Life Lesson: Circling the Beauty

Boudoir Beauty

roxx mastectomy scar tattoo

A friend of mine had boudoir pictures done. She’d had a difficult few years, including a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. It took every ounce of (emotional) strength to agree to the photo shoot, wanting it as a surprise to her several-decade-long partner. When the proofs came, she was shyly pleased at how she looked. Most were fairly modest, but others did show her precious scars that saved her life.

Timidly, she showed her husband.

His response was: Nice lighting.

Broken-hearted and filled with unnecessary shame, she came into our secret group and shared a couple of the more modest photos asking if they were that bad that he didn’t even comment on what she looked like.

My friend’s pictures are stunning. When I opened the first one, I had shivers from the beauty of seeing this woman, literally, laying bare the fears she’s harbored for so, so long. (As many of us in this society do.) Of course we all held her close and loved on her, and told her what a doofus he was for not “seeing” her, but all of our approval was a drop compared to what she’d needed from him.

I’ve thought of this for several days now, asking the couple of guys in my life why a husband would do that? Why he couldn’t even muster a “You’re beautiful,” even if was fake. My male friends said about the same thing: Men suck.

Ye Olde Body Image

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We women struggle with our body images, many of us since childhood.

I remember when I first began having sex, I never wanted to get on top because my breasts drooped off my chest, not remaining in pretty round orbs like the girls in Playboy. Then after having one giant baby after another, I didn’t want to get on top because my entire mid-section sagged down with gravity. Suddenly, my breasts were the least of the flopping about.

Just sitting here writing this, I remember the shame acutely. I have tears dripping from the corner of my eyes because I find myself so repulsively ugly. I feign not being embarrassed at all these doctor appointments, but the reality is I cringe every time someone needs to touch my body.

Sexy Shame

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When I go to Sex Parties, there is no shame from anyone. Bodies are bodies are bodies. Most of us there are old enough to know life before Internet porn, so, I believe, have a more realistic view of growing-older bodies and sex. Besides under the covers, the only place I am free to be naked is with my kinky and swinging friends. (Even still, I am always nervous about taking my clothes off at the beginning of the evening. NO ONE EVEN CARES! Yet, I still do.)

Our Bodies Turning On Us

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Fat, folds, scars, sags, creases, hair where we don’t want it, no hair where we do want it, adult acne (what the fuck are we doing still getting acne in our 60’s?!), leaking when we sneeze, farting at inopportune times… belching, using your inhaler before having sex, having not one, but two pillboxes to fill every week… having to eat by the clock so your blood glucose doesn’t go too high, or goddess forbid, too low! (One of the not-so-funny funny things is you have to shoot insulin into a roll of fat. Every. Single. Time I have to give myself a shot, I roll my eyes at the luck of so many gooshie sites to choose from.)

And let’s not even begin in the genital area.

“Rejuvenation”

People with means might be thinking, “Not me!” and so many begin having plastic/reconstructive surgeries as early as 16. That girls under 20 are asking for labiaplasty because they think their vulvas are ugly makes my heart hurt. Can an entire generation of women feel even more body shame than I have about mine? It seems so.

It’s sad to me that so many girls and women… and men! think our bodies should be porn-perfect or fantasy-ready.

I have no easy answers.

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Fat Girl Stories: The Fucking Pap

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Warning: Lots of fucks to come.

NOTE: I am a retired midwife. That alone makes many, many people nod and say, “I can see what’s coming now,” because care providers are the worst patients ever. I lived up to that expectation. In spades.

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I had to have my Pap yesterday morning. It took until this morning for me to be able to relive the experience for a post.

It Unfolds This Way

I am ushered behind The Door by the Nurse-Practitioner’s assistant (LPN? I don’t know) and right there is the fucking scale. Knowing my weight, I told the girl and she said I had to get on the scale, she cannot take my word for it. I looked at her and said, “I am not getting on the scale.” She says, pretty snotty-like, “Patient refuses weight” and jots it on my chart.

I rolled my eyes.

She takes me into the exam room and there, laying out is the baby-sized paper top and a teeny sheet to cover yourself with. I wore a shift with no undies, no bra, expecting to just lift everything up. Easy peasy. I also spied the plastic speculum in the wrapping: medium.

The assistant took my blood pressure (incorrectly) on my forearm and I had to show her where to put the bladder tubing over my artery on my lower arm. She wasn’t happy I changed her rhythm. Tough shit.

Went over meds, any current problems, past STDs (HSV & HPV) how many sexual partners this year. I laughed. How many in a lifetime? I said hundreds. She turned and said, “Are you serious?” (which I thought was rude as fuck); I said I was. I imagine she then typed into the computer: DO HIV TEST.

When she was done with the computer question & answer part of the fun, she proceeded to tell me to take off my bra and underwear and put the teeny covering over my top, opening in the front for breast exam and to cover myself with the miniscule paper drape. Even the Chux on the table was infant-sized. Then she left.

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Decisions Decisions

The table was lower than the one above, so I sat on it… on the Chux and drape, with zero intention of taking my stretchy dress off.

Then my mind started going:

She (the wonderful Nurse-Practitioner) isn’t going to be able to see your cervix with that medium spec. You need a large at least, if not x-tra large. I already know my walls fall inward ( a common multip and/or fat issue, of which I have both). What if I need the specialized ones where the spec has the blades on the side, too? What if I need to go see a GYN? Are they going to fat-shame me because I need a special speculum? I hate Hate HATE putting my legs in the stirrups. (I can feel the tears welling in my eyes just writing this out.) What if she tries with the medium and cannot see my cervix? Then I will have to see someone else and do this all over again. Maybe I will just skip it altogether and just talk about my Dexa Scan and the Hematologist I need to see for my chronic anemia.

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Where did all this anxiety come from?! Fuck, I have had at least 30 or 40 pelvic exams before, including student midwives so they could learn what a fat body feels like. This was so different, though.

Maybe I will just skip it altogether.

The Visit Begins

In came the NP and the assistant who was already gloved (a no-no). I didn’t say anything because I was too anxious about my body.

I love this NP. We share an obsession with Disney stuff and talk about it all the time when I see her. I told her how good it was to see her and I relaxed a little.

She had the HIV test in her hand (we used to do the oral ones when I was a midwife, too) and I said, “I guess you want to do the HIV test now?” and opened my mouth. She did the swabby thing over my cheeks and gums and then put it in the solution for the 20-min wait.

I shared my latest labs. My HgbA1c was down from 7.7 to 7.2 in 3 months. Yay! She was going to give me a referral to the Hematologist because my anemia had now turned chronic (Hgb of 9.9-10.1 over 9 months) and to the Endo again for the osteoporosis I now have (both the anemia and the osteoporosis from the Gastric Bypass in 2001) to get shots.

I then point to the speculum on the side table and tell her it ain’t gonna fit, do they have a large one? Ayup. They do. The assistant chick got it out from under the cupboard.

I say I do not want a bimanual exam because she won’t feel anything anyway and they always hurt because the provider tries so hard to find my tubes and ovaries and my liver already hurts. She said no problem. Just the Pap. (The fucking Pap.)

She asked if I had had my mammogram this year. Nope. Do you want a breast exam? Nope. Just the mammogram; I examine my own breasts, thanks. She said, “No problem.

The Fucking Pap

Then it was time when I had to lay back and put my feet in the stirrups. I whined about how fucking flimsy they were and she said she thought they were better than the leg supports and I said that, for fat people, the leg supports are far superior because it is difficult to keep our legs under control in the lithotomy position.

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Add about 200 pounds on her.

She put her gloves on then began touching my labia and I felt the fucking speculum. I know they aren’t supposed to hurt and for fuck’s sake I have done 100s of spec exams on women myself so know how it goes for many… it isn’t comfortable. Or pleasant. For me, they fucking hurt.

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Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow until she was in and swerved the spec around upright, then the pain stopped. Opening it was fine. She said, “I see your cervix right there!” I was so happy I could have screamed. When she took the specimen, it didn’t hurt. Coming out was fine. That going in… sheesh. Sex sure doesn’t hurt like that. (Lube, lube and more lube, that is why. No lube is used on the specs lest they contaminate the specimen.)

And she was done. I wanted to cry with relief because she found my cervix so easily, didn’t have to take it out and retry again and again or send me to someone else. Goddess forbid something be wrong and I need to have dozens of them. Ugh.

(And in case you are wondering, yes I am a Survivor of Sexual Abuse & Rape and am sure that has an enormous hand in my discomfort issues.)

And my HIV test was negative. Yay! Good for 6 more months.

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C=Control= Negative

Fuck am I glad that fucking thing is over with for a year.