Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy
An award winning book and Lifetime Movie from the brilliant mind of Geralyn Lucas. Having recently graduated from Columbia Journalism School and landed her dream job at 20/20, the last thing 27-year-old Geralyn expects to hear
An award winning book and Lifetime Movie from the brilliant mind of Geralyn Lucas.
Having recently graduated from Columbia Journalism School and landed her dream job at 20/20, the last thing 27-year-old Geralyn expects to hear is a breast cancer diagnosis. And there is one part of the diagnosis that no one will discuss with her: what it means to be a young girl with cancer in a beauty-obsessed culture. Trying to find herself, while losing her vibrancy and her looks, Geralyn embarks on a road to self-acceptance that will inspire all women. Although her book is explicitly about a period of time where she was driven by fear and uncertainty about the future, Geralyn managed a transformation that will encourage all women under siege to discover their own courage and beauty. The important and outrageous lessons of Why I Wore Lipstick come fast and furious with the same gusto that Geralyn has learned to bring to every moment of her life.
Enjoy this exerpt!
I am the only woman in the room with my shirt on at the VIP Strip Club (except for the coat-check girl and she definitely doesn’t count). So I am trying to blend in but it is not working. A preppy guy has already come over and asked if I would spank him. One of the bouncers heard this and moved me over to a more private corner of the club. I appreciate this gesture because I have come here to face the biggest decision of my life, and the disco music was just too loud in the front to really concentrate.
I have never been in a strip club before, and they would not allow me in without a man. It was more humiliating than being carded. So I waited for the nest guy to show up and asked if he would be my escort. At first I was embarrassed, but then I got over it because I need to be here.
I have come to this mammary Mecca to decide if I can decide to have a mastectomy to deal with the cancer they found in my right breast ten days ago. This was one part of the diagnosis that no one would discuss with me: what it means to have one boob in a boob-obsessed universe. It seems taboo to actually admit this, or to factor it into my decision about whether I should have a mastectomy. But for me, it is now, strangely, the deciding factor. The argument for having the mastectomy and removing my breast seems pretty obvious—it would be so much safer—until I start thinking about how I will exist as a twenty-seven-year-old woman with one breast. I am not a stripper, but I have always taken for granted that I have two boobs.
I am scared that admitting that this is my wild card will make me a shallow person. I mean, we are talking about cancer here. So I am here at the strip club to confront the unspeakable.
Breasts are beautiful, I agree as I plop into my plush purple velvet chair. The view is much better from back here. It is sort of pretty—the room is sprinkled with shimmers from the huge mirrored disco ball swirling overhead. There is purple velvet on the walls and even on the floor. I catch my reflection in the smoky mirrors, and I am illuminated by strange lighting that is dimmed, but more fluorescent than romantic. There is a stage with purple curtains and the disco ball hangs directly above where each dancer stands when she’s announced by a deejay in a booth off stage. The carpeting precisely matches the purple velvet chairs (which I have noticed, if you stare too closely, have stains). Cocktails, cigarette ashes, and maybe some other nasty scuff. I think that’s why they picked deep purple—it hides stains and wear and tear. Yes, this is a high-volume place. Lots of breasts, lots of guys, and lots of noise. I can smell sex in the air, and it smells like a locker room after a football game, covered in aftershave.
All the men in this room are reminding me of the power I stand to lose. They are here to-worship boobs. I don’t think that I’m being masochistic, sitting in a strip club looking at beautiful breasts before my breast surgery. It is a fact everyone has been ducking: Boobs matter. A breast is somehow more than flesh and blood. Everywhere in life, but especially here. This is a crash course, a CliffsNotes on why boobs matter so much. Men are paying a lot of money to look. And acting really stupid. Let’s face it—they would not be behaving this way if the women were on stage pulling down their socks to reveal their ankles. What is it about boobs?
The cocktail waitress takes my drink order, a Budweiser in the bottle, no glass, because I need to look a little tough sitting in the strip club. I start the pep talk to myself that I have formulated since my diagnosis: It’s pure biology. Breasts feed us when we are babies and it is hard-wired into us to like them, look at them, and covet them. Breasts symbolize a woman’s fertility, so it is all part of our mating dance.
Somehow this doesn’t make me feel better. Actually, I feel worse. I want to be something men are hard-wired to respond to. I still look young enough to get carded, and I want to be fertile, healthy, and hopefully, able to feed a baby someday.
But then the other pep talk: Why does my boob matter? At least it’s my right boob and not my right hand. If it were my right hand, then I couldn’t write. I have done just fine keeping my shirt on, thank you. After all. I’m only a 32 A, it’s not like my boobs have caused any major distractions. I will probably keep my job at ABC News 20/20, my husband, Tyler, and my friends with just one.