What is Drastic + Dramatic

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Something You Don't Know

It's the first of November. Usually my joke is: "I haven't showered all month." My family expects it by now. And while that statement is currently truthful -- I am yet unshowered -- today I won't  say it. Today I'm doing something else. Well, I suppose I'm not doing something; in the same way that not showering is, in effect, me doing something, I'm not doing in order to do something new.

Confused yet?

Okay I'll just tell you. Today I'm not wearing a bra. I didn't just forget to put one on in a rush to get to school. No, I had plenty of time as I ponderously decided that today would be the first day of a strange experiment, one I'm rather afraid of committing myself to. Not afraid like I'm afraid of getting a disease, say, but unsure how I will handle the daily results and consequences to come -- as if there were anything I could do to prepare for the unexpected anyway.

October is a month attributed with an awareness of breast cancer. Everything becomes pink and boobs receive varied and often humorous attention. There's something about humor that encourages widespread participation. If everything were serious serious serious, people might feel uncomfortable, kind of like the way we feel sad and helpless when pictures of malnourished children appear on the television screen: how can I help them? Moreover, how can I trust that my contributions will actually go toward efforts to nourish those skeletons held together by paper-thin skin? I don't think making light of their starvation would necessarily encourage my participation in the cause of eliminating global hunger. So why does making light of breast cancer produce T-shirts and stickers and slogans, etc., things which clearly don't make much of a difference, yet offer people a noncommittal way to participate or contribute to something they truly don't know how to involve themselves in.

Does awareness come from a color? A bag of chips printed in pink for one month? Are you involved when you buy a clever t-shirt or facebook post? Does awareness come when you find out that someone you know has silently battled and survived breast cancer? Does it come when you feel that lump in your own breast? When treatments erase everything inside you so that your hair has nothing to hold on to? Were you unaware that October became the poster month for breasts because in fact you're daily aware of the toll of breast cancer as each day turns into another without your loved one there to share it with you?

Most likely, my odd decision (odd to me) to not wear a bra for the month of November won't have far-reaching effects. It will most likely frequently present me with uncomfortable situations, considering the ensuing chilly weather. It will likely continue bringing me the feeling I've had all day at school: smug awareness. When I see someone, I look at them, not with different eyes than I've had for twenty-seven years, but with a smirk of secret knowledge: 'I know something you don't know. I'm not wearing a bra.' Everyone -- the guy behind the information desk at the library, my English professor, dudes and dames at the gym, young and old passers by alike -- has been an unknown recipient of this silent comment from my mind. It's a simple change, missing a traditionally familiar piece of underwear. And yet it's positively thrilling, this heightened awareness that I know something everyone else doesn't know.

Certainly we all know things that no one else discerns by glancing at us. And we all keep secrets from those who think they know us. We know what we know personally, through personal experience, and these are things no one else will know in precisely the same way. We all have a profoundly different view of the exact same world. That's life. But the awareness of it! We do not always sense it; we rarely purchase awareness with the currency of thoughtful contemplation on the uniqueness of everyday life. It's a shame. You and I should be aware that, even though the experts and the geniuses know a thing or two that we don't know yet, still they don't know what I know, what you know. They can't. I have perceived the world from my eyes. No one else has.

Then, sometimes we share things with others that they regularly would rather not know. For example, perhaps, you reading this blog post. Now that you are aware of what I know, perhaps it un-comforts you. It never was my intent to have offered you comfort by the end of this post, neither was it to make you aware of my breasts in particular. But maybe I have intrigued you. Maybe inspired you to try an experiment yourself, to put yourself in a position to see the world in a way you haven't yet.

It starts with a decision to do something. Or not do something. Do it. Be aware of what happens.

This eleventh month I will be aware of breasts, particularly my own unsupported pair, but also of breast cancer and the foundations and causes surrounding it. It's no longer October, but awareness is no less important. From time to time I will include what I become aware of, so that we can all have a real measure of awareness together. This should be a very stimulating experiment indeed.

Something you may not have known
The 2010 cancer.org Cancer Facts and Figures report estimated that about 569,490 Americans were expected to die of cancer that year -- more than 1,500 people a day.

That's a lot of pink bags of chips.

photo: alaskan state flower, forget me not

1 comment:

Fithappy said...

Emily, I love your willingness to look at life in interesting ways?

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