Here at The Hand Mirror, we've given quite a bit of attention to Paul Henry's obnoxious comments about Stephanie Mills of Greenpeace and her physical appearance. I won't rehash what has been said but have decided to take a slightly different tact and write about what it is like to be different.
Most people don't know I live with a physical deformity. Why would they? I'm tall, reasonably slender and have all my limbs. I run half marathons and go to the gym. I have a beauty regime where I spend far too much time not to mention money on, shaving, waxing, make up and hair cuts. But underneath I know that I would still be seen as a freak of nature by people like Paul Henry. The accepted wisdom in fashion circles is that if you've got it, flaunt it, if you don't well then you best cover it up.
So cover it up I do.
I don't own any v-neck tops, bikinis, halter neck dresses or well anything that might give anyone indication that things aren't quite right with my chest. However you can't fool all the people all the time and thus shopping for bras is my own special form of hell. It's in the changing room that I can't hide that my sternum (breastbone) doesn't look like most people's, its buckled inwards creating a fist-sized hole.
I suppose in many ways I'm lucky from the poor blokes who also are blessed with a disfigured chest insofar as I've at least got a pair of breasts to cover most of the damn thing up. To the untrained eye I look like I was blessed with a far more generous cleavage rather than cursed with a physical disfigurement. But I've had a lifetime of reminders many of which have not been so friendly that I'm not normal. Finding a bra where my left breast doesn't fall into the hole is downright impossible so I'm stuck with finding 'sort of fits' and sometimes I've left a store without purchase because of stupid comments I've received from idiot saleswomen over the years.
But what the does all this have to do with Stephanie Mills's upper lip? Well if a little bit of facial hair is seen as legitimate excuse to express disgust and ridicule what the hell would Henry et al make of people like me who have to live with something far worse?
I'm pretty sure I'd get some rather nasty comments after which they'd probably tell me to get fixed.
Well by golly I wish I had thought of that.
I've spent years on waiting lists but so far our public health system is none too keen on funding a $30,000 operation on something that isn't lethal. And as for the private system no insurance policy in the land covers the condition because the condition is congenital, the very definition of a pre-existing condition. And although I'm now at the point where I could pay for the procedure out of pocket right now, there'd be months of agony involved and a large chance the correction could fail because my bones are simply too old to be bent back into shape.
But before I get accused of throwing myself a pity party, I've long since given up any hope of having normal chest and have accepted that these are the cards I've been dealt in life. Through my teen years and early twenties I thought I had been dealt a pretty shitty hand, but now that I'm honing in on 30 I've realized that my chest is an in-built 'asshole alert' that has served me well throughout my dating life. Those who choose the low route get kicked to the kurb because they were obviously an asshole in 'nice guy' clothing while those who accepted or better yet found something kinky to do with my weird chest get the reward of spending time with me. I'm not going to pretend there haven't been times where I've been rejected because of my weird chest and I have no doubt that I have been the star of many humorous one night stand stories. However I feel strongly that who I am crosses many roles, and my self-confidence is not wrapped up in being someone's girlfriend.
But sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle.
Girls and women are taught practically from birth to compete viciously with each other regarding appearance, as if physical attributes are the only traits we should value and treasure about ourselves or other females. Which makes Henry's comments even more depressing as they really are a small drop in a rather large ocean. But I like to think that this makes the Stephanie Mills of this world even more important than her detractors ever will be. They dare to be different because they choose to which in turn makes things a little easier for those of us who don't get much choice in the matter.