On my little pootle around the neighbourhood this morning, I got honked at by a passing van. Now, granted, I’m sure it doesn’t take much for your average bored skip-hire man to wolf-whistle at a passing skirt, but – whether or not it’s the correct reaction for a 21st-century woman to have – I’m still rather grateful to him for doing it. See, it came at a good time. Said ‘good time’ being a month and a half until the removal of my ovaries and remaining natural tit. Or, to be blunt about it, 45 days until I no longer have any feeling in my boobs.
Ironically enough, at the time of the honk I was walking along, asking a not-entirely-unrelated question of myself: what makes us sexy? And really, I suppose that’s a conundrum to which it’s impossible to give an objective answer. Perhaps a better wording of the question, then, is: what makes us feel sexy? But again, that’s entirely open to interpretation. Some folk, for example, feel particularly tempting in a thong – while I can’t shake a constant urge to run to the loo while wearing one (besides, Sisqo officially declared the thong dead in 1999). Some women are consistently seduced by the ‘bad boy’ – but I’ve always found decent, considerate blokes much more alluring (hell, the most dangerous celebrity on my ‘freebie list’ is the so-called ‘nicest guy in rock’). And some people can’t help but fall for a sultry, smoky French accent – whereas I once found myself having snogged every Welsh boy I knew through absolutely no coincidence whatsoever.
And so, instead – in light of my right tit having long since claimed its bus pass – I’ve been asking myself this: what makes me feel sexy? And, more to the point, can I rely on it when the sensation in my right nipple goes for a Burton?
Last week I read this story about women hitting their beauty zenith at 31 – the age I’ll find myself this time next month. But, a mere fortnight into my ‘beauty peak’, after the removal of my ovaries and my second mastectomy in as many years, am I really going to feel as desired as this study claims I should? The thing is – pre-Bullshit, obviously – my boobs have never failed to make me feel sexy. And though I’m hardly Christina Hendricks in bra-size, I’ve always been grateful to have the kind of B-cup that creates an impressive cleavage – and so, where necessary, I haven’t been afraid to trade off it, either. Despite what’s gone on beneath my bra in the past two years, that respectable cleavage still remains (thank you, Smiley Surgeon) and will, I am certain, return after my next reconstructive op.
But what else is there that makes me feel sexy? Nothing particularly unusual, I expect: heels, matching underwear, red-painted fingernails, accomplishment, lots of eyeliner, the back row of the cinema, big hair, (self-)tanned skin, a raised eyebrow from my husband, Blur’s Swamp Song, a skinful of gin… Though whether that modest little list will be sufficient to see me through the rest of my beauty-peaking year and beyond remains to be seen.
As most couples who’ve experienced breast cancer will attest, after frustratingly long periods in which sex simply isn’t an option down to the illness that treatment can bring, what’s ten times more frustrating is having to – if you’ll pardon the pun – feel your way back to a different kind of sex life thereafter. One that doesn’t just work for your new body, but works for the way you feel about your new body, too. And, as I’ve certainly discovered, getting your groove back can be a lengthy, disquieting process – and the ‘helpful’ literature available on the subject is, typically, not only aimed at women much older than myself, but also completely bloody archaic. (‘Why not try wearing a feather boa to cover up your scars?’ Oh, do fuck off.) The simple truth is, it can take an annoyingly long time to rebuild the sexiness that The Bullshit destroyed but – as I’ve proved before and will sure as my cleavage is fabulous prove again – it is doable.
I was encouraged to be approached recently by Pink Ribbon Lingerie, a new start-up company specialising in underwear for post-mastectomy women, who asked what I’ve found problematic about buying bras since my diagnosis. ‘I’m so pleased you’re doing this,’ I told them. ‘Buying comfortable bras is the bane of my life. Just because I’ve lost my natural tits doesn’t mean I don’t want to feel sexy.’ My gobbiness, however, has since led me into a discussion about whether I’d be interested in modelling for the eventual catalogue – the answer to which has so far been a string of ums, buts and erms that would make Wayne Rooney proud.
Right now, who’s to say whether my confidence will return post-reconstruction to a self-assured point where I’d be game enough to take part? (Or indeed whether they’ll hurriedly retract their offer when they see the size of my arse.) See, losing the feeling in one tit has been option-limiting enough – perhaps losing the sensitivity in the other will end up with the removal of my bra being rather akin to going to Alton Towers only to find that Oblivion has broken down?
For now, though, I’ve got a mere 45 days of boob-based thrill rides remaining until Adventure Land becomes the Forbidden Valley. And then, while the theme park is closed for maintenance, it’ll be time to work on the notion that my sexiness can be down to much more than just my boobs. But, natural tits or no natural tits, one thing’s for sure – I’m determined to bring my sexy back. Because, whether or not it’s especially enlightened, I really don’t want today’s to have been the final whistle.