My Dear Girls,
Marie Kondo says that before we consign even a ratty T-shirt from our dresser drawer or an unbecoming blouse from our closet to the giveaway or garbage bin, we should thank it for the service it provided. I can’t say I’ve ever gone that far. Still, before the surgeon whisks the two of you off tomorrow to the Body Part Retirement Home in the Sky, I must pause to thank you for the ample curves with which you filled out those tops for most of my sixty-three years.
Please don’t mistake my consent to this dismemberment for anger or apathy. It’s not personal; it’s just one more expression of an overall decluttering mission in this last act of my life. I’m culling needless items from kitchen, baths, and linen closets. I’m curating friendships. A few weeks ago I shredded half the papers in my file cabinets. I’ve been trying to shed a bit of tummy fat too. Now it’s your turn to go.
I know it looks like the tumor’s only in one of you, and a small bit of you at that, but given my personal and family stats, other parts of one or both of you could be next. Anyway, the two of you belong together. Separating you would be like sending two conjoined twins to opposite coasts.
Also, no offense, but you girls have become rather a weight around my neck. The cancer worries can get heavy, of course, but so can the flesh. It’s as if I don’t have two breasts anymore; I have a single pendulous bosom, like a peasant bubby from the old country. I’m tired of you guys hogging the entire screen of my little box on the computer during my pandemic Zoom and FaceTime chats. So I’ll be taking the doctor up on his promise, after the demolition, to build me a set of younger, tighter, perkier breasts that may at least partially offset the aging look of my new, hairdresser-free gray hair and my sagging jowls.
Still: I place my hands together, palm to palm, and bow my head in thanks for the embers and fireworks of joy the two of you have sparked in me over the years.
Thank you, first, for budding and pushing outward in my skinny chest as my underarms and pubis sprouted their first tentative hairs and I began bleeding between my legs. At the time I probably complained that the growing pains kept me up at night. Now I realize what a privilege it was to welcome you into my body.
Thank you for causing the boys in junior high and high school to turn their heads. Without you and the hourglass figure you completed, I would have been not only mute but also invisible. But on days that I wore my body-hugging black leotard with the plunging scoop neck under the skirt or slacks that already emphasized my flat little tummy and rounded rear, the cute, popular boys would come up to my cafeteria table, lean over my shoulder, and casually chat me up. I understood that the suddenly feigned interest wasn’t real or even about me, but somehow, even so, it made a shy, uptight teenage girl feel beautiful … and seen. It gave me hope.
Thank you for the titillating thrill you gave A, my college boyfriend, and later, in sequence, Husbands One and Two. Thank you for the dancing sparks and zaps of pleasure you helped them give me. Without you, my sex life would have been flat. You gave it that third dimension.
Thank you for allowing me to nourish two little ones through the first year of each of their lives. I fear I did not quite manage to give my children everything they needed and deserved as they grew, but with your help (and La Leche’s), I did give the two of them that head start, that booster shot of nutrition, of immunity, and, more, of loving embrace. I still melt at the tactile memory of cradling my baby boy’s and, two years later, his baby sister’s dozy head in the crook of my arm while a heart-shaped mouth contentedly sucked away and a little, pudgy hand absently stroked my skin just above. Even now, as a grandmother, when I hear an infant cry, I feel you instinctively flush and swell in tender anticipation of that most intimate nurturing.
Thank you for the cleavage you provided. Thank you for the added bounce you gave my exercise sessions and even the sad but necessary lessons in gravity you imparted as you migrated south.
Thank you for growing and shrinking with the rest of me over the years. Somehow, until recently, you always kept pace with my body. And I realize that even your recent enormity is not your fault. The Entenmanns and Häagen-Dazs with which I pumped you up are totally on me.
Thank you for bearing with me as I forced you to be poked, probed, prodded, scanned, squeezed, and sometimes even stabbed. It couldn’t have been easy. But you were stalwart and forbearing through and through.
Thank you, finally, for respecting my decision to say good‑bye.
Now sprout your wings and take to the skies.
Dvora Wolff Rabino received her BA in journalism and mass communications from NYU and her JD from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in The Ignatian Literary Magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Mystery Tribune, Penmen Review, Santa Fe Writers Project, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of the Inscape Editor’s Award.
Your ‘dear girls’ are not what have made you so special, Dvorala. You have always been what has been termed ‘beautiful inside and out’ and no surgery can alter that.
I wish you a refuah shlemah.
Such a vivid portrayal of what life was like for you. You are very courageous and so honest. Glad you are pleased with your new girl friends.
Be well and happy.
What a wonderful piece in which you turned a difficult decision into one of gratitude. You’re a gifted writer- and a very special person!
Thank you for sharing. Your writing is so real and generous. I understand a little more about the incomprehensible journey of so many…
Dvora Wolff Rabino. Although we’ve lost touch, I recall the approachability of your voice from the Workshop we took together. I’m moved by the depth you’ve achieved in this piece.