I finally worked up the courage to go to one of your ‘fine’, ‘upstanding’ GP surgeries the other day and make known my secret shame.
It’s something that has haunted me for years and has finally become too much to bear: I have no breast tissue.
When I say ‘no breast tissue’ I’m not being hyperbolic.
There is not a department store in the land that hasn’t met my nervous request for a bra fitting with a consolatory pat on the back as they tell me “I’m sorry dear, they just don’t make them that small”; the less tactful suggesting I take a look in the children’s section.
I no longer wear fitted clothing in public for fear that yet another well-meaning old lady will applaud my bravery. Admittedly not a particularly traumatic experience in itself, until I discovered they thought I was a breast cancer survivor.
I’m regularly called ‘Sir’ whilst shopping with my son, regardless of whether I’m wearing a skirt or trousers.
In a society where we put so much emphasis on typical gender signifiers, to be without is to be not only defeminised but also dehumanised.
But I digress.
NHS, I told all of this to the doctor you assigned me: male (despite my request for a woman) and to a certain extent I didn’t expect him understand.
I certainly didn’t anticipate him laughing at me.
I went to great trouble in explaining that my history of depression, eating disorders and self harm could all be traced back to this one anxiety about my adult body; that the medication (listed by name and dosage) and the therapy (both CCT and CBT) served their purpose at the time but could not ever ‘fix’ this.
I’m not an idiot, NHS. I have a working knowledge of my shit. I took an undergradute course in Psychology whilst I was still at college and a module in the History of Medicine at university just for the hell of it.
Yet I may as well have addressed myself to the ugly little troll doll on his desk.
My breasts were completely ignored and my ability as a mother questioned instead.
I was offered more drugs, a several month waiting list for counselling and the following day received an ‘out of the blue’ call from the Health Visitor demanding a home visit.
NHS, I’ll admit, I’m not thrilled.
I’m not asking you to give me boobs I could beat a man to death with.
I have no hidden aspirations to become a glamour model.
I just want the right to own a bra. I want to walk into a shop and be greeted with the heavenly chorus of “this way, madam, we have a variety of options in your size”.
But you’re not going to give me that are you NHS?
So I’m taking matters into my own hands and cashing in my good karma.
The penny jar is active once again, if anybody fancies helping me out I take loose change. After all, I’m familiar with small denominations.