Friday, June 03, 2016

Looks aren't everything

“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
                   ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.
Just been reading about a woman who had chemotherapy for cancer and lost her hair, like Victoria Derbyshire, and how it affected her. I didn't need chemotherapy when I had cancer, I'm happy to say, just radiotherapy and surgery, followed by Tamoxifen for 5 years, but I wouldn't have been bothered about losing my hair and I wouldn't have worn a wig, which sound horribly itchy. I do remember a couple of my sister's friends visiting me in hospital and being surprised that I wasn't bald, as though they'd expected my hair to fall out within days of surgery. They made me laugh, though I was reminded of Madame Defarge, sitting knitting next to the guillotine, waiting for the heads to fall.

I wasn't offered a false boob, whatever they call it - a reconstruction? - so I'm lop-sided, but would have refused. After reading about various implant problems more recently, I'm glad I did. The alternative is what I call my pink jellyfish, a prosthetic breast that fits in a pocket in my bra. These days I only wear that on special occasions. Bras are uncomfortable, and now that my spine is twisted I doubt most people notice as long as I wear loose tops.

A counsellor I know recently told me that the way some women care so much about their appearance is understandable, but I don't really understand it, though I accept that it's about self-esteem and confidence, and that many women lack both. Men may feel the same, though they have the added disadvantage of not being encouraged to talk about it.

Over the years various bits of me have had to be removed, so I have a few scars, but I care more that I'm still alive than what I look like. I hear of women who'll say that they feel "less of a woman" because they've lost a breast or whatever, but what of the thousands of women who are disfigured by birth defects, accident, illness or injury? Are they any less female? Anyone who regarded them that way would, I suggest, be ignorant and prejudiced. Sadly, there are plenty of ignorant people about, but it's they who are lacking, not us.

Click here to read about the Indian women disfigured by acid attacks.

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