Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, A Hundred Years.

I went to a reading tonight, the first since I left Fairbanks.

It was only slightly awkward. Before, I knew everyone; they were my classmates and professors. Here, though, I knew the poet reading and, well, ok, a few other people.

It was at the Orr Street Gallery. If you guys haven't been there, go now. Anyway, right behind where the people read was this photo. From far away, you might mistake it for a mountain or mountains, some striated landscape, weathered.

Up close, I realized it was breasts. Very old, sagging breasts. Breasts that were resting on a stomach, tanned and wrinkled. Misshapen and elongated. A drop of ice cream melting down the side of your cone.

I couldn't stop staring at that photo. The photo itself was nicely done, just a torso shot, 3/4 view. Something like that. The woman's inner arm was also in the picture, her left arm, the skin folding and falling just as her breast. It created these great lines, vertical, reaching on and on.

For two hours I looked at the picture (biting my lip trying not to cry during poems, trying to look interested when the novelist read) wondering what I found so magical about it.

It was me. It was Mindy.

I've never been one to go on and on about women or their life-giving bodies. I mean, I have an ex-girlfriend who constantly said how beautiful vaginas were. Listen, I'm not that type of girl. For one, I probably would've used the word vulva, for two, there's no way in hell I would call a vulva beautiful. And I've never once called myself a goddess.

But these breasts were beautiful and haunting. Because, of course, I've got them on the brain right now. Mindy's are growing to feed a baby. Mine are being squeezed to see if there's evil inside me.

This photo was everything, though. I kept looking and thinking, one day I will be old. So will Mindy. In fact, she'll always be older. One day, her breasts will fall to reach her stomach (and I hope we both live to that day). One day, I will make love to an old woman.

And one day after that, I will never make love again.

Death has always been the thing to scare me, not aging. Not until tonight, I guess.

Already at 29 I've noticed my body changing. So far, it hasn't been too bad. I gained an extra ten pounds in my ass and boobs. I finally look like I eat enough. I can fill out a bra on most days. My thighs are ripe and round. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a woman's body. Like I might be sexy and not just cute and awkward. I think I'm just a little past a peak.

I think I'll have more, though. I've always had a thing for older women, but now I'm not sure what that means. An older woman used to be in her 30s. My wife is 35 and of course, I don't consider her an older woman. I don't really know what I'm trying to say.

So here were these breasts, fallen and deflated. But I wanted them. I mean, I want to earn those. At one time, those breasts were firm and round and high. They were cupped and kissed and teased. I wondered at how one would cup them now. How might one touch them? If she were lying on her back, they would spread and fall lightly, easily to either side.

One day that will be me. Or one day mine will be gone, loped off and tossed away, two blinking scars where they once belonged.

And one day I will face Mindy's.
I hope that when I get there, when I see the years on her body, that I know just what to do. That I can still kiss her and say, "You are beautiful."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

If I Die, Know it's the Conservative Right's Fault

Maybe you all are sick of hearing me bitch about things, maybe you love when I just spill my guts and give you too much information about myself. Whatever your reason for reading, I give you this:

You've heard me yell about not being able to get a mammogram. If you're a woman under the age of 40, and especially if you don't have insurance, you have to extend sexual favors to get a doctor and then get that doctor to recommend you for a mammogram.

Once again, I was told when I was 19 that I should start when I was 27 because my birth mom had cancer in her early 30s.

Last week, I called the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center to try to get a mammogram. Everything was going smoothly until the woman asked my date of birth. "Oh," she said, "Your doctor will need to recommend you." I told her that I didn't have a doctor. "Well, you need a doctor to recommend you." Frustrated, I hung up the phone.

Then I called to find a doctor. I called the place where Mindy goes. I figured it would be good if we had the same doctor, since most families see the same doctor, usually.

The receptionist asked what was wrong with me, why I needed to see a doctor. I explained my history, that I needed a mammogram. "And what insurance provider?" she asked. I told her, like I'd told the cancer center, that I really didn't know. I just have catastrophic insurance. We made an appointment for a Thursday, the only day I'm off work. She was friendly. As she hung up she said, "Make sure to bring your insurance card."

On that Thursday, I went in. When I got to the desk to say I was there I was told that my appointment was yesterday. On Wednesday. She didn't apologize for the mistake, but she rescheduled me.

In the meantime, I received a mean letter in the mail telling me I'd missed my appointment and that if it continued to happen, they might decide to not every see me. Ever.

So, you can imagine how pissed I was. I understand that you need a doctor to tell you the results of things, but I don't understand why,with my history, I just can't pretend that I'm 40. Like, a woman who's 40 can make her own appointment...with or without a doctor, but I can't. I mean, how many women are just dying to get their boobs smooshed anyway?

I went back to the doctor. She made me take my shirt off, she played with my boobs for two seconds, and then said I could go have a mammogram, to set up my baseline.

That cost me $140, which I was told is half off because I'm paying for it myself.

I had a mammogram last Thursday. Yes, it hurts, but it's not as traumatic as the gynecologist. The woman who did it was cool enough to let me see the pictures (since they're digital). I'm no boob doctor, but they looked young...lots of white, dense-like picture stuff. The squeezing, though, wasn't too bad. They squeeze and squeeze, and just when you think it's ready, the woman cranks down on another knob, like fine tuning the squeeze. It's right then that you think your nipple could pop off. I tried to look at my flat boob, but the woman yelled at me to keep my head still. They were really flat, you guys.

And this is where I say something about how men must still be in charge of these types of things. Women's health, I mean. First, we'll stick some cold metal in their vagina and scrape around. Then, we'll squeeze those fun bags til their chests turn red. Yes, ma'am, this is the only way.

* * *

Yesterday I got a call from Ellis Fishcel. It was April (who sounded like she had a cold) asking me to call her at my earliest convenience. I imagined she could leave a message if the news was, like, "hey, boobs are looking good. see you next year." But, again, she asked me to call her.

When I called, she answered, sniffling, sounding tired. "This is Christina. You asked me to call." She said, "hold on." For what felt like minutes, she shuffled papers and dropped things over the phone, "just getting your paperwork," she had said. My heart was racing and falling into my stomach. If she had to look at my paperwork, that wasn't good.

Once she found my stuff, she told me that I needed to come back. That the doctors had two "areas of interest" that they wanted to do a "spot compression," that they'd read those there and then do an ultrasound. All I heard, besides ringing in my ears, was a cartoon cash register. ca-ching! ca-ching! ca-ching!

I'm going back next Thursday.

Oh, I know, you feel the need to comfort me, "Christina, it's probably nothing...just some sort of cyst/bump/abnormality/thin
g." Whatever it is, I don't care. I don't want it there. And I'm not telling you guys so you'll feel sorry for me. I don't need to hear words of comfort. I mean, you're all right; it's probably nothing. Whatever that means.

I'm telling you because I want to change your minds about about a couple of things: gay marriage and healthcare.

If Mindy and I were legally married, I could have her insurance. ( let me just remind you that any man could marry mindy today and be covered tomorrow. any man and no one would question or care) If I had her insurance, I wouldn't be so worried about paying for all of this stuff. There's a baby on the way, too.

If there were a public option, I might be able to afford something more comprehensive than catastrophic coverage.

I'm very fortunate, though. I'm white. I have a job. A support system of friends and family. My parents would no doubt help me pay for whatever all this might cost. This isn't true for most people without health insurance. And if I tried to get real insurance now, I probably would have a hard time since I have a pre-existing condition.

For the record, I'd cut them off. If "they" say whatever is in there is bad, just cut them off, just cut it out. But, of course, that would cost more, than, you know, just sticking a needle in there and poking around.

In case you're wondering, it's the left one. It already feels heavier. It's uglier. It's swarming with evil.

But it's not catastrophic.

About Me

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Writer, teacher, and archaeologist. Contributing essayist in the anthology "Crooked Letter I: Coming Out In the South" from NewSouth Books.