Wednesday, March 27, 2013

boob bomber

I woke up at four a.m. this morning to fly to Houston. In the shower, I realized that the metal ports in my temporary boob implants* would create all sorts of good times at LAX.

“Fuck,” I said out loud to the soap.

I know that airports are prepared for this kind of things. There are probably all sorts of ADA guidelines in place to minimize my humiliation. But fuck. As I packed my antidepressants and a bag of Lifesavers, I practiced explaining in the simplest way possible.

“I’m between reconstructive surgeries for breast cancer, and the temporary implants I have have a metal component.”

The good part was that it avoided using the word “breast” except in association with “cancer,” which pretty much de-sex-ifies the word. I could say “breast cancer” to a TSA person, but I would rather not say “breast implant.”** I didn’t like the double “have.” It slowed things down.

I also thought that anything short of a body cavity search couldn’t be worse than an average day at the doctor’s office.

Robot chicken breasts.
When I got to the airport, I took a deep breath before walking up to the security labyrinth. I figured the first-stop TSA lady didn’t need the full explanation. I’d save that for the higher-ups.

“Um, I have a medical device that I think will set off the metal detectors. Is there—”

Except instead of “metal detector,” I said, “medical detector.” There was a time when I wondered if those things could see breast cancer, and TSA would know something about my body that I didn’t. The woman unhooked a non-velvet rope and waved me through without saying a word.

I walked past the glacially moving line of regular people and took my place behind flight crew folks and rich people. Sicky VIP status! I’m always suspicious of it—being treated too well always makes me feel like I’m dying, and a short line, or a waiting room with a fountain in it or something, is my crappy consolation prize.

To the next TSA guy I reached, I said, “Um, I have a medical device that I think will set off the medical detectors. The metal detectors.”

“What is it?”

“I’m between reconstructive surgeries for breast cancer, and the temporary implants I have, there’s like a metal component.”

He thought about it. “I think it should be fine. People with pacemakers go through. It was the old machines that were the problem. These radio-wave machines—”

“I’m not worried about me, I just don’t want you guys to think I’m, like, carrying something.”

I did not want to be mistaken for the world’s first boob bomber. Also, did he think I was worried the scanner would make little lightning bolts come down and zap my implants or something? What exactly would it mean for a breast implant to stop working? Unlike a pacemaker, all it has to do to mimic an actual breast is sit there.

So I went through the scanner. It beeped. The woman with the wand beckoned.

“I have—” I began.

“It’s just your zippers.” She waved her wand over my jeans. “You’re fine.”

Only $5 on Etsy! Cheaper than an LAX latte!
Now I’m at the Phoenix Airport, where I have a two-hour stopover. Where apparently they don’t sell sandwiches without ham in them, let alone anything vegan-esque. I should be reading The Hunger Games for the YA lit class I’ll be teaching soon, but instead I’m reading Myriam Gurba’s new chapbook, “A White Girl Named Shaquanda: A Chomo Allegory and Trewish Story,” which is GREAT.

Her language is so sharp and funny and fearless, and it makes me want to sit down and write. Her askew worldview reminds me a little of Andrea Seigel’s, except Andrea Seigel has multi-book publishing deals and a movie deal, and it may not be a coincidence that Andrea Seigel is white and straight and talks less about bodily functions.

Anyway, here’s a taste of “Shaquanda,” from the part where the narrator is reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time:

“It was a little slow. Anne Frank slept in an attic. She was thankful to eat dinner, though it wasn’t very good. Going to the bathroom was awkward. How was this any different from going to my grandmother’s house? There was even a Nazi there. Her second husband was German. She was into white guys.”

*Yes, I have metal cyborg tits. Actually, imagine a pool toy, but instead of blowing it up with that little rubber tube, you have a metal disc the size of a quarter, which they find with a stud finder like my dad used to use when hammering things into the wall. My plastic surgeon’s PA sticks a needle in it and shoots me up with a comically large syringe of water to make the muscle tissue stretch to the size I want. That size is not that big, so that sentence should actually have been in the past tense. My inflatable fake boobs have inflated all they’re going to. It all looks pretty normal from the outside (except for the no-nipples thing), but if you hug me hard enough, you might hurt yourself. This is probably a metaphor. 

**Because I believe that finding language for a thing is one of the best ways to own it, I have decided that I no longer have breasts—which are physiological, baby-feeding organs, or a part of a chicken—but I still have boobs, which are lady humps you dress in hourglass-shaped clothes.


Sizzle said...

"Boob Bomber" should definitely be on a shirt.

Myriam Gurba said...


Cheryl said...

S: I will wear that shirt to the airport with one of those bags that looks like an x-ray of guns and dynamite sticks and stuff.

MG: Thanks for writing it!

Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesi said...

Just ordered A White Girl Named Shaquanda and am looking forward to reading it. thanks for sharing.

my sis just scheduled her surgery. she's getting this done: nipple/skin sparing mastectomy and the hip/gap flap to reconstruct her breasts. here's a link: she's going to New Orleans to do it. I can't even imagine. you and her are in my thoughts.

again thanks for sharing!

Cheryl said...

Re: Shaquanda: awesome!

I'm glad your sis is moving ahead with her surgery. Why did I think she'd already had it a while back? Or is this your other sister, doing a preventative mastectomy?

While we're getting technical: I'll be doing a LAT flap surgery. Same idea, but with back muscle instead of hip. Nipples already not spared, alas, but they really weren't that great to start with, honestly. The nice thing about being in L.A. is that there are lots of plastic surgeons locally!

Good luck to your sister, and let me know how it all goes!