“Angelina Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy,” Dada said to me as soon as I stepped into the kitchen this morning. In spite of his male admiration for the obvious assets Lara Croft displayed in two movies, he didn’t sound as if he was disappointed for the absence of the celebrated view. If anything, he seemed to be in awe. We sat there, sipping our coffee, as TGG came downstairs, ready to have his breakfast and head to work. “More Benghazi in the news?,” he asked. We nodded half-heartedly, muttered something about the AP, the IRS, and then someone on the news show we were watching mentioned Angelina Jolie’s breasts…or lack thereof. A banana muffin came to a screeching halt halfway to TGG’s mouth, and he gaped at the TV while shaking his head in disbelief. If J had been home, he would have done a double-take. (What? You didn’t think he watches Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for the dialogue, did you???)
I waited for the immature response. I’m still waiting.
“That takes balls,” he said. “Which she doesn’t have…technically,” said Dada. “Well…you know what I mean…” they looked at each other, and then they looked at me…the only person with an ample bosom in the household.
A couple of months ago we found a lump. I say “we” because Dada felt it, too. I have famously “dense” breasts and this has happened before. It’s no less scary because it’s a common occurrence. Every time I go in for a mammogram I have to ask myself if this time it’s not density. Every time we have the same conversation. Every time we reach the conclusion that my breasts (much as I prayed to get some when I was in middle school and seemed to be surrounded by Jayne Mansfields) are expendable. Considering they didn’t really “sprout” until I turned 40 (apparently God had me on the no-priority list for middle-school prayers,) they have done their job and done it well. Babies have been properly fed; dresses have been properly held up; cleavage has been displayed, and so forth. But if they have to go, hey, we’ll wave them goodbye without an ounce of regret.
Ms. Jolie opted for a preventive double mastectomy. She acted on scientific data that informed her of the presence of genes that increase her risk for developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The piece she wrote on the subject indicates that she decided to deal with the breast cancer risk first because it was higher and the procedures are more complex. This hints at the possibility of a similar decision in the future for a hysterectomy. Having lost her mother to cancer at a relatively young age (and I say that because 56 no longer sounds middle-aged to me,) and realizing that she has six children she wants to see grown up and living their own lives, and possibly see grandchildren…well, I seriously doubt she took this lightly. Not only is surgery always risky but this woman has made her living being observed, scrutinized, criticized, drooled over…
A few people have said “well, she HAD reconstructive surgery.” I’ve also read “well, she didn’t HAVE cancer.” Both points are true. Ms. Jolie had reconstructive surgery and didn’t have cancer. She *simply* had the majority of her breast tissue removed and replaced with implants that are now fodder for the masses. There’s no more wondering “are they hers?” There’s no more saying “are they real?” Ms. Jolie has opted to put her fears on the table, to discuss her decision to take the bull by the horns, and to cosmetically replace the lost tissue. Over the course of three months, Ms. Jolie and her family dealt privately with what was probably a pretty hectic and difficult decision.
Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter because they are expendable, and she has admitted it publicly. Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter because she has said (for all the world to hear) that your health is more important than your looks, and that it’s ok to worry about your looks, too. Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter because they were part of the “moneymaker” she shook to entertain the masses. Think of it: Lara Croft, Jane Smith, Evelyn Salt, Fox…they all were powerfully sexually attractive, and their breasts (her breasts) were a big part of what men remembered about those characters. For years to come, those breasts could have continued to generate a sizable income for Ms. Jolie.
Ultimately, those breasts were not as important to her as all the other things she occupies her mind, her time, her soul and her heart with, and that’s not even counting the fact that she doesn’t want her children to face the same loss she faced insofar as she can prevent it. No one can guarantee that Ms. Jolie will see her children grow up and thrive and move on to their own lives and so forth. However, the one thing she could do, she felt empowered to do, she did. That, as TGG says, takes BALLS.
As women, we all feel a certain pride in what our bodies are, what they can do. Having blossomed long after I wished I would, I now find my breasts to be inconveniently in the way, and a hindrance in my search for flattering, comfortable garments. The women in my family ail in different areas, areas that I couldn’t function without, actually. There’s nothing I could remove that would better my chances of not getting cancer; nothing that I could live without. It’s not a secret that I often wonder what will happen when I’m no longer around, who will take care of J, etc. My reasons are different, but I do as much as I can to make sure I am as healthy as possible…
Why do Angelina Jolie’s breasts matter? One of the most beautiful women in the world just admitted that she is concerned enough about her health to dispose of her God-given charms to stave off a horrible illness. One of the most beautiful women in the world, who is partnered with one of the handsomest men in the world, has publicly stated that her femininity doesn’t depend on her mammary glands. A woman who has traveled far and wide, earned admiration for her beauty and humanitarian endeavors, earned scorn for her -granted- sometimes exceedingly quirky behavior has just made the decision to get rid of two things that men really, really, REALLY love so she can focus on getting OLD…
I see nothing to scoff at in her decision. Better health begins with being proactive…now: go be!