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Stumped

March 20, 2008

Joe Newton

My wife beat breast cancer five years ago. Brave, lovely, and lucky woman. But after the procedures, she said she was proud of her post-op look and the zigzag scar across her chest. No new boobs for her. Moi? I don't like going to bed with Peter Pan. We talked about this and she wants to stay scarred and boobless. I respect her wishes. It's her body... so no plastic surgery. But I get weirded out instead of excited every time I see her nude. Our love life has gone the way of her boobs and I feel as guilty as hell because I can't get over this.

I Miss Her Boobs

I'm thinking the wife misses her boobs too, IMHB, but she's concluded that implants and reconstructive surgery aren't going to bring 'em back, only a potentially uncomfortable, thoroughly inadequate approximation of her boobs. But I can appreciate your frustration. If my boyfriend developed a life-threatening medical condition and getting breast implants was the only way to save his life, I would support him and hold his hand and go bra shopping for him while he recovered. But I would be just as weirded out by his body with boobs as you are by your wife's without.

But, um, that's really neither here nor there—there are no conditions that breast implants can cure (erectile dysfunction doesn't count)—and the analogy is totally offensive and I'm probably gonna have to disable my e-mail account for a week. Other offensive analogies spring instantly to mind—how would I feel if my boyfriend's ass imploded? how would I feel if he grew a mustache? how would I feel if his body changed as he aged and after a few decades together he wasn't the exact same 23-year-old club kid I picked up in that gay bar?—but seeing as none of that will ever happen, let's set these hypotheticals aside, shall we?

I'm vamping, IMHB, because there are no easy answers. One might hope that your love for the wife would trump your weirded-out feelings and you would come to appreciate the wife's boyish new body. Or her boy-with-large-zigzag-scar-running-across-her-chestish new body. One might also hope that your wife's feelings for you might prompt her to see her boobs as something that brought you joy, not just as the part of her body that attempted to kill her, and that she might be willing to get breast implants for your sake. Because although it's her body—and it is, it is—you also have a stake in it. Sometimes, you know, literally. Anyway...

But you can't get over it and she sees her new body—and perhaps the victory over death symbolized by those scars—as more important than your shared sex life. So you're at an impasse and the standard advice for couples at an impasse—compromise—just won't cut it. ("Maybe just one implant, honey? The left one was always my favorite....") The only other compromise is so obvious and unsatisfactory—would she consider wearing fake breasts to bed?—that you've probably already discussed and/or tried it. So, like, I'm really flailing. In fact, my flailing was so obvious that a coworker—a straight guy—noticed and asked what was up.

"Isn't that why God invented doggy-style?" he said, after I read him your letter. "Just man up and turn her over, dude."

That ain't much, I realize, but I'm afraid it's the best advice you're going to get today. Thank you for playing Savage Love, IMHB, and good luck.


I watched a video of your recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher and you appeared to be wearing a Queen's University jacket. I was a Queen's med school student and am now a doctor at the same university and have seen those jackets around for the past decade—where did you get that? Did you go to Queen's? Or are you just showing your loyalty to a country that recognizes your marriage?

Kari At Queen's University

I did not attend Queen's University, KAQU. The jacket was a gift from a friend because... well, isn't it obvious?

And while we're on the subject of all things Canadian, I said something on Real Time that seems to have upset all those normally placid, easy-going French-speaking Canadians. While discussing the hyperreligiosity of the American electorate, I made this observation: "Australia got the convicts. Canada got the French. We got the Puritans. We're stuck with them."

"I was very pleased to see that you are putting French-Canadians on the same level as the Australian convicts," writes JNR of Montreal. "But please don't compare us to the Puritans."

For the record: It was a compliment, Quebec. What I meant, of course, was that Australia was lucky to get the convicts, Canada was lucky to get the French, while we got stuck with the fucking Puritans and their sex-hating, Jesus-freaking, GOP-voting descendants. In fact, I'll prove how much I love French-speaking Canada by offering English-speaking Canada this deal: The sane people in the United States will happily trade you the Bible Belt for Quebec. We'll take those contentious secessionist headaches off your hands, and all those bilingual street signs, if you'll take the 22 percent of our country that still believes George W. Bush is doing a good job. You get Mike Huckabee and Gary Bauer; we get Justin Trudeau and Antoine Vermette. We get your hot, uncut boys with sexy accents from Montreal; you get our slope-shouldered, slack-jawed yokels from Mississippi. Do we have a deal?


I love your column, and am sure you've already gotten a million e-mails about Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern and her hateful gay-bashing video on YouTube. She's deplorable and other people deserve to know about her hating ways.

Justine

"I'm not anti, I'm not gay bashing," Sally Kern says on her now-infamous audio recording, before she goes on to say that gays are "the biggest threat that our nation has, even more so than terrorism. Or Islam, which I think is a big threat." Nice. Then after exposing early childhood education for what it is—a gay plot, dontcha know—Sally bemoans the fact that "gays are infiltrating city councils... they are winning elections!"

Decent folks are understandably angry with Ms. Kern. But instead of sending Sally an angry e-mail—excuse me, I mean in addition to sending her an angry e-mail (sallykern@okhouse.gov)—make Sally's worst nightmares come true. Patrick Flaherty is running for alderman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He's won an eight-way primary with 32 percent of the vote on February 19 and the general election is coming right up on April 1. If you're pissed at Sally Kern, don't just send her an angry e-mail. Help make her worst nightmares come true by sending a campaign contribution to Patrick Flaherty—who has been endorsed by Milwaukee's mayor, the Victory Fund, and others—by going to his website: www.patricknewleadership.com. recommended

Download Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at www.thestranger.com/savage.


mail@savagelove.net

 

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Comments (5) RSS

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1
Don't forget the 12% who think the world is flat. Give them away too.
Posted by m on September 19, 2008 at 2:40 PM · Report this
2
As a breast cancer survivor who opted NOT to have implants, I resonate with the men and women who grieve the loss of an old soft, erotic friend-- the missing boob.
But so much for empathy!
I am also a marriage counselor/sex educator and therapist who recognizes the need for individuals and couples to grieve alone and together. Loss offers a precious time to work out whatever strengths people have as they face the possibilities of other important changes that may come along. With help I hope they can grow to celebrate the good fortune they may have as they get to grow old together.
Maybe a private burial ceremony will help?
Best wishes,
Deborah D. Shain, LCSW, BCD
Posted by Deborah Shain LCSW, BCD on December 4, 2008 at 5:17 PM · Report this
3
I know that this is after the fact, but scientists in Australia are currently working on a technique that will let women regrow their own breasts after a mastectomy. I don't know a huge amount about it, but it would be worth looking into, no?
Posted by GaiaReyalslayer on November 15, 2009 at 1:45 AM · Report this
salvagebar 4
Well,
Posted by salvagebar on October 25, 2010 at 8:05 AM · Report this
salvagebar 5
I am a johnny-come-lately to this, but I was moved to respond. A lot of people go through this, and a lot of responses that are really tough on the original letter-writer. Those are all based on powerful personal experiences of life and death. I find all those stories incredibly moving, but I want to find a middle path to giving advice to IMHB, and people in his situation.

1) Your wife has lost more; she has looked death in the face. The risks she took, and her fight to survive, were greater than your struggle. None of that discounts or lessens your part in this, and your pain.

2) YOU DID THE RIGHT THING. You stayed with someone you loved and supported her through that struggle. Men leave sick wives at a much higher rate than wives leave sick husbands. You are one of the good ones. You helped her stay alive. You stayed.

3) IMHB, you have lost something precious. There's a process of mourning, and you need to find help with that. Find support groups and find a therapist if you possibly can. Say to someone who will completely, unconditionally accept your feelings the complicated web of emotions that your are caught in. Examine any feeling, even "negative" ones like resentment, with honesty and bravery. You've shown a lot of courage already.

4) Accept that your desires are not trivial, and that "Get over it!" is not a point of view you should internalize. Once you see your reactions in the larger context of the long term relationship with your partner, you will have started the journey towards healing

5) There are risks to your wife getting further surgery, like breast reconstruction. Those risks are real, and she seems to have grown a good body image where she accepts her physical being.

6) There is a universe of sex without breasts, and finding that with your wife could be a powerful force for unifying and strengthening your bond with her.

7) You can hold hands with your wife and figure out exactly what it was about her breasts that you need to feel happy and fulfilled, without making her feel rejected or emotionally blackmailed. Was it the way they felt? The way they looked? The way they touched your body? There are external, risk-free replacements and clothing that can give you all of those things, and I think that you'll find that those are better than risking your wife's life all over again, but you won't know until you try.
More...
Posted by salvagebar on October 25, 2010 at 8:52 AM · Report this

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