Boob Swap: A Mother-Daughter Plastic Surgery Adventure
1. The Age of Boob Enlightenment
Having big boobs is humiliating. If you don’t believe me, you’ve probably never had them. Big boobs get in the way, they make your clothes fit weird and worst of all, they draw a lot of the wrong kind of attention for a young girl. Just because they’re there, people assume you put them out there on purpose as an invitation for commentary. Just try wearing a bathing suit in public and not getting stares. Worse yet, try running. (For fun, watch gravity meet boobs in this art video, but be warned, there’s nudity- duh).
Compared to the busty babes of the ’50s who would have, like in a bank robbery, taken the boobs and ran (literally), while I was growing up Heroin Chic was flaunting those sad, black and white haute junkies in my face and my rapidly growing boobs and I hated it. I did what I could to deal with the boobs. I wore two bras at all times. I wore a Condoleezza Rice-conservative bathing suit. I avoided construction sites. Then my mom came home one day and told me she was tired of her boobs that having kids had warped and wrangled. Well, I don’t think she said it like that- she said after every kid, they had shrunk and shifted a little lower. After kid four, she was down to low-hanging fruit. Ba dum bum.
2. Barbie and Me
By this point in my life, at age 21 I had chosen other ways to control my image. To my mother’s dismay, I had tattooed large portions of my body. In doing this, I felt I could reclaim some lost power. I felt stronger, more aggressive, and people stared because of how I had chosen to look. I wasn’t the inadequate, disrespected, slutty dumb girl the boobs turned me into. I was Xena, the Tattooed Princess. With my new-found self-confidence, I decided it was time to quit thinking of burning bras. It was time for cutting off the boobs.
So when my mom told me she was going in for a ‘lift and an implant’, I just had to come along. I said, “Fine, do what you want, but don’t give me any crap for what I do to my body anymore. And I want new boobs, too”, and we were off for our consultations. The irony was not lost on me, but mostly it spoke to the fact that we came from different generations. My mom grew up with icons like Cher and Suzanne Sommers and even drove a corvette like Barbie. She prescribed to a completely different set of gender values, including, “Women do not ask men out”, and boobs=good, whereas I believed the opposite.
3. It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye
People think it’s funny we had the same doctor. And the joke about how I should have given her my excess boob is pretty played out. She got her surgery first, a little before mine. I was supposed to help take care of her, especially since after a boob surgery, you can’t lift your arms for a few weeks. A ‘lift and implant’ consists of pretty much what it sounds like: lift ‘em up, stick some stuff in. Surprisingly, it was an outpatient procedure that our gray-haired, slightly lecherous plastic surgeon could do in his office. All I had to was swing by in the minivan, put her in the car and take her home. I will never forget what I saw when I got there.
The nurses cooed softly, telling me, “Your mom was so brave,” and handed me all the prescriptions with stern directions on how to take care of her. Slowly they wheeled her around as I hopped out of the car in the loading zone, ready to pop her in the back. As they leaned over to gingerly help her up, I burst out laughing. She was drugged out of her mind, barely coherent, with a blanket over her lap and an eye patch on her face. What the hell happened in there? She went in for a fairly routine suburban vanity procedure and came out looking like an old pirate. It was too much. I felt bad, laughing as the nurses scowled at me. They explained that she was so sedated that she scratched at her face when she woke up and hurt her eye. They also explained that I would basically have to carry my six-foot-tall mother’s body up the stairs as she would not really be able to walk. Now they tell me, I thought.
I managed to get her up the stairs and into the bathroom, but I will spare you the rest. I thought, This is what it will be like when she’s really old. The whole thing seriously frightened me. Putting her in the bed, spooning soup up to her mouth and dabbing her chin, telling her when she could have another vicodin… my future of older-daughter-taking-care-of-mom was flashing before my eyes. The rest of her story is pretty unremarkable*, but all of a sudden I knew what I was in for, both in the distant future and also with my own surgery.
*Though, sadly, my mom’s boobs broke during a routine mammogram, which the hospital doesn’t cover, and she never got new ones.
When I went in for my breast reduction consultation, my plastic surgeon made me take off my shirt and informed me of his medical opinion of my condition. My breasts, he said, were “huge”. He told me, “We should have no problem getting the insurance company to pay for the operation.” Great. His nurses came in and took headless photos of me, making sure to play up my sloping shoulders and terrible posture. What a fascinating job someone at the insurance company must have, approving or denying surgical proposals like mine.
We then had a concerned rap session on what I was getting myself into. Most people who get breast reductions, it turns out, are fat ladies and old women. This was a big decision. Sometimes on a big lady when you take off only a portion of the excess, he explained, there can be weird gaps, or fat-back flaps, where once your boobs sort of smoothed everything into big curves. There were pictures, and it was fascinating. Luckily, I was not in danger of fat-back, or the other things I saw in those photos, like a half-missing tattoo, or scary instances of skin falling off of the smoker patients. Lastly, we discussed the ‘ideal breast’. He drew me a scientific picture of a line with a perfect cone placed jauntily above it, like the one below. Then he drew a line with a droopus magoopus, sad ‘U’ shape that hung past the line, like so. The former, he explained, was a perfect breast. The latter, you guessed it, was mine. The objective was to have a boob that defied gravity by its own volition, but mine were “waaaaay below the line”. We decided to go for the all popular cone-shaped C cup, which would keep my ass from looking like an out-of-place pear-shaped balloon.
After I was approved for a free surgery, all I had to do was come back the day before for the operation and have the surgical marks put on. I’m sure you are wondering- no, they don’t cut off your nipples. They cut around them, in a sort of anchor pattern, open the boobs up and scoop the fat out. The opposite of my mom’s surgery, basically. My friend once saw this operation on some surgery channel and it scared her so badly she had nightmares. I chose not to look it up.
The surgical marks, amazingly, are hand-drawn dotted lines that the plastic surgeon makes with a marker where he is planning to cut you. It’s incredibly weird, and also kind of remedial. I got back in the car as it started to snow, ready to go ahead with everything, with sharpie drawings on my boobs under my clothes. As I drove up the hill to the house, I noticed that the snow had gotten pretty heavy and all of a sudden I was fighting to keep my car on the road. The next thing I knew, I was desperately trying to dig my tires out of a snowdrift-covered ditch. When I finally made it home, and got ready to put my pajamas on, I realized that the whole time I had been sweatily shoveling snow outside, I had been erasing my surgery lines. It was just a black fuzzy mess. No! I was so excited to have the operation- it represented a new, improved me and I simply couldn’t reschedule my transformation. So I got out a sharpie and started frantically redrawing the lines in the mirror. I looked at my reflection and noticed I was doing a pretty bad job. The exact lines my surgeon would follow were now some child-like backwards jaggedy scribble. I nervously laughed, bit my lip and set my alarm for the next day, anyway.
When I got there, he was confident my chicken scratch surgery guidelines weren’t a big deal. I breathed a sigh of relief. Unlike my mom’s outpatient surgery, this was a five-hour intense operation in the hospital, and I would have to stay there for a few days. The anesthesiologist showed up and I counted backwards. I woke up on a gurney with my catheter being pulled out on my way out of the operation room. Every hour while in my hospital bed, a nurse would come to check and make sure my nipples hadn’t turned blue. Other than that, it seemed pretty great, but I was definitely blitzed out of my mind on pills.
5. Free Bird
My mom picked me up and took care of me, naturally. Once I had worn the mummy bandages and drainage tubes, (yes, gross), for two weeks, I got to take out my small, perky, Frankenstein-stitched and greenish bruised boobs and slip them into a triangle-shaped little girl bra. It was the best thing I have ever experienced, like holding a soft kitten under a rainbow.
I wish that I was a better feminist. I wish big boobs were something I had been able to righteously declare as something that made me, me, and commenters be damned. I also wish we were like birds, and that the males were the ones with the plumage who strutted around attracting mates with their unpractical accessories. I can’t change the way we are as a sexist society or how men treat women or how women treat women, and I don’t have the energy to try. I just want to wear a tank top in public.