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Oops, I Sent My Friends a Photo of My Nipples

Photograph by AFP/Getty Images

Most everyone I know, who I am acquainted with or randomly stand behind in line at the post office, is aware that talking the talk comes quite naturally to me — talking about anything, really. I am, can become or pretend I’m an expert on pretty much any topic with just about anyone. What I have a problem with, though, is walking the walk.

That became mortifyingly clear to me last night when I went to text a friend to see if she was available for lunch and saw that the last text I sent her, which was about a week ago, was nothing more than a photo of my nipples. I blinked a few times to make sure I was seeing correctly, although it wasn’t really necessary, as my nipples are quite distinct.

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I didn’t actually have nipples until Sept. 16. Along with my breasts, I lost my nipples on Feb. 14 when I underwent a bilateral mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis. I had to wait for a second surgery and some other minor procedures before it was time to get the nipples. The nipple surgery was really quite miraculous, even if the current, non-healed results truly give a face to exactly what Franken-tits would look like if Franken-tits were a real thing (and I’d argue I’m actually kind of it, or her).

Post-surgery, I was amused — not to mention heavily drugged — for a few days after by the flower-like bandages covering the nipples. OK, maybe the bandages weren’t so much flowery as they were the step-cousin of a dying dandelion. But still. It’s only been a few weeks since I wrote about how people shouldn’t take naked picture of themselves if they don’t want them out there. And here I am, personally disseminating my own incriminating photos.

What’s equally, if not more horrifying, is that when I saw the photo in the text to my friend, I wrote to her:

I just went to text you to see if you wanted to have lunch tomorrow, and I am quite horrified to see that I texted u a picture of my nipples. Please tell me I was too drugged up to remember that I sent you those pictures for a reason that I now can’t remember. Also, do you want to have lunch tomorrow?

Her reply?

Wish I could. On a deadline, though.

Her failure to acknowledge the photos, of course, means she was sent context-free, post-surgery nip-picks. You’d think that’s bad enough, except on drugs and off, I’ve also sent a few other friends shots of my nipples in full context. And when the bandages came off at my first post-op visit, I sent the raw nipple photos to one friend in particular who had accompanied me to the surgery the previous week. I felt like she earned the showing. She felt as if I were trying to make her vomit.

The thing is that ever since I got my implants, and now my nipples, I kind of feel like they’re not really mine.

If I’m known for anything in my family (besides my superhero-like ability to cry for absolutely no reason as well as my total inability to listen without interrupting), it’s my elephant-like memory. Except I’ve been on so many drugs this year, I have pockets of total amnesia. What I do remember, though, in fits and spurts is just how many times and to how many people I’ve offered a glimpse or grope of my new breasts, and now a glance at my nipples. I’m including family members, friends and, yes, total strangers.

In my parents’ defense, this is not how I was raised. In my husband’s defense, I’m not usually this easy. But stick a few Percocet and Valium in me and it’s as if I’m on the payroll at Scores (although, if I showed you my bruised and stitched faux nipples right now, I guarantee you no one would be stuffing my g-string with dollar bills, unless they were using them to encourage me to don a shirt).

The thing is that ever since I got my implants, and now my nipples, I kind of feel like they’re not really mine, so why shouldn’t anyone who’s a little curious get to share in the alien-life form now residing permanently in my chest? I wasn’t born with them, they came from a factory (although in the case of my nipples, they actually came from the skin just below my belly button). It’s hard to look at the black-blue-purple-yellow post-surgery marks, swelling and other assorted signs that either I was run over by a truck or fell victim to a fake plastic and feel as if they should be off-limits to others out of a sense of modesty. There’s nothing sexual about them. They’re just cool and gross.

The hope is that in time they’ll look natural and pretty and I’ll feel all womanly again. But for now, I have the same kind of feeling I did when I was pregnant with my daughters, which is that there’s a foreign body inside me. Strangely, though, when I was pregnant and feeling like inhabitants of a UFO had invaded my uterus, I didn’t invite people to touch my belly.

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And now that I’m off the painkillers, I’m kind of wishing I hadn’t been so quick to text the photos to so many people. Even though my face isn’t in any of them, which will allow me to deny ownership of the pictures all the livelong day while they’re still out there. Whoops.

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