breast cancer

The Body Beautiful?

““She was clean”: no piercings, tattoos, or scarifications. All the kids were now. And who could blame them, Alex thought, after watching three generations of flaccid tattoos droop like moth-eaten upholstery over poorly stuffed biceps and saggy asses?”

— Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad

I (rather foolishly) got into a debate the other night on Facestalk with people far younger than myself on the merits or otherwise of getting a tattoo. Once I stopped shuddering at the heinous spelling and grammar and concentrated on what was being said it was incredibly interesting to see the range of views from very young Gen Ys. Beautiful, ugly, go for it, don't do it - I loved to see the debate, and I also loved that my opinion was taken into account (although the 17 year old boy who said 'you're REALLY old!' is a dead tadpole walking).

I was reminded of this yesterday with someone asking me my opinion of tatts - for a few reasons - and I started thinking about why I really, really have never wanted one, when I have succumbed to pretty much every other trend on the planet and I have the pain threshold of a non-complaining elephant.

I know that people get tattoos for sentimental reasons, not just because they think they look beautiful, and I comprehend this. My friend Lady L has a breast cancer Pink Ribbon tattooed on her foot and as a cancer survivor I don't do anything but applaud that. Others have names or symbols - Angelina Jolie with the latitude and longitude of each of her children's birth places. All this I understand. 

Yes, I see the beauty in them to some extent. David Beckham flexing his abs and running around without a shirt - well, yes. Until he opens his mouth, I will sit and drool like a mindless idiot with the best of them. (Sorry Becks, but the day you started spruiking about 'Pepsay' in that voice, you lost me at 'ullo').  

The beautiful Miss A has them, and they suit her. I know the reasons behind hers, and I can appreciate them. 

And yet. 

The preponderance of meathead footy players with neck to ankle ink and twits like Justin Beiber covering themselves with symbols they don't understand - perhaps this is part of my 'thanks but no thanks'. Mostly though I think it's their permanency and the way they look on ageing skin. Today's proud eagle is tomorrow's sagging chicken after all. And the thought of living with a static image for the next forty years... quoting directly from yesterday's convo 'do I want a picture of Calvin & Hobbes lurking around for the next forty years?' 

Well, no. 

Perhaps the biggest thing for me - and this is very personal I admit - is something that is almost indefinable, and may sound painfully 'here she goes', but it's not intended that way. Judaism strictly speaking forbids the tattooing of the body for non-medical reasons as (this is simplifying it immensely) it breaks the sacred seal of the human body and the covenant with God. Piercings are the same - and yes I see the inherent hypocrisy as I have been there and well and truly done that. But with tattooing - what tool did Hitler use as the ultimate humiliation? What did he and Goebbels know would hit hardest?

And there we are.  

On a very much lighter note, I secretly know what my ultimate objection is.  

I will pick out a wonderful Chinese character, and have it put somewhere strategic for a select individual. One day I will be having a massage, or at the doctor, or wherever, and will be under the scrutiny of a Chinese speaker.

They will snigger, and I will ask them what they are laughing at.  

'Why do you have the character for "arse" on your hip?' 

Several Chinese characters. Exclamation point. 



Sleeping Beauty

“I’ll get over it - I’ve got songs to sing, I’ve got stages to perform on. I’m a keep-on-going sort of girl... It’s shit and it’s unfair, but life is not fair - even rock stars get breast cancer. But there’ve been many girls before me who have dealt with it successfully. It’s easy to feel sorry for me but I feel sorry for people who are suffering it alone.”

— Christina Amphlett, October 25, 1959 - April 22, 2013

I remember the first time I saw The Divinyls - or to be precise, the first time I saw Chrissie Amphlett. It was 1982, and 'Boys In Town' had come out on the album Monkey Grip. They were on Countdown, and Chrissie was - well, Chrissie was Chrissie.

And I was eleven years old. I didn't understand most of the song - and I sure as hell didn't understand Chrissie Amphlett.

That didn't mean I immediately didn't want to be like her.

And as I got older, and the songs kept coming, and Chrissie kept being Chrissie, secretly I wanted to be the one strutting on that stage, being the object of desire, eyes rimmed with kohl, bed hair from hell (or maybe heaven), skirt rucked up to nowhere, and letting everyone know just how naughty I was.

Even if I wasn't.

And her voice... that I would happily have given my left arm and probably several other body parts as well for. Because it's hard to be a very high soprano and sing 'I Touch Myself' with any degree of true sex appeal.

I was lucky enough to see Christina A in The Boy From Oz and she was magnificent. Intense, and brooding, and funny - she almost - almost, Hugh Jackman - stole the show. It must have been on the cusp of her diagnosis with MS, and I wish I had known, because I was misdiagnosed with MS before finally being correctly diagnosed with Early Onset Parky, and was desperately seeking someone who was cool to show me a way to see the positive in the disease. Annette Funicello (and in this I was mistaken) just wasn't cutting it. But Chrissie? Well, she would have - and did - inspire.

For a woman of such vitality and vigour to have to deal with both MS and then breast cancer seems like the cruellest of blows. To be unable to have the maximum treatment options for the latter because of the former - even crueller. But I get the feeling that expressing pity of any sort would have been met with politeness and kindness, but also a quiet scorn. Because this was a woman who knew what it was to live, and love, and love life and blaze like a meteor - and was lucky enough to have someone love her back and be there til the end.

I may be being presumptuous but I like to think that she would consider that a life well lived.

Too much too young?

Too young - absolutely.

Too much? Hell no. Not nearly enough. If there is a fine line between pleasure and pain, then she was the mistress of walking said line exquisitely and with ease. And of making every girl - or woman - in Australia - want to unleash their inner Amphlett.

And of making every man hope and pray that they would.

I hope that her meteor continues to blaze across the heavens, because I can think of no better place than the Milky Way for this wonder woman - because after all, what was she?

A star.

Rock on.