Have you ever heard the expression, “You can’t go home again? Yes, it’s from a Thomas Wolfe novel. But is it true?
When A Boob’s Life was published, the library association in my Ohio hometown invited me to give a book talk. I envisioned chatting to kids sitting cross-legged on the carpet. Zoom was not ideal. By the time Covid lifted enough to travel, I had a class reunion coming up. In Upper Arlington, a ten-mile-wide suburb north of Buckeye Stadium, these are held during the biggest holiday weekend of the year: the 4th of July. I hadn’t been home in over fifteen years. Why not do both?
By Memorial Day, I learned the Education Foundation was honoring me with an award during the public open house at the fancy new high school. They combined three quarantine years to invite a maximum number of alumni. And the A Boob’s Life book talk, my first live event since lockdown, would kick it off.
I panicked. Would classmates remember the real me and throw eggs? Would my hosts be disappointed that I didn’t match my airbrushed author photos? Worse, were they so distracted by local settings in the story that they didn’t notice it funnels down to a feminist call to action? Ohio is red state. My school district gives girls a great start. But three weeks before my flight, the Supreme Court dragged us back to the dark ages. No way could I avoid mentioning it.
I stared at my photo on the front page of the invitation emailed to over 8,000 alumni. My book trailer was on the details page. View trailer here. It was too late to cancel. So, I put on my big girl bra (with underwire), packed three more in my carry-on, and headed to the airport.
The new high school was impressive, perfect for a student body known for state champions. But I didn’t have time to be jealous of the eleven lane pool. I needed to find a restroom to safety pin the neckline of my wrap dress. Thanks to Covid, I hadn’t worn my halter bra for years and didn’t want to risk another Cleavage-gate. Plus, I needed a tissue to catch the nasal drip that was a permanent result of chemotherapy. Lo and behold, there was an All-Gender bathroom at the entrance!
In the theater, classmates from as far back as kindergarten were waiting for me. Their smiles made the decades disappear. I relaxed, remembering how so many had reached out on Facebook when I was sick, and how much it helped. I felt like part of the community. My brilliant interviewer (Laura Moore) managed to talk about women’s rights in a way that brought us together, not apart. Here’s a fun clip of our conversation. Afterwards, I learned that the scales were tipping blue.
After answering questions, I ran to the auditorium stage for the award ceremony. Other honorees included a sex trafficking activist, a charity-driven tech billionaire, and a LGBQT Gray’s Anatomy actor. Was I was there for comic relief? The School District Superintendent laughed when he said “Boobs” in my introduction. Yet as he continued, it became clear that they understood my purpose. The engraved plaque he gave me celebrated not just my boobs but my body of work, focusing on the way women live in America. That’s what A Boob’s Life is about.
Now I could relax and enjoy the reunion. My party dress was designed for Bridgerton boobs, but as you can see in this photo with
my friend Wade, I didn’t pack a push-up bra. I figured people would be looking at my boobs already – that was the price of writing about them. Why make it worse? I hid my black bra straps and dabbed make-up on my portocath scar. But I forgot about name tags. My senior photo, complete with Farrah Fawcett hair, had no place to go besides my décolletage. Oh, well! Fortunately, the next day was busy with backyard barbecues, perfect for my comfy sports bra.
Finally, it was parade day. In my memoir, I describe how much I admired the boobalicious beauty queens riding in this very parade when I was little. Here was my chance. Except, I forgot to pack a strapless bra. That was not going to stop me. It was Independence Day for my boobs, too. Over 40,000 spectators lined the two mile parade route and I had a blast waving at every one of them.
Sometimes you can go home again.