Back in June while I was at school, we were exposed to many panelists and some media that could potentially push our buttons sexually. Some things were easier to take than others. Not much can shock me any more. Believe me when I say that I do have plenty of areas that can still elicit the “squicked out” response. Where many people might not want to challenge themselves on sexual topics that might make them uncomfortable, that’s part of what becoming (and being) a sexologist is about. We have to be as educated as possible even on issues or concepts that don’t arouse us.
One piece of media we were exposed to brought to light something which quite honestly brought me to tears. The people in the film were all real. The woman in the film had undergone a double mastectomy. The change of her body had driven a wedge in her relationship with her (male) partner. He had pretty much rejected her and they were no longer intimate. He wouldn’t touch her. He didn’t know her any more. She craved what they had before: intimacy, love, compassion, caring, and touch. Through some very artful, magical, and gentle modeling, the couple was guided back to one another, to a healthier place (by none other than Dr. Ted McIlvenna, one of the founders of the Institute). By the end of the short film, the couple were closer and the male partner was not afraid of, or otherwise acting negatively toward his partner.
As I said, I was in tears watching this, as were many of my classmates. I put myself in the woman’s position. As a self-identified woman, I am very attached to my breasts. It’s true! They form a huge (pun, intended) part of me and my identity. What would I do?
How would I feel if I were to lose a part of myself that forms a part of my sexual identity, my identity as a person?
I had to think about it. There isn’t a right or wrong answer and I don’t know if what I have come up with is just a feeling I currently have or something that will stay with me always. There is no way to know unless one is in the situation.
So, this is what I’ve come up with so far:
I would mourn the loss of a body part, surely; perhaps as much as a loss of a loved one. I would grieve that it is no longer a part of me. But, I think, at some point, I would feel grateful and blessed to be healthy and know that I am not defined by that part of myself. And all along I wish that my partner (if I should have one) would love me and care for me as before. Of course they will grieve as well. Instant change is challenging. But when challenges such as these show up, it’s time to step up and be there for one another.
The rejection I saw in the film was a part of the grieving process that had to take place. Where things went badly was when he couldn’t begin to move on with his partner. He longed for what was and in so doing he isolated her, making her bear the weight of her loss on her own.
Now, what can we all get out of this?
Remember that you are more than the sum of your parts. Your eyes, nose, chest, legs, butt, and feet make up all of you but there is more to you than these parts individually. To quote (well, paraphrase because grammar is a big deal to me) Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help “You are kind. You are smart. You are important.”
And so you are!