Aug. 22, 2022

Jealousy is never a comfortable feeling, which is especially true when the source is a good friend’s good fortune. When I found out about my dear friend Tina’s breast reduction surgery, the not-jolly green monster took hold of me. Tina was now able to dispense with wearing a bra. Though we’d both been young in the 1960s when lots of women burned their bras, neither of us could join in the fun. Back then, there was the “pencil test”. If you stuck a pencil under your boobs and the pencil fell to the floor, you could burn the bra. When I tried that test, the pencil stubbornly defied gravity.

I looked at Tina and sighed. If she did want to wear a bra, she could opt for a cute scrap of cotton. No onerous underwires. No wide straps that dig into shoulder skin. No more did she suffer the ache of shlepping around two heavy flesh appendages that make it even tougher to get clothing that fits and flatters. Standing up straight suddenly got easy. Backaches went away. And no longer the possibility of unwanted attention, especially from those people who believe that IQ goes down when the bra size goes up.

Before learning of Tina’s surgery, I’d never considered myself a candidate for cosmetic surgery. Period. I knew people (mostly women) who had various “fixes”, but that was for others. Here I was, my 70th birthday in the rear view mirror, contemplating change. Seeing Tina’s joy and feeling my emotions, it slowly dawned on me—maybe it could be me. 

With some hesitation I broached the topic with my husband. He perceptively (and wisely) replied that the decision would be entirely up to me—and he’d support (pun intended) me, whatever I decided. So I began to explore the possibilities. 

My internist gave me her approval for the surgery. The medical group I’m a member of does provide the procedure, and I got a strong recommendation for a particular, highly-experienced surgeon. Cautiously I made an appointment to see him, making it clear that I was undecided and only gathering information. My husband came along. The surgeon was encouraging, saying I’d be a good candidate. The surgeon also said that the amount of tissue he’d recommend removing would satisfy my insurance’s requirements for reimbursement for medical necessity. What was especially persuasive is that he informed me that women who have breast reduction surgery are the happiest and most satisfied with the results of all plastic surgery patients.

So I had the information about the physical aspects of the surgery, and all signs were positive. But I had to work on my personal psychology as well—which got much more complicated. First: I still thought of myself as someone who does not have such procedures done. How could I move myself to the opposite camp—to see myself as someone who does have procedures—or at least this one? Second: How would the all too many women I know who are breast cancer survivors and had no choice about having breast surgery feel about me going under the knife for personal, voluntary choice? Third: Superstition: Would I be punished by some cosmic entity for having a surgery not strictly required for health reasons? I did speak with a breast cancer survivor who also very much encouraged me to go ahead. As she pointed out, there are many paths to good health.

After much thinking and talking, I began to feel more confident about proceeding. Although nervous every step of the way, I emotionally surrounded myself with lots of positivity. I went through with the operation in Dec., 2019. The procedure went smoothly—and the after-care process was not overly onerous. 

Most of all, I’m happy to report that, now, several years later, I am one of the very satisfied customers my surgeon referred to. I’m so grateful that my friend’s initiative and my envy inspired me to do something well outside my comfort zone. I wish I’d done it earlier, but otherwise, have absolutely no regrets.


A slightly earlier version of this piece appeared in Women of Wisdom.