After I advised her the story for the primary time, I stood in a heat bathtub as steam rose round me. My voice echoed in opposition to the tiled partitions. It felt like a form of christening, my phrases naming one thing that had not absolutely existed earlier than I spoke it and that naming had lastly made mine.
It was a weird sensation, to have a look at my breasts for the final time. There can be a few of the similar tissue, sure, and a brand new nipple lower from the outdated one, however the breasts I had spent so a few years wishing completely different, their explicit weight, can be gone perpetually. Within the surgical theater, the physique is sacred solely to its inhabitant. It did sneak up on me, the unusual feeling of sacredness, as my surgeon squeezed and measured and scrawled on my breasts with a marker on the morning of my surgical procedure.
After I had my earlobes sewn up at 32, I didn’t really feel a factor — not bodily or emotionally — till I stood up afterward and appeared down on the steel tray of instruments beside my surgical mattress, the place the little grey lumps of my earlobes nonetheless lay, like two chewed items of gum. “Oops,” the surgical assistant stated. “I’m not presupposed to allow you to see these.” She folded them in inexperienced paper that lined the tray, which she then crumpled and threw within the metal waste bin. It tugged one thing in me, possibly my physique’s fundamental intuition to maintain itself intact. I abruptly wished I had requested to maintain them. On the morning of my breast surgical procedure, I used to be glad I wouldn’t need to see my discarded elements thrown within the trash.
I used to be additionally glad for the candy nurses, with their impeccably made-up faces and lilting voices. I used to be used to being in majority-female areas, however these had been usually filled with feminists, queers and trans and nonbinary folks. The surgeon’s workplace was unabashedly female and steeped within the cozy assumption that everybody who entered was on the identical web page about magnificence — tips on how to outline it and positive that they needed it. Each time I stepped off the elevator, I felt like an intruder. If they’d glimpsed my bushy legs, I might have felt responsible, uncovered as a feminist Judas in deep cowl.
I discovered it an oddly comforting area. The implicit consensus precluded any stress within the ambiance, and I discovered that I had no want to problem the physician when he stated issues like, “They’re going to be a lot perkier and younger,” or when one of many nurses squeezed my spouse’s shoulder and promised her, “You’re going to like them!”
Which is all to say that the tradition of cosmetic-surgery workplaces, and maybe the trade as a complete, aligns with the second-wave feminists’ take: an endorsement not solely of patriarchal magnificence requirements, however of patriarchal social construction. I perceive the temptation to increase this evaluation to the sufferers who elect to take part within the trade. However whereas penning this essay, I spoke to a lot of self-proclaimed feminists who felt no loss or remorse about their surgical procedures — from thigh lifts to tummy tucks to vaginoplasty. Over all, the prevailing emotion was considered one of triumph and pleasure. It appears clear to me now that any feminist place on beauty surgical procedure that doesn’t take ladies’s relationships to their very own our bodies into consideration really objectifies them.
I’d hated my physique for years, felt each obscured and uncovered by it, and subjected it to many acts that others needed no matter my needs. These cumulative burdens had consumed an inestimable period of time and vitality. Largely, they’d outlined my relationship to myself. All of the years of remedy and restoration and writing and studying and conversations with pals had modified that. I not hated my physique. My expertise on this planet not felt so outlined by my corporeal kind. To bodily change my physique felt like an necessary solution to concretize that work. It was not, as some would possibly assume, a substitution for psychological change however reasonably a bodily consummation of 1 that had already taken place: a ritual commemorating my reclamation of my physique, as soon as and for all. I didn’t need it to be a refined course of.