I was supposed to get tattoos. You know, the final, rosy-pink cherries on top of my mastectomy cake.
It’s just what breast-cancer people do, after all. There’s a Kubler-Rossian script for breast cancer that we’re supposed to follow: Diagnosis, crying and screaming, treatment, lower-lip-trembling strength and positivity, healing, shitting up our wardrobes with pink stuff, barfing out platitudes about “awareness,” and finally, getting nipple tattoos.
I was supposed to get mine last year. I even had a consultation with a tattoo artist who upon meeting me, looked deeply into my eyes and declared there was something decidedly “witchy” about me. (She meant it as a compliment — I took it as one). I scheduled the damn things, then had to cancel for some reason or another, rescheduled and cancelled twice more, then just haven’t rescheduled. In the meantime, she got kind of famous outside of tattoo circles (she was already famous inside) because she was on “CBS Sunday Morning” and her appointments became hard to come by. And since then I haven’t really thought seriously about it.
Some people are doing amazing creative work instead of boilerplate fake nipples. There are some gorgeous, gorgeous non-nipple tattoos designed to cover all the scars that a mastectomy leaves behind. I have looked at allllll of them, and my reaction to most of them is just “meh.” (Maybe it’s because I’ve always been “meh” about tattoos in the first place — I can appreciate beautiful tattoos on other folks, but they’re just not for me.)
Here’s my secret: My scars don’t bother me. I don’t get upset when I look at them. I don’t think I’m less attractive because of them. I don’t feel like less of a woman because of them. The hip-to-hip grin of my abdominal surgery is fading from purple to pink. I’ll kind of miss it when it disappears. The vertical scars on the undersides of my breasts are practically invisible now. And my un-pigmented, reconstructed nipples look kind of like Peter Griffin’s eyes. So what? Maybe it’s because I’ve always been kind of a don’t-look-back, get-on-with-living person. I just don’t have that burning need to “finish” my breasts. They look pretty done, and just fine, to me.
Besides, I kind of like my scars. I find myself admiring them when I get dressed in the morning, even the left one that had to be stitched back together in the ER after a car accident burst it open like an overripe piece of fruit. That one looks a little hinky and Frankenstein-y (my hyper-perfectionist plastic surgeon looked so bummed when he saw it). But my artfully-reconstructed breasts don’t look incomplete without the nipple tattoos.
If you want to be honest about it, I think my scars look pretty bad-ass, like I survived a life-or-death battle. Oh wait, I DID EXACTLY THAT. Do you watch “Game of Thrones?” Well, I’m fucking Jon Snow after the Battle of Winterfell, crawling out of a mountain of death, dirty and bloody and beating Ramsay Bolton half to death with a Mormont shield. It isn’t a pretty victory, but it is mine. Some days, I wish I could walk around naked, pointing out my scars as evidence that everyone has something going on underneath their world-facing costume.
So, no, I don’t think I’ll be getting those pretty pink rosettes of closure. Simply because I would prefer not to.