Online Dating After Breast Cancer: No Nipples Required!

This is going to sound ridiculous, but every bit of it is true. Just a couple of months after having a bilateral mastectomy and two reconstructive surgeries, I threw together a profile on an online dating website.

Not only was I was a 40-year-old, single woman with no nipples, but since I had been married practically my whole adult life, I also had no experience in dating, not even in the real world. Was I scared, you ask? Hell, no!

Looking back now, I suppose I should have been scared. Let me clarify that statement by letting you know I am definitely not fearless in all things. Quite the opposite, actually.

My list of fears is long and runs the gamut of generic things (like spiders) to a more unusual things (like suddenly becoming allergic to hair dye). But diving right into an online dating pool with a scarred, nipple-less chest — no problem.

To be honest, it’s pretty weird to look back on it now… the fact that I wasn’t afraid. And I keep thinking (even as I’m writing this) why wasn’t I? My body confidence wasn’t all that great even before the mastectomy. There were plenty of things I was self-conscious about  —  skinny legs, big feet, little ass, etc. And suddenly I had no breasts. Well, not real ones anyway.

What a lot of people don’t know is that while plastic surgeons can do some pretty amazing things with implants, reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy is very different from having a regular “boob job” on real breasts. After a mastectomy there is no breast tissue left to augment. There’s only skin and muscle to stretch enough to create a pocket in which to an implant. It really doesn’t feel anything like a real breast, at least not at first.

And for most of us, there are scars. Big horizontal scars, and in my case, bright pink and jagged. Not pretty at all (unless you have a scar fetish).

But the weirdest part of all, and the part I really wasn’t mentally prepared for, was the absence of nipples.

Think about it. Even men and babies have nipples. Nearly all mammals have nipples. A chest with no nipples looks very alien. I’ve heard other cancer survivors call them “Barbie boobs.” So yeah, kind of like that but with scars. But you don’t feel or look anything like a “Beauty Queen Barbie” or even a “Soccer Coach Barbie.” Not one little bit.

But there I was, perusing OKCupid under an alias with a direct reference to a Bob Dylan song, hell-bent on dating. And you know what? I did. With the lights on and everything.

So back to my question: Why wasn’t I afraid? Maybe you have to be faced with certain death to have an attitude like this. And you know what else? Death is certain for us all, nipples or no nipples.

P.S. Eventually I did get “nipples” — tattoos of eight-pointed, black stars to be precise — and they are totally badass.

This post was originally published on Medium.

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