Am I the Invisible Woman?

I need to preface this post by saying that outside of the old “Wonder Woman” television series from the 70s, I am not a big fan of Marvel Comics and female superhero characters. I’m just not; it’s never been my thing.

It’s no secret that many women have fraught relationships with their bodies (I’m no exception), and our hearing is hypersensitive to comments about them. We can manage to go spontaneously deaf when we are critiqued for our work performance, our parenting skills, and countless other tasks, but god forbid other individuals criticize our bodies; then we’ve got our Miracle Ears turned up to 11.

If you live and work in an urban area, chances are you’ve been cat-called by construction workers. I don’t profess to be supermodel material, but when I was working in Manhattan, I had it happen on more than one occasion. Back in those days, I wasn’t quite brave enough to flip off or respond to the cat-callers; I would simply ignore them and keep walking. Today, I would likely have something to say, but I don’t find myself in that situation anymore. There is a townhouse community going up next to where I currently live, but I have no desire to plant myself in the middle of it to see if any workers notice me.

I am not a proponent of cat-calling, nor am I suggesting that women have to put up with it. I do, however, think that some women might have slightly over-active triggers that are capable of distorting the decibel level of sotto voce comments and turning them into federal cases.

There was a viral story I came across recently about a woman standing in line at a fast food restaurant with her toddler, who overheard two other women refer to her as a whale. The woman in question had recently given birth, so understandably she was not viewing her body very positively. I wasn’t there, so I can’t attest to what the other two women actually said, or how loud their conversation was, but chances are, the “whale” in question was probably hyper-aware of her bodily discomfort, and honed in on any shred of negativity that might have been floating in the air around her.

Today, I slammed head-on into a Facebook post by a woman who overheard some construction workers evaluating the size of her breasts. Alas, she had no breasts because she had undergone a double mastectomy. Like the postpartum woman at the fast-food establishment, I’m sure the woman who posted about her experience does not resemble my example of the Invisible Woman. And really – how many of us do? What we all have in common, and are not willing to make peace with, however, is how much we despise our bodies. We despise them so intensely that we have to project that negativity onto complete strangers.

In the 15 months since I sacrificed my mammary glands to the evil that is cancer, I have not once been cat-called or otherwise slandered in public about my appearance. I don’t wrap voluminous scarves around my neck to hide my flatness; in fact, I’m still wearing the same clothes I wore before my surgery. I don’t stress about what other people are thinking about the lack of moundage on my chest, nor am I stressing about the “Buddha-belly” I have that is even more prominent in the absence of any knockers to balance it out. Do people really give a shit? The other day, a kindly woman in a supermarket parking lot told me that she noticed the right brake light on my car wasn’t working. I thanked her and said I’d have it checked. She didn’t run up to me, scandalized and shrieking, “Ma’am, where in the world are your breasts?!” Had she done so, I would have burst out laughing.

Ladies, I know this is tough. There are days when I don’t want to acknowledge what I’ve been through, and continue to go through, but I am doing my best to come to terms with it. So fucking what if other people have something to say? If you choose to respond, go for it. Bitch about it, and keep feeling bad about yourselves.

I think we need to take the criticism from where it comes and chalk it up to the fact that people suck. We now live in a world where everyone¬† can anonymously bash whomever they choose in this virtual reality we’ve created. Chances are, those are the same people who think they have complete autonomy to be just as boorish when they’re out in public. They get so comfortable in the absence of confrontation that I’m guessing they forget where they are.

Love yourselves, love the individuals who care about you, and make “people suck” your mantra. I know it’s not true of all people, but the sooner we acknowledge it is true of most people, the happier we’ll be.

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