Knowing if someone is the one is tough — so many of us mentally compile dealbreakers to narrow down the relationship and hookup hunt. Disclosing these dealbreakers is often delightfully subtle and insignificant (e.g., I snore, I don’t cook, I’m sloppy and so on). It can also end a relationship — smoking, not wanting kids, infidelity … so, what’s my dating dealbreaker?
I had a double mastectomy and don’t have real boobs.
Let’s back up for just a second. I have a mutated BRCA1 gene, otherwise frightfully known as the “breast cancer gene.” As its name suggests, having the mutation made my lifetime risk of getting breast cancer skyrocket up to 87 percent. That, and my family history of breast cancer put my depressing odds into clear context, and the logical plan of action was to simply slice my breasts off. This would reduce my risk of getting breast cancer to less than one percent … so I had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy.
In July 2018, at 25 years old, I parted ways with my real boobs at a hospital in Kansas. Two additional surgeries later, and my body is beginning to heal – which has unfortunately allowed the emotional toll of this process to finally rear its ugly head.
While nothing about this has been easy, I found myself immensely struggling in the dating realm after the surgery. I had just had my real breasts cut off, and it was really doing a number on my relationship-potential conviction. I failed to summon the confidence needed to swipe away on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. The single men in the real world were seemingly few and far between, and knowingly approaching them seemed unimaginable after my mastectomy.
The first time I told a prospective suitor that I had had a double mastectomy, I had done so with apologetic undertones.
The first time I told a prospective suitor that I had had a double mastectomy, I had done so with apologetic undertones and a slight curve of the spine — a direct reflection of my self-assurance (or lack thereof).
But how could I feel confident when I was wholeheartedly embarrassed by the jagged, pink scars on my underboob? How could I take a man home with me when I was worried that the silicone implants would feel unpleasantly rock hard and artificial under his fingertips? How could I be intimate with a man when I felt anything but beautiful because of my new chest?
I was afraid that a man would take one look at my bare breasts and find any excuse to avoid being intimate with me — so I remained single and resorted to my vibrator often.
Whether I wanted to sleep with a man or not, the hesitancy and fear of being immediately rejected because of my mastectomy remained stronger than my desire to get laid or date someone. My sex life was certainly thrown a nasty and confusing curveball because of this fear, and I avoided getting into bed with anyone — unless I had a handful of vodka sodas coursing through me, of course. My liquid courage allowed me to be intimate with the lights on and my bra off. I may have been clumsy, but I was confident.
If the opportunity for sex presented itself and I was sober, the lights remained off, and my bra stayed on. More importantly, the contempt I had for my new body became impossible to ignore without being buzzed. It was also unrealistic to think that each time I did want to be intimate with a person and not loathe my aesthetic, I would need a drink or two — unless I towed a flask around in my cleavage or something.
My mastectomy presented me with other sad realities I didn’t have to face until I was in bed with another, like the loss of sensation in my nipples. There was a time where these two, pink protuberances played the most substantial part in my sex life — they were the key to my arousal. Now, I feel nothing at all. I knew before having the double mastectomy that I would lose sensation, but no one can prepare you for how heartbreaking this loss will actually be until a man’s tongue is circling your areola and you don’t feel a thing.
My mastectomy presented me with other sad realities I didn’t have to face until I was in bed with another, like the loss of sensation in my nipples.
I felt broken, and I convinced myself that a man inside me would put me back together again — that some type of sexual approval would make me confident enough to be with another. Indulging in such an act was proof that I was not falling apart; that I didn’t hate my body; that I was normal and everything was fine.
I’m fine, yet I still fantasized about having sex pre-double mastectomy.
When I find myself dejected over the loss of my breasts and every other turmoil that comes along with having the BRCA1 mutation, I remind myself that it could always be worse. For starters, I never had breast cancer. I also have breasts, even if they are fake. Though my nipples may “feel” nonexistent, they are there — and they are mine. So many women are not this lucky, and while there are days I could wrap myself in a blanket and my insecurities and sulk in my sadness, I know that I am ultimately a fortunate woman: a woman who deserves to get laid, regardless of my new perky (creepy) breasts.
After my double mastectomy, I certainly haven’t finalized a pickup line. I have yet to master the art of dating, and I’m still incredibly awkward when it comes to telling a man about my surgery, but I am not ashamed, either. I took my health into my hands and am the sole decider if I get breast cancer — and now, I likely never will.
At the end of the day, my fake breasts are not dealbreakers. I’m vegan, astonishingly loud, and detest country music — if you want to know my dealbreakers, those are likely them. But if a man were ever to judge me for my rock-hard, gravity defiant, cancer-free breasts? Then he isn’t a man worth a second of my time.
Have a compelling first-person story you want to share? Send your story description to firstname.lastname@example.org.