Monday 29 August 2011

Dave Grohl ♥ Lisa Lynch

Well, he had to realise it sooner or later...

Monday 22 August 2011


‘How did your Mum’s reconstruction go?’ asked a male friend of mine who, for the sake of his cheek colour, shall remain nameless.
‘Really well, thanks,’ I answered.
‘And y’know, er… are they okay?’ he asked, endearingly awkwardly.
‘Are you asking me about my Mum’s tits?’
‘Er, yeah, I suppose I am. But in a very concerned, non-pervy way.’
‘Then my Mum’s tits look amazing thanks, mate. I’ll tell her you asked.’

I didn’t, as it goes, instead plumping instead for ‘so you’re all done, then!’ when she came home from hospital.
‘Well almost,’ she said ‘There’s still the nipple thing…’
Of course. I’d forgotten about the nipple thing.

See, a lot of folk think of reconstruction after mastectomy as an ‘NHS boob job’, while anyone who’s actually been through it will a) disagree and b) admit to having had to grimace through the NHS-boob-job quip on a number of occasions. Boob jobs are done to celebrate your curves, and boost your confidence, and make you feel sexy. Reconstruction is done to achieve medical closure, and pay lip service to your insecurity, and put right what cancer – or, in Mum’s case, the threat of cancer – unceremoniously nicked. A boob job is someone replacing your Tesco Value muffin with a Hummingbird cupcake. Reconstruction is someone doing the opposite – after which you can’t thank them enough.

Which is precisely why I’m continually perplexed by the nipple thing. I mean, breast reconstruction is one thing: it enables you to feel like more of a woman again after having lost what many would say was the very essence of your womanliness. I can’t help but feel that nipple reconstruction, however, is its poorer counterpart, lagging behind in the progress stakes somewhat; kind of like being given a brand new iPhone, then buying a protective case made of cardboard.

I’ve made no bones about feeling rather meh about my own nipple reconstruction. Not that I’m saying it’s a poor reconstruction; quite the opposite – it’s yet another example of Smiley Surgeon’s exceptional work but, regardless, it’s still not an identical twin to its natural counterpart. And besides, y’know, it’s just not my nipple. It’s, I dunno, medical. And yes, I know my tits themselves aren’t strictly mine either but, thanks to a) popular perceptions of what Good Boobs look like and b) their sheer magnificence, I dare say I’ve got plenty more happy minutes yet to come of staring at my fake boobs in the mirror. 
The fake nipple, though? Not so much.

For those uninitiated in the mechanics of nipple reconstruction (and really, why would you be?), here’s the science bit… There are, to my knowledge, three options: having nipples created from your own body tissue, having nipples tattooed on, or having stick-on nipples made of latex. My nupple is a combination of the former two (of which a similar solution has been offered to Mum) – but something that was never available to me, and yet is available to Mum, is option three.

Right now, Mum’s satisfied – or, at least, as satisfied as she can be – with her new boobs as they are: her surgeon has done a wonderful job, her bust looks brilliant and, I think, she feels much more, well, completed. That’s not to say that she’s decided against the nipple reconstruction, mind: she’s still mulling it over, though I dare say she’ll go for the option-one-and-two combo. What I hadn’t bargained for, however, was her having the latex nips too.

‘Well, they’ve already taken the mould of them,’ she said on the phone this afternoon.
‘Ah, of course,’ I said, remembering the pre-mastectomy process that had so entertained me. ‘So you’re going to get them?’
‘I suppose I might as well,’ she said. ‘For curiosity as much as anything.’
‘But why?’ I asked. ‘I mean, when the hell are you going to wear them?’
‘Well, maybe when…’
‘Actually no, don’t answer that,’ I interrupted. ‘What I mean is, when do people wear them?’
‘I don’t know, really. Maybe they wake up in the morning and think “ooh, it feels like a nipple day today”, or “maybe they’ll go nicely with this top”?’
‘But that’s… weird.’
‘Lots of people have them, Lisa.’
‘I just can’t see why anyone would ever want them,’ I said.
‘Well, you can try on mine when I get them if you like.’
‘Er… no, Mum, you’re all right.’

I looked up latex nipples on the Cancer Research website while writing this and got the following: ‘There are advantages to the latex nipple. It is very realistic and closely matches your real one. And you don’t need any more operations. The disadvantages,’ it reads, ‘are that you have to put it on every day and it may not stay put. The glue can be a bit sticky and messy.’ And, presumably, you could find yourself sitting in an important meeting only to realise that one of your nips has slipped, and your belly-button has suddenly become an outie.

I’m not knocking latex nipples, like – I’m sure latex nipples are perfectly lovely. It’s just that, feeling the way I do after my own cancer-dictated breast surgery, I can’t ever imagine a situation in which I’d want to show them off. And, supposing for a moment that I was the kind of Samantha Jones who, even after a double mastectomy and salping-oophorectomy (AKA ladybits-removal), was somehow confident enough to gamely flaunt my raspberry ripples to any interested party, wouldn’t it be sexier to swerve the NHS-crafted synthetic substitutes and invest in nipple tassels instead?

Then, of course, there’s the issue of whether – assuming that you’re as open with people about this stuff as Mum and I are – there’d be more than enough curiosity about your norks anyway, thank you very much, without adding protruding peanuts to the equation? What Mum chooses to do, of course, is an entirely different matter – and will in no way be swayed by my adolescent opinions. But as and when she decides, I’ll keep you posted. Or perhaps I won’t. I mean, it’s pretty weird blogging about your Mum’s nipples.

Friday 12 August 2011

Ask me anything.

It doesn’t take a super sleuth to work out that my lack of activity on the blog front might have something to do with what I talked about in this post. But while half of me feels continually guilty about it (and gets unnecessarily snippy when someone asks where the next post is coming from), the other half has, I’ve got to admit, been loving the freelance life. Yes, I’ve rather suddenly gone from part-time to full-time work (and then some); yes, I’ve missed the camaraderie that comes with working in an office; and yes, I’ve been working so much that I’ve had next to no time to write for myself instead of others, but the satisfaction of being genuinely useful again – not to mention the superhero-like feeling that comes from people thanking you for your work – has been more than worth it.

But, alas, Alright Tit (as well as other rather more secret writing projects) has suffered, and I do feel bad about it. I checked my blog stats this week (something I never usually do – I leave the numbers to my Amazon Sales Rank Monitor, aka Dad) and was surprised to find that, despite the dwindling frequency of my posts, you appear to have stuck with me. It’s a wonder you have but, by ’eck, I’m not half grateful for it.

You’d think, then, that I’d reward your loyalty with another noteworthy gush-fest like my last post but a) I fear I can’t follow the lead set by Tito, b) it’s been another busy work-week and c) I’m a git like that. There are things I need to blog about (and spend time thinking about before I do – Mum’s recent reconstruction op, for one) but, in the deficit of time to do it, I’m copping out with this: a list of questions of an ask-me-anything nature, as provided by you on Twitter and Facebook, and as narrowed down to 10 by my mate Jonze (who, if you haven’t already, you can find here). And, since I rather forced that task upon him, he’s added a question of his own too.

Here goes, then…

Do you believe in God? Why/why not?
Katelyn0303, via Twitter  
Nothing like starting on an easy question, eh? Alas, I’m afraid I do have an easy answer: no. I hasten to add that that’s not a conclusion I’ve come to in the wake of The Bullshit, shaking my fist at a higher being for sneaking a tumour in my tit, but rather one I’ve always believed, for as long as I can remember. I’m wary of putting this in print, actually, because I know that many people who read my stuff are big believers in God – I’m thinking of one in particular who I’d be especially upset to disappoint – but hey, that’s just where I’m at. I simply happen to believe that there’s nothing that can’t be explained by science.

Why did the chicken cross the road?
Mauvedeity, via Twitter  
Perhaps it was following the egg?

What did you think when you realised that the Whole Internet™ has thought about your pubes at least once?
Mauvedeity, via Twitter 
Ah. That would be ‘what do I think right now?’, then, given that until this moment it’s not something I’d ever considered. But, er, I dunno. I mean, I’ve often drifted off mid-conversation and – in light of how much I’ve written about them – wondered whether (or, indeed, what) the person I’m speaking to has thought about my boobs. I mean, let’s be honest here: I do it. If someone else has blogged about their norks or their toilet habits or their post-childbirth stitches, I’ve certainly thought about them; who hasn’t? But as for my pubes…? Eesh, I suppose I’d missed them out of the equation. In truth, though, I’m really not that arsed. I guess anyone blogging about their ladybits must therefore be rather unembarrassed about that kind of stuff. But also there’s the reality that anyone who’s thought about my pubes has kind of wasted their time. Sorry to disappoint, like, but they’re actually very uninteresting pubes.

You are only allowed to own ONE Beatles album. Which one would you choose?
MJones_74, via Twitter  
You are a BRUTAL man, Mark Jones. That’s like choosing a favourite child. But, contrary to your Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band prediction, I would have to go with Abbey Road. And yes, I appreciate that subjects me to a lifetime of zero A Day In The Life and excess Octopus’s Garden, but stick with me for a moment. The reasons, I think, are threefold. (Eh up, here she goes… bet you’re regretting that question now, eh?) Firstly because it’s the album that P and I fell in love to. [barf] Prior to meeting my Scouser, I’d never actually owned a hard copy of Abbey Road, shamelessly borrowing it from people or listening to it on a crappy cassette recording. And so, very early on in our relationship, he bought me my own copy on CD: a gift he’ll never be able to top; it’s the best thing anyone’s ever given me. Secondly, because I’m a geek. I love it because it’s the last album (started, if not released) by The Beatles, and it feels like it. I love it because it’s very much a George Martin album (and, okay, because I’m more Paul than John). I love it because of the iconic cover (the front of which is framed in our spare room; the back of which is framed above our loo) and the ‘Paul is dead’ urban legend that goes with it, and I love it because it spawned George’s first A-side. But thirdly – and most importantly – it’d be the Beatles album I chose above any other because of the sheer majesty of the Side Two Medley. That piece of music, beginning with You Never Give Me Your Money and ending with The End, is the single greatest thing I’ve ever heard. (And it speaks volumes that I’ve already spent twice as long writing about this as I did the God question.) As far as my ears are concerned, it’s a masterpiece in music-making, my enjoyment of which will never fail to manifest itself physically (you could set your clock by my goosebumps on 0.29 of She Came In Through The Bathroom Window). Into all of which, of course, is the record I would like played at my funeral: The End. It’s just fucking fantastic: Ringo’s only drum solo (I love the ‘here you go, lad, have your go’ nature of it); the sequence of two-bar Paul/George/John riffing calling-cards; that glorious ending lyric, ‘And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make’… what a way to go.
Sermon over.

If you were given £1,000 tomorrow to spend on something frivolous what would you spend it on?
MummyBarrow, via Twitter  
A Smeg fridge/freezer. Yeah, baby. For now, though, our crappy plasticky one – albeit covered in family pictures and a poem about Grandmas and a signed photo of Dave Grohl and magnetic words turned into sentences by our friends (my favourite of which is ‘let her touch my magic animal’) – will have to do.

If you could create one law what would it be and why?
Applescrapples, via Twitter  
I would decree that every home in the UK must own a copy of The C-Word by Lisa Lynch, because then I might be able to afford the Smeg fridge/freezer.

Are you gonna do Alright Tit 2? (Pleeeeeease do another book! I'm 31 and your book got me through my treatment, and for that I thank you so much!)
Emma Williams, via Facebook
I would also decree that Emma Williams be the one to enforce the above law. (Thank you, Emma; bloody good on you for seeing it through. Treatment, that is, not the book. Although many would say that’d earn you a pat on the back too.) But yes, I do plan to write another book. In fact more than just ‘plan’; I’m already writing it. It’s not, alas, a sequel (largely because no bugger would buy it) but it is inspired by stuff I’ve experienced, albeit in a fictional form. Whether it ever sees the light of day, however, is another question, given the reason I’m writing this post in the first place…

Ok, I've got a goodie. Assuming Pete was TOTALLY fine with it, would you choose to snog Dave Grohl or spend a weekend away with Take That (no kissing guaranteed but if you worked some charm who knows what might happen?)
Katharine Busby, via Facebook (This is my mate Busby, by the way – the one from the book who bought me a funny ginger wig and helped conceive the idea of my Super Sweet 30th.)
A few years ago I might have gone for the Take That option, but since I stood relatively close to them at the Wembley gig and realised how teeny tiny my teenage crush Gary Barlow is, I’m going to have to stick with The Grohl on height grounds. Which, of course, I’d be doing anyway given that if I were spending a weekend with Take That, Robbie Williams would probably be there and I simply. cannot. abide. him and his stupid, self-important, smug-faced twattery. Ugh, I’m not even on a weekend away with him and he’s already annoying me. But anyway, you might have claimed him for your secret husband too, but Dave Grohl belongs to ME, beeyatch, and he can play drums on my bum any time he chooses. All that said, he’s no Peter Lynch. (Good save, Lis.)

Your book, which for the record is one of the best I have ever read, includes copy written retrospectively as a response to the blog posts within the chapters. How did you find writing that? What was it like to revisit those posts and write the outcomes and responses? (If it's not too cheeky either, I would ask your advice for people wanting to write a book based on their blogs. I am one of them and wouldn't know where to start!)
Dee Montague, via Facebook
You guys know I’m paying people to say this stuff, right? But, in answer to the question, it was as much of a catharsis as writing the blog had been. Obviously it forced me to deal with some stuff I’d tucked away in a ‘never to be opened’ box – asking my folks and Jamie about their reactions upon hearing my diagnosis, for example – but, in the long run, I think all of that did me – and, I hope, the book – good. As for where to start with turning your blog into a book, I suspect you’ve kind of answered your own question: don’t just blithely reproduce what’s on the blog; challenge yourself to revisit in-the-moment emotions and turn them into narrative that works in book format. All of that’s stuff my agent advised me to do, of course, so I suppose the best piece of advice is to get yourself one if you haven’t already! (Also, Dee, I should point out that Jonze said you should have been disqualified from the selection process on the basis of two questions in one, but he liked them so much he’s gone completely against his beliefs and chosen them anyway, the big flaky shyster.)

How are you dealing with the fear of recurrence?
Lisa Pressley, via Facebook
Ooh, you’ve caught me on a bit of a funny day for this one. My immediate reaction is to answer with ‘not especially well’ but, in truth, it doesn’t really matter because you’ve got no choice but to suck it up. What that means in practice, however, is living as normally as I’m able as much as I’m able, but occasionally falling prey to rather frightening terrors about what might be secretly going on in my body, or what might yet go on in my body. And, as I explained after rather suddenly getting a bit cancer-panicked and teary during a leg-wax (of all things) this morning, those moments of terror aren’t the kind of things you can schedule. If I’m sitting down and having a good think about the realities of cancer recurrence, I can pretty much reason with it: much as I might like to be, I’m not in control, and so all I can do is just keep myself as well as is possible and enjoy my life as much as I can, and if such a time comes as, well, it’s my time, then so be it. I’m not half as reasoned, however, in the unscheduled moments – which is why, occasionally, I wake up in a panic attack or unexpectedly cry at the wheel of the car or find myself struggling to catch my breath when I’m hanging out the washing: what if I’ve got cancer now and don’t know about it?; what if it comes back in another part of my body?; does that pain or twinge or ache mean something signigficant?; should I get it checked out?; what if I don’t want to get it checked out?; what if I’m so happy with my life as it now is that I’d rather remain in blissful ignorance?; but is that responsible for the people who love me?… and on it goes. As for the short answer, I think it’s this: coping with the fear of recurrence is the same as coping with anything else when it comes to The Bullshit: there is no ‘how’; you just cope.

And, finally, to Jonze’s killer question:
Thanks to a very clever iPhone app, you get to send one tweet, and only one, to yourself on May 1 2008. What does it say?
Everything is going to be all right. Just watch out for wet marble floors, eh? x