Do you know what I love about mammograms?
Neither do I, but I’m open to suggestions. Because my current feelings on the procedure are unaffectionate.
My friends refer to mammograms as “the boob mash” and “getting squished.” The annual exam falls into that category of medical must-dos — along with Pap smears and dental cleanings — that we work hard to avoid thinking about. Before, after, and even during the dreaded appointment, we simply banish all thoughts of it from our minds — a disciplined-if-desperate meditation on anything at all but the bootie-wearing stranger unceremoniously kneading our chesticles.
But during my recent exam, several especially awkward moments yanked me right out of my blissful bubble of denial, forcing me to confront the full-frontal affront of this fondle-and-flatten ritual.
There’s something overly cutesy about my mammogram office. Like a pediatric dentist’s, compensating with giant grins and happy hues for the misery they’re about to cause you, the receptionists here are unreasonably jaunty, the décor unseasonably pink.
The weirdest thing about mammograms is the technician tells you to remove your shirt and bra, but she doesn’t leave the room while you do it. She stands there. And you want to ask if she can at least put on some sexy music, as you’ve never unbuttoned your blouse in front of a strange woman before, but you’ve seen Girls Gone Wild and you think a little Mötley Crüe might loosen you up and, really, make it more fun for the both of you.
I’m told I can wear a medical gown, if I choose. But why? To cover my back? Besides, I don’t want to seem a self-conscious coward. I’m aiming for a distinct air of “I’m so at ease with all this institutional nudity I might even take my pants off, too, so just … just look out, lady.”
The technician’s job is to prod and mush each of your breasts (I have just the two, so I’m lucky) flat between two clear plastic plates, cranking the vice slowly closed like a Play-Doh Fun Factory extruder, while muttering absurd phrases like “Is that okay?” and “Doing alright?” When she tells me to lift my arm like a Roman statue and hold my breath, I decide that she hates me and wants me to die.
“You’re not wearing deodorant, are you?” she asks. Which is exactly what you want a stranger to say when you are shirtless with your arm in the air.
But yes, actually, I am. Dear god, had it failed?!
She tells me that some deodorants mimic a positive result in the test, which is the final piece of evidence I need to conclude that this whole procedure was conceived by a sadistic man who thought it would be droll to require past-their-prime women to nude up, submit to the unceremonious pancaking of our tatas, forego oxygen — and, oh, yes, smell bad while we do it.
Just then I make the terrible, disastrous, don’t-ever-do-this mistake of looking down to see my own remarkably malleable mammary fanned out to twice (is it — could it be — thrice?) its normal surface area. Which is the exact moment that the technician says this:
“Wait! Don’t you write for The Independent?”
I consider lying. “No, Technician Whose Name I Shan’t Reveal Because Anonymity Can Spare a Gal from Utter Humiliation (Deborah), I do not write for The Independent. The woman you’re thinking of has much higher, fuller, more perfect naked breasts.
“And she would have totally taken her pants off, too.”
To all female readers: What I do love about mammograms is that they tell me that I don’t have breast cancer. Get yourself squished and let them tell you that, too. You’d be a boob not to.