There are some isolated incidents in life that should be protected and kept in the shadows, much as I imagine a grandfather would desire at his first grandson’s birth. There are just some things that should not be shared, so you have to curl up your ears and shut your eyes and tell everyone you’re praying when in fact you’re just waiting for the moment to pass.
This happened to me one time when I went in for high-end surgery. I was not giving birth, and it was not when my gall bladder went out. It was actually a fun time, the Hee-Haw in my semester of life: the day I had liposuction.
When I tell people who I know carefully about the time I had liposuction, they often shudder and take themselves aback. What language are you speaking? comes to my earflaps, my sphincters, my geographical tongue. I get this question all the time: Why would you have liposuction? The answer, which I did not know at the time, was simple: I just wanted to be seen naked by two guys at the same time. I mean, that must have been it.
I had sat around my kitchen table for years and hours, hunched over stacks of student papers, running at night in the dark, very unsafe. My right arm kept drawing itself to my belly, which I would pinch and squeeze. One day I decided to look in the yellow pages for a doctor who might suck the fat tire off me, the one thing that kept me afloat—the only thing wrong with me. Courageously using the Yellow Pages in the year 2000, I called up and made an appointment for the fat to be sucked off my stomach and what I learned were my flanks in the next week.
If I could have been beside myself, I would have been.
Instead, there were two men.
I had never been drawn on before. I’d been drained and borrowed from, but not really sucked and dried. These were the old days. I just had to stand there and get drawn on in purple by the doctor, my fiancé by my side.
The anesthesiologist was my best friend that day; he took away the discomfort of my having to stand naked before two men. Three men were suddenly better. I got the hairnet and the white sheets and soon, I was being trafficked back home.
“How long until we get there?” my absent belly and flanks said to my fiancé.
“Not much longer,” he said, driving the car that I would pay for for the rest of my life.
It’s interesting when you choose to change your body. It’s like you tell God no. You choose something that was not given to you, you weren’t born with, and you step into a different line. You make a choice, and sometimes that choice includes the exclusion of something that used to be intrinsically you. I wore t-shirts for a month with strappings around my middle, my belly and my flanks, reaching down with Vaseline to moisten up the missing parts. It was an uncomfortable time. I would call my doctor and ask him if this was normal, and he always said yes.
I remember the first time I stepped out without all the harnessing, like a free child. Something I regretted had been forgiven, like I didn’t have to sit at my kitchen table for the rest of my life. I had to be careful at first because you don’t want to screw up a $5,000 surgery. But when I stepped in front of the mirror without my bandages and looked at myself in the way I had imagined myself for twenty years, my pride rose. I was probably prancing when my fiancé said, “You have the body of a seventeen-year-old.”
I had been slowly waltzing around this man for a year, maybe two. He would never have the body of a seventeen-year-old. I would walk through the house for the next two years asking myself if I was in, or if I was out. Was I in, or was I out.