So Much for Passing

There is no passing when you’re naked. That’s what I learned on my summer vacation when Mary and I went to Orr Hot Springs, near Ukiah, California. For more than ten years the hot springs has been one of our favorite retreats. Some of our first canoodling was in a tub at those Springs and we make a point of stopping for a night or two anytime we are north of San Francisco.

I love the remoteness of the Springs, tucked away in a fold of hills between Ukiah and Mendocino. I love the smell of sulfur and hot brakes that greets you when you throw open the car door at the front gate. (The car’s brakes smoking from a descent ripe with hairpin turns and bedazzling views.) Most of all, I am intrigued by the hippie-dippy folks it attracts. Women with lazy smiles and wavy, Rapunzel hair who swim like mermaids. Men with bodies wallpapered in tattoos who convey no other vocation than simply drinking in the goodness of life.

Thirteen years ago, during a yoga retreat at the Springs, I got naked in public for the first time—no small feat for a Catholic girl from Kentucky—but I’m afraid this trip may have been my last. My first post-mastectomy foray into buck-nakedness made me acutely aware of how much smack I’ve been talking about passing. Mea culpa. Unlike people who’s scars are highly visible, I am lucky to have the option of passing  as a flat-chested woman. Strutting my naked, breast-be-gone stuff was tough. Much tougher than I expected.

From the moment I slipped into my first soak, the feeling of loss was akin to taking a bowling ball to the gut. Not a loss of my breasts, per se, but the loss of comfort in being my bare-naked self. I felt ugly and scarred. I felt alone. I wanted to hide behind my towel, Mary, a fig leaf…anything I could get my hands on. Yes, I know my scars are still fresh—figuratively and literally. And, sure, showing up naked after such an ordeal is “brave.” Whatever. None of that seems to matter. What matters is that, for the first time in my life, I wanted nothing more than to take cover, and that felt shitty.

3 Responses

  1. Jane says:

    sending you an e-hug

  2. Kayleigh says:

    I think more than anything else your honesty, your openess is what’s brave. You made the choice you did for your own reasons and it was a good one for you. You want women in your position to be given that choice too and have been forthright enough to blog about it. I admire you for both.

    But perhaps most of all I admire you for this post. No choice when it comes to breast cancer is regret-free, is 100% good. They are all crappy options. Yeah, we’re lucky to have more of them, I suppose, but I’d rather have the option of not getting cancer and knowing….really KNOWING how to do THAT.

    Your feelings here are so raw, so open, I can’t begin to tell you how much I respect you for sharing them.

    Incidentally, I’m about 10 days out from my mast.w/immed recon…so this hit home for me on many levels.

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