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On Ditching The Girls

“Did you ever realize that ‘cupid’ rhymes with ‘stupid?’” an old boyfriend once mused aloud on Valentine’s Day.

The following year he celebrated by wishing me a “Happy VD Day.”

Certainly he didn’t help the cause, but thankfully Valentine’s Day has never really been my thing, anyway. Sure, I like a mushy card and a box of Whitman’s Samplers just as much as the next girl. But especially now that I’m in a permanent state of happily married bliss, I really don’t see February 14th as anything other than a day when red roses and restaurant prix-fixe menus are stupidly overpriced.

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Still, a breakup on Valentine’s Day seems a bit cruel and unusual, even by coldhearted standards. And yet, that’s what I have to look forward to this year: February 14 is the day I’ll be losing my breasts. As in any relationship, when it’s unhealthy, saying good-bye is the right thing to do. If breast cancer isn’t the definition of a dysfunctional relationship, I don’t know what is.

I’d like to think of this breakup as a love letter to my kids, husband and myself. I’m doing this for our whole family—ridding myself of the bad so I can be around for the good (and the bad, too, but I’d rather not focus on my kids’ tantrums and penchant for using Sharpies to draw on the couch when I gaze through the gauzy lens of the future). That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not spending these days and hours leading up to the surgery with enough anxiety to keep the American Psychiatric Association busy until the end of days.

I know I’ll be getting plenty of kisses and sweet nothings from my husband when I surrender to the hospital at 5:30 a.m. on the 14th. I know that being proactive about my health, such as getting a mammogram at 40, is a sign of devotion to myself. It’s just that I also know that as much as my boobs and I have been frenemies over the years, there has been more way more love than hate.

I have no choice but to say ta-ta to the ta-tas.

When I’m in an emotional mood—which, these days, is all day, every day—I have Barbra Streisand’s “Memories” playing on a continuous loop in my head as I think back on getting fitted for my first bra by an older Yiddish lady who didn’t see the humiliation in keeping the dressing room door open for anyone interested to watch as she laughed too loudly while cupping my boobs with her ice-cold hands in an effort to size me correctly.

There were the two cases of mastitis after the birth of each of my daughters, which, indeed, felt like the broken glass that was promised in all of the postpartum literature. I lovingly snapped countless pictures of me while I nursed my second daughter over the course of 15 months. And I continued while cursing myself when breast-feeding my older daughter failed, and while simultaneously managing the loud and clumsy pump for a full four months, squeezing out every drop of liquid I could, hours on end each day.

I’ve hated my reflection in cute little sundresses because it has never resembled that of those lucky women who aren’t in constant need of extra support. At the same time, I’ve enjoyed a little extra cleavage in V-neck T-shirts, because, hey, why not flaunt it if you’ve got it.

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The fact of the matter is that even when you know you need to break up, it doesn’t mean you aren’t sad/devastated/nostalgic/wanting to crawl in bed and watch a Nora Ephron marathon while demolishing a Costco-size bag of M&M's. When you part ways involuntarily, no matter the reason, there’s still a deep feeling of loneliness.

I have no choice but to say ta-ta to the ta-tas, although if there were ever a poetic place and time to do it, Rose Hospital on February 14 would seem to be it. I’m going to guess Hallmark doesn’t make a card for this occasion, but it might be a niche to consider for the future.

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