[Squeamish men, be warned: contains graphic, but not porno-graphic girl-talk.]
“Turn to the left, “ he demanded in his quiet voice. I stood topless in front of his camera.
That well-worn adage of a Victorian mother to her virginal daughter on her wedding night whispered in my ear, “Just close your eyes and think of England,” as nervous laughter bubbled in my throat…
Sorry to disappoint you, but I haven’t started writing erotica. I’ll leave that to my friends who are good at it. This was not a Fifty Shades of Gray moment. Even as a lonely widow, there was nothing titillating or exciting about disrobing in front of a stranger, who was wearing a dignified navy suit, dress shirt, and tie, and having him poke, prod, and whip out a measuring tape to record the girth of my large, cystic, formerly-firm breasts with his soft, surgeon’s hands. [Ooooh! Maybe I could write erotica…]
“Do you have any questions for me?” He asked.
I trembled slightly and timidly answered, “Will they grow back?” I don’t know which was more disheartening, standing with my sagging breasts and flabby white abs in front of his camera or hearing his answer,
“No, they aren’t likely to grow back…not at your age.”
“Not at your age,” screamed the irritating shrew who lives in my head, “It’s official! You’re old! You’re freakin’ old!”
The very professional plastic surgeon explained anesthesia risks and incisions and drain tubes and pain management and the slight chance of side effects, such as skin blistering, and all the other post-op concerns of reduction mammoplasty, aka Breast Reduction, but my brain tuned out.
The shrew in my head chanted, “Your ship has sailed, honey!”
I found the plastic surgeon through my friend—let’s call her Becca. During a visit to Grand Cayman, Becca extolled her own recent mammoplasty to me, as we sat in a hot tub, sipping Prosecco. I had been toying with the idea for 10 years. A former dancer with excellent posture, I was becoming round-shouldered and was tired of the constant pain in my neck, shoulders, and spine and the humiliation of trying to shop for clothes that would fit my five-foot tall frame with the 34G bust. I sank back in the warm water.
“You know what? I’m going to do it. Who’s the surgeon?” In an instant, I decided. Maybe it was the wine or the starry sky, but, two weeks later, after checking his credentials, I was undressed in his office.
“What size would you like to be?” He asked. I hadn’t thought of that.
“Ummm…a C?” He tilted his head and squinted at my chest.
“Well, I can’t guarantee that they’ll be exactly a C, maybe a B+.”
“Well, how about you just make sure they’re in proportion to the rest of me?”
“You said what?!” My friend—I’ll call her Georgianne—gasped when we met for dinner that night. “You’re going to let some man decide what your breasts are going to look like?” Following a nasty divorce two decades ago, Georgianne has her revenge by living well. With her trendy jewelry and trim suits, I always feel tacky standing next to her.
“Well, I didn’t know what to say. It really doesn’t matter to me, as long as I can fit into my clothes and get rid of these backaches,” I replied. “And, besides, he has to take out enough tissue so it will be covered by my insurance.” Georgianne shuddered.
I set a date with the surgeon’s office, filled out a raft of forms, and completed my pre-op physical. I filled the prescriptions for Ambien and oxycodone, which I carefully shoved down in my purse when leaving the pharmacy. Aren’t those the kinds of drugs to which celebrities become addicted before they make big post-rehab comebacks on Oprah? I was more terrified of the drugs than of the surgery.
The Daughter, a registered nurse in the critical care unit of a major urban hospital, made sure I had a current Advanced Directive with a DNR order (i.e., do not resuscitate), in the event I should really be relieved of my pain through death-by-surgery. I knew I was good whatever came my way…I would either have fabulous new breasts, or I’d be having my first face-to-face with God. Both sounded doable.
Before dawn on the morning of surgery, fasted and starving, I showered with the prescribed antiseptic scrub, and the Daughter drove me to the hospital, where I completed another raft of forms. A nurse took me back to an exam area and handed me an ugly pair of gray, non-skid socks and a nifty surgical gown with unsnap-able shoulders, so easy to remove it must have escaped from a triple X-rated Adult Fashion store (wink, wink). As she snapped me up, she said,
“Oh, you’re so lucky! Everyone just loves this doctor. He did the same surgery on me.” I resisted the urge to examine his handiwork.
Another nurse popped in to take my vitals and gushed, “Oh, you’re so lucky! Everyone just loves this doctor. He performed the same surgery on both of my daughters.” I became concerned that I had been diverted to Stepford.
Then, the anesthetist came in to do her thing and smiled, “Oh, you’re so lucky! Everyone just loves this doctor…“ I waited to hear what he’d done for her, but we were interrupted by the arrival of the great man, himself.
The anesthetist scurried out, and the doctor closed a sliding glass door, pulled the curtain closed, and sat on a stool in front of me in his scrubs. I had to think for a minute if he was the same guy that I had seen for my consultation a month earlier. Without the navy suit, he looked much more chipper and much younger. He pulled out a 6-inch white plastic ruler, much like the one that the Veterinarian always carried in his scrub shirt pocket, and I giggled nervously (really, I’m not a giggler).
The surgeon used a purple surgical marker to draw a star at the base of my throat, and I became a living canvas. First, he drew a line with the ruler from the star through the center of my chest, followed by lines from the star to each of my nipples., and then big smiley faces under each breast and circles around the areolas, at which point my brain drifted to those visions of Victorian England. He sat back on the stool and considered his drawing.
“I’m like a carpenter—measure twice, cut once.” That’s exactly what he said. I kid you not. What kind of response can you make to that? I managed a smile.
He continued to look from breast to breast, my right to my left, tilting his head back and forth.
“You know,” he started, “this one on the right is bigger than the one on the left.”
I looked down. Well, no, I hadn’t noticed, but, then, I’m not a breast girl, myself.
“And it points in a different direction.” I nearly choked. No one had ever complained about it, not that anyone other than the Veterinarian, my gynecologist, or a mammography technician had ever seen it.
“I’m not sure I can fix that.” I didn’t know what to say. “And I won’t be able to suck out your armpit fat, because insurance doesn’t cover that.” Armpit fat? Who knew?
“Uh—“ I was at a loss for words, a rare occurrence. “Uh—well, that’s—uh—kind of—uh, my problem to deal with—I guess. I’ll—uh—have to work on that.”
He smiled indulgently at me, as if I was an imaginative and misguided child.
My brain threatened to flat line, as the nurse wheeled me into the OR, where the anesthetist waited with a cushion to put under my knees to relieve my sciatica. Again, I just blathered away, making jokes.
Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist wasn’t amused. He set up the IV and waited, then plopped the mask over my nose and said, “You need to breathe.” I took a couple of shallow breaths. “No,” he said gruffly. “You need to breathe deeper.” I looked at the surgeon, who smiled and took my hand in his.
“OK, OK. I’ll just close my eyes and go out gracefully.” I said a little prayer, took a deep breath, and was gone…
(to be continued)