Friday, 26 May 2006

The price of truth

Friday 25 May

It’s official. I’ve been walking normally since yesterday. I dare not make any sudden movements, nor do anything a bit risky, but my gait is normal.

I have definitely left the indeterminate state of constant pulling. I can now talk about occasional cramp.

My sick leave finishes today and I am very pleased. Because I am going up the wall here, from being confined indoors.

Loneliness is weighing a bit heavily on me, in spite of the daily telephone calls from my cousin. Not having any goal ahead such as my operation is leaving me aimless and a little disorientated…

The reality of having to answer questions from my colleagues, neighbours, friends and in-laws is also very much on my mind at the moment. They all want to know why I have been off sick for 10 days.

Each time I hesitate as to how to reply.

To tell them the truth is hard for me. Yet I’m not ashamed, from now on I have no reason for self-reproach as far as my circumcision is concerned. No, it’s something else. But I don’t know exactly what.

Perhaps it’s what I imagine I will see in their faces that holds me back?

I am afraid of no longer having the same status in their eyes. I am afraid of being categorised VICTIM whereas I am more than that. I don’t want to be the embodiment of “the woman who was circumcised when she was little”. I don’t want to be reduced to that.

I believe, deep down, that I don’t have much confidence in people since I can’t get rid of this fear.

Nevertheless, lying is repellent to me. So I equivocate according to the information they have.

I avoid questions from people who don’t know I’ve had the operation (colleagues, neighbours), contenting myself with saying that I’m much better and that I will be back at work on Monday. For those who know about an operation, I talk about a gynaecological problem. Some stop at this explanation but others ask for details. And there I feel caught.

I don’t want to explain that my operation was a clitoris reconstruction. I no longer want to explain it. When I do, I can’t avoid watching the reaction of the person asking. And too often, it disappoints or annoys me.

Most often, he or she says “Oh good, OK” and stops there. No question, not even a sign of emotion, nothing at all. No interest. And I am disappointed, even wounded.

On the other hand, a sympathetic reaction very quickly seems to me to be suspect, as if dictated by propriety. I can’t prevent myself from thinking it sounds false.

In this case, you’d say that the person I was speaking to hadn’t heard the part of my conversation where I explained that I had moved on and that the operation was a reconstruction. As a result I have to endure all sorts of conventional phrases about the brutality of men in Africa, on the necessity of stopping this abominable practice. And it annoys me. A lot, even. Because in the end, these sentences are very general and a long way from myself and what happens to me. Only thinking about it makes me want to snap.

In reality, I believe no reaction truly suits me. You could say that what’s happening to me is costing me a lot because it comes down to lifting a veil on a very intimate subject, something that is very dear to my heart. It’s like a precious gift. And inevitably, conversely, it’s hard to be arrogant about it.

When I think about it, it’s perhaps a poisoned chalice which I’m offering…

At the same time, I don’t want to damage my relationships with them by not being honest. I have the feeling I “owe” the truth to some (like my in-laws or my close friends) at the risk of harming our relationships for ever.

And then, if I can’t confide in them when it’s important things, are they truly my friends? What can you expect of those you consider to be friends, in the end?

It irritates me to be so caught up in this way and not to be able just to say things without caring about their impact on the person I’m speaking to.

So what can I do? Keep the secret or always tell the truth?

For the moment, I take each case as it comes. But I think I’ll have to work on this question in therapy. Can’t wait till Monday.

[Original in French]

Next post


  1. Although her situation was different, when my best friend was bombarded with questions about her breast reconstruction, her most common answer was:

    "I'm sorry, I really don't feel comfortable discussing it. I hope you're not offended."

  2. I'm so glad that all seems to have gone well. When any of my wife's friends has to go to hospital and I ask why, she always replies "Women's problems". I don't ask further.

    Most people don't really want or need to be told the exact truth about personal matters.

    It is more important that you enjoy your new status and take pride in what you have done for yourself.

  3. Papillon, it seems to me rather normal that you don't want to talk about the details to everyone.
    And also that people reply, missing the point. I think that people quite simply don't know what it's about. And obviously I understand why it annoys you that they label you as a victim, especially as you are anything but a victim.
    You need to have a little patience with yourself - I laugh as I write this because I give this advice that I'm incapable of following myself, even at my age.
    In any case, you can be proud of yourself, you are following your path and you are following it well.

  4. Mamzelle Maupin4 June 2007 at 15:36

    I think you already have your answer, deal with each situation, case by case.

    It's too intimate to "come out with it" by the coffee machine, you need to have trust and then you can "set the scene" for this "revelation" if you want to talk about it with your friends, in a small group or tête à tête.

    Reading you, it's very clear what you are waiting for, people who love you and know you will surely sense how to react.

    I'm saying this so easily, I am at my keyboard, and I'd love to take you in my arms, not because you are a victim, but just because you are a fighter and you've taken your life in hand.

  5. Hi Papillon

    Happy to read you at last.
    I see that your morale is not too high. I think I understood you to say that now that the operation is over you feel you no longer have an objective, or at least you aren't aiming towards one. But I think that your operation is just a stage in your journey, of your reconstruction, the most important stage certainly, but a stage and so it's not the end.

    Now the goal is to steer your path with the people around you, those close to you and those not so close.

    It's your privacy so you don't need to feel obliged to tell everyone. There are people with whom you are close and others less close, that's normal. Screen them. But you mustn't be ashamed to tell them that it happened when you were a child because just by that you will take back control of things. So don't feel ashamed.

    I understand that you would be afraid of their reaction because it's true that by telling them something so important, you have confided in them and so in return you are expecting comfort or compassion. It's natural. But try to say to yourself that sometimes by telling them such an important thing, in a way that they weren't expecting, they don't know how to react and even if they seem cold, I bet they aren't in reality. They just don't know what to say to you.

    And if you feel really wounded by what someone says, tell them. And perhaps by talking about it you will see that in fact they are just ill at ease and they don't know what to say to you. People are awkward sometimes. But I think that nobody would be insensitive to what you have done. I assure you. You can be damned proud of yourself. In any case I am, even if I'm not close in reality, I feel close virtually and I am sure that could be in reality. That counts, doesn't it? :)
    Lots of love


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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