanted distraction that I didn’t want to deal with. Depending on my mood, I’d wear reveling tops at inappropriate times - like at work. If I was really gutsy I’d wear a lace tank top with no bra to night clubs. I really got people to look my way then. My personality changed. I was no longer the insecure, shy, polite girl who was happy to have my husband think I’m beautiful. I became a monster. I was arrogant, stuck on myself, and carried myself with a new air of privilege. I had boobs and I was privileged to have special treatment. I learned that people could be in awe of me, so I grew accustomed to expecting it. Friction developed in my relationship with my husband. He tried desperately to tell me I’m special to him, but not to anyone else, nor should I be. He said, “You don’t have anything new and special.” Most women have looked like that since they were teens. Just because you got breasts late in life, doesn’t mean you have something no one else does.” In hindsight, my hubby had to get tough with me. Losing touch with reality was a real dilemma for me at that time.

I became pregnant and so my surgically-altered chest actually did grow for the first time on its own. They were stretched and I feared they’d sag after my investment. Out of the blue, a dime size cyst developed on my sternum. It was an eye sore that served as detraction from my pride - not the miracle growing inside me, but my two lovely breasts. The dermatologist had no regard for the importance of chest beauty, evident by the round ugly scar left from his scalpel- gouging technique. My ego, so twisted, was annoyed that my finally perfect body was going to the dogs. After all, my breasts weren’t so impressive without a tiny, flat tummy to compliment them. I couldn’t shake the habitual drive for a Barbie doll figure even during pregnancy. I remained physically active. That was a healthy thing to do according to my obstetrician. But deep down I knew I was desperately fighting the flabby bulge of weight gain. I swam, fitness walked, rode the stationary bike, and then eventually lost the battle. At eight months, it seemed like living one more day with my massive body bulk, was unbearable. I couldn’t escape my discomfort of facing the reality that my once thin physique was a baby house. I should have been enjoying the joy of becoming a mother instead of being horrified by my body’s transformation. Yet at the time of delivery I weighed only 145 pounds at five foot six.

I never thought of breast-feeding with a tiny flat chest. But I had these suckable feeding machines now. But they didn’t work. I cradled my baby to them, but he didn’t seem interested. Perhaps he sensed there was something not quite genuine. Perhaps he feared swallowing silicone instead of milk. By the time my milk came in, my baby had already grown accustomed to the other artificial feeding apparatus - the bottle. I had no means to rid my engorged, painful breasts of the milk my body produced. They were so stingingly painful, I was sure God was punishing me for playing with nature. But I suppose that’s why God gave us ice. Ice in a bag did the trick.

In no time at all I got my weight back down, my waist semi back to normal and my breasts intact and restored to their original, well recently surgically improved, state. Motherhood and breasts brought me into the arena of real womanhood. Finally, I felt like a real damn woman. I stood taller, pulled my shoulders back with arrogance and held my head high. I was a woman to be respected. My insecurities were replaced with a positive sense of coming into my own and loving it. Just when I grew accustomed to the daily acceptance and relishing of my chest it would go through yet another alteration.

Round two began five short years later. The blemish of the botched cyst removal would be nothing in comparison. It was time once again for God to take the upper hand and expose my shallow exterior body obsessions. I had lessons to learn in this life, and I believe one of them is to appreciate the inner, soul I am and to respect life itself. Attempting to change the body God gave me and put higher precedence in a plastic surgeon, is a slap in my maker’s face. My Catholic upbringing sets me boldly on the right path of realization and, of course, guilt. My congenital mitral valve regurgitation was progressively getting worse to the point I was weak, out of breath, had chest pains, and spit up blood when I jogged. I really never gave open-heart surgery one moment’s thought. Doctors some years ago said it may be necessary somewhere down the road. I put it out of my mind because I assumed they meant when I was an old lady. My cardiologist said, “It’s time we bit the bullet on this one.” How could he talk to an attractive, young woman with a perfectly attractive chest cavity with such matter-of-fact western cliché harshness? Like the realization that, at 20, my boobs were never going to grow and that the surgeon could play God and give me a Barbie figure, this news was even more surreal. He even had the audacity to joke with my husband and say they will have a bunch of medical students come in with big staple guns and close me up. The following week, the surgeon I met with said I had 3-5 years to live. So much ran through my head instantly - I didn’t want to leave my husband - I didn’t want to leave my young son, and I didn’t want anything to happen to the breasts I waited 25 year for. I at least asked what my chances were of dying in surgery before asking if my breasts are going to be cut into. He laughed and said, “No, we aren’t going to cut into your breasts, just saw through your sternum and pry each half of your rib cage apart so we can repair your heart valve.” He unfortunately added, “You will have a long scar from your sternum all the way down to 3 inches above your navel, as well as a few scars on your stomach where the chest tubes will be inserted.

I had 3 weeks to mentally prepare for scalpels again, these scalpels repairing me for life. During those 3 weeks I thought long and hard about the prospect of dying, abandoning my husband and son. I resigned to fight with my life and put my body through vigorous physical training to get it as strong as possible for surgery. During those 3 weeks I began a spiritual transformation, during those 3 weeks I never once thought about my body, my beauty, my breasts, or my future scar. I don’t know. I guess when your health is poor and your life is threatened you don’t give a shit about how you look. I think the advent of heart surgery was the first time in my life that I didn’t feel overwhelmed with insecurities about my appearances. Since the age of 13, there had never been a day I stopped thinking about either my disappointing flat chest or eventual admirable enhanced chest. Ironically it took something with immense importance on my insides to slap me out of a wasteful, silly obsession.

Obviously I survived surgery, minus the gory details. The scar is thick and long, marking my chest with a badge of survival. Once a tomboy-conscious obsessed woman always, which drove me to strengthen my upper body with weights too soon. For heaven’s sake, surgical tape was still on me. It served me right that my scar widened as a result of my need to regain control over the shape of my flesh. So much for spiritual transformation. For months I was really pissed off that of all the people in the world, my chest had to get picked on. More than anything I had grown attached to cleavage. Now my cleavage had this giant scar climbing out of it, waving at everyone. I thought of making jokes like ‘I was attacked by my lover with a hunting knife.’ I had too much respect for myself having gone through a tremendously scary and life-threatening surgery to make light of it. I waited so long to look like every other grown, fully developed woman. Now I had something even better. I had beautiful breasts, eye-catching cleavage, and a badge of courage right where everyone looks. Being a fearless, strong soul was where my pride had gone. I never attempt to cover myself up because I have no shame. When returning to work one of my bosses said, “My God, that scar is huge. My wife would die if she had a scar like that. She has a little tiny scar on her neck and so she always wears turtle-necks to hide it.” Wow, and I thought I was self-conscious. His comment told me a lot about his wife, about himself, about a lot of people, and about me. No, I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life hiding the evidence that I am an open-heart surgery survivor. I survived being kept alive on an artificial breathing machine, my sternum sawed in half, my ribs pried open, my mitral valve repaired, and my breath restored when my heart was jump-started with shock paddles. I survived probing tubes protruding from my neck, chest tubes that drained my mucus into a loud, gurgling machine, pacer wires weaved from my heart through my skin. I survived a distraught mentally confused elderly woman as a roommate who insisted I was her nurse, not permitting me to get even a minute’s sleep. And in the end I left that blessed hospital where they etched a divinely radiant badge of honor in the best place possible. My enhancement surgery is a trivial stage in my life. It made me feel better about myself as a female in society. Heart surgery made me feel better period. It saved my life. If I hadn’t been left with my treasured scar I would have been disappointed because I have evolved into a deeper, more genuine human being as a result. A few years later I returned to my plastic surgeon to have the silicone replaced with saline. He was appalled at the gruesome blemish on his work. He even called staff members in to gawk at my bare chest and take pictures. Call it poetic justice. Call it law of Karma. Call it God’s way of taking the upper hand. He always had. I’m alive! If the clock was turned back and I had a choice between living with a flat chest or not living at all – I’d take my old flat chest back. My heart surgeon gave me a real dose of reality when he said the twisty ties holding my sternum together will last in my casket the same as my skeleton and my implants!

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