Extra Pale #1LinerWeds #BreastCancer #Mastectomy #BreastProsthetic #RacialInjustice

Last night, I told my #4 Daughter that her grandfather used to call water:

Cool, refreshing extra pale.

So that was my prompt today. Also, this is an update on my prosthetic fitting. I was pleasantly surprised that I got to go home with a mastectomy bra and a silicone breast form. I still have to wait on the other bras; in fact, my fitter (a perfectly lovely woman named Michelle) is ordering three in different styles so I can compare them, and then she’ll order the others. So it’s sort of taking a long time and sort of isn’t.

ANYWAY, here’s today’s story:

Extra Pale

by Marian Allen

The peachy-white fitter didn’t look at Janet after Janet gave her name and said what she was there for. She didn’t look at her when she said, “This way,” and didn’t look back as she led the way to a door, unlocked it, and ushered Janet inside.

Janet braced herself for another muted racist encounter in a lifetime of them. Peachy-white’s cheeks were flushed and her eyes were blinking like crazy.

Then the fitter – Michelle, Janet remembered – did meet her eyes, and her eyes said it wasn’t fitting a mastectomy bra and prosthetic on a black woman that was bothering her.

“I’m … so sorry,” Michelle said.

“For what?” It couldn’t be that Medicare had denied the doctor’s prescription or the free form and bras. That was part of the program. Besides, Michelle would have called and told her; she wouldn’t have let her come in for nothing.

“We aren’t allowed, by law, to ask about race when we make the appointments for fittings, which is just stupid –” Her whole face went blotchy red. “What I mean is, most of our clients are … well … white. We don’t have any forms in your color. In fact …” If she could have gotten any redder, she would have … “they don’t make forms in your color. I mean, not your color.”

Janet was a little darker than ripe plum. Nothing ashy about her, either; she shone with a smooth, deep luster.

“Nothing this dark, you mean?” she said.

She appreciated it that Michelle didn’t hurry to assure her that her color was beautiful, just beautiful, she wasn’t saying there was anything wrong with black skin.

Instead, Michelle said, “Standard prosthetics come in peach and chocolate. I have two forms –” she flapped a hand in front of her chest, meaning that she had lost both her breasts to cancer, “and mine are darker than I am. Yours will be lighter than you are. I mean, some companies do custom prosthetics to match your skin tone, but Medicare doesn’t cover that. I can give you some websites….”

Janet shook her head. Again. Always. Still, it was interesting that white people had skin-tone problems. She felt like she had known that, but hadn’t thought about it much. Poor, poor white people.

“Never mind,” she said. “It is what it is.”

“And I can order you two in chocolate, if that’s what you want, but… we like to send our ladies home from their fitting with a form and a bra, so they can get used to it while they wait for the other one and the other bras.”

Janet said, “And you only have pink ones.”

Michelle said, so quietly it was almost a whisper, “That’s right.” She took a deep breath and said, in a normal tone, “I mean, it isn’t right, but it’s so.”

“It is what it is,” Janet said again. “Let’s do this.”

The bra was beige – the darkest they had – with a pocket in it to tuck the form into and the form was the color of her oldest son’s hairless cat. She was surprised by how heavy the form was, but she had – as her surgeon had said – ample breasts, so it made sense. She was surprised again by how cold it was, and then, once her body heat warmed it up, by how comfortable it was. The weight settled into place with a rightness she hadn’t realized she’d been missing since the surgery. She felt balanced.

“How is it?” Michelle asked, secure and unselfconscious in the process.

“Feels good. Looks funny, but feels good.”

Michelle showed her a mastectomy supply catalog and they discussed the merits of the different bra styles. The colors were white, beige, and black, and Janet asked for two of each, including the beige one she’d wear home.

Now they came to the hard part.

Michelle said, “We usually count the form we send home with you as one of your two, but I’ll order you two of the chocolate and take this one back. I’m sorry, but it’s the best I can do.”

“I appreciate it, but that’s all right. My husband’s passed and nobody’s going to see it but me. Get me one chocolate one, and I’ll keep the vanilla.”

Michelle laughed, then covered her mouth as if she could push the laugh back in.

Janet thought about telling her it was all right to laugh at something funny, but it wasn’t her job to make white people feel good about themselves, so she didn’t.

As she left the medical supply store, a blonde so pale she made Michelle look like Harriet Tubman gave Janet the fish-eye and stood far aside to let her pass.

Janet shrugged, easing her new pink boob firmly into place and decided, I think I’ll call it Karen.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s weekly blog hop, One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner or just like them, follow the link.

MY PROMPT TODAY: Cool refreshing extra pale.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Extra Pale #1LinerWeds #BreastCancer #Mastectomy #BreastProsthetic #RacialInjustice

  1. Michael Hodges

    May 4, 2022 at 11:38am

    I like this piece, even the parts I’m uncomfortable with. It’s your job to tell a story, not to tiptoe around me.

    And I’m starting to wonder if we’re on a bit of a wavelength. Just today, in a response elsewhere, I used the term (not the name, although the name has become a term) Karen. And then I nearly went into an explanation regarding the knee-jerk view of “a Karen” as white, to sum up that a Karen is an attitude, not a race, with a White Karen and a Black Karen. But suddenly I thought “Getting off-topic in that attempt to caveat and justify. Not my job to make everyone consider every angle.”

    And I didn’t. Very specifically, because it is what it is. Just tried to stick to the topic, get on with things.

    Over here, it was what it was, and life didn’t cater to all of us, and it felt bad and it felt normal and it felt like “Oh well, here we go again, another day.” Intrusive and private all at once.

    An extra pale got named Karen and was both refreshing and intrusive.

    Outside the box, Marian, even if inside the cup.

    Thank you for writing that one.

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  2. Anonymous

    May 4, 2022 at 3:01pm

    My “Karen” has been in a drawer for several years, never really worn since I thought it too heavy. Thanks for the insight! They never gave me a choice of colors or mentioned it and only gave me one bra and one form. Now the place is gone. I think there’s another store on the far side of town.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 4, 2022 at 3:07pm

      They didn’t give me a choice, I asked for a variety and they said okay. Of bras, not forms. lol

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  3. acflory

    May 4, 2022 at 6:24pm

    Karen? Falls on floor laughing! Oh you are a wonderful, wicked writer. 😀

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  4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    May 5, 2022 at 1:43am

    How wonderfully inclusive of you – and ‘chocolate’ women come in all shades, just as we ‘pink’ ones do. Fortunately, Karen will be hidden in a pocket; you needn’t deal with her after moving her from one bra to another.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 5, 2022 at 8:40am

      I get no cookie for spotting and calling out an example of systemic racism. But, yeah, my form — which I call Delilah (she was a false woman) — is SO NOT the same color as I am.

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      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

        May 5, 2022 at 9:44am

        I don’t think they understand the psychology of it all, or they’d make a series of little sleeves/pockets in a large variety of skin tones to cover the basic form.

        Maybe an internet business opportunity?

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        • Author
          • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

            May 5, 2022 at 2:14pm

            Men do get breast cancer. Do they use prostheses? Or, because they’re flatter, do they just ignore it? Or go for reconstruction?

            If I never see the phrase ‘pregnant people’ again it will be too soon. In major newspapers, no less.

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            • Author

              Marian Allen

              May 5, 2022 at 2:22pm

              “Pregnant people” struck me as odd, too, at first, but trans men can be pregnant, so it makes sense. As for male breast prosthetics, I’m not finding anything about it online. My guess is that, depending on the amount of tissue removed, men either do reconstruction or nothing.

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              • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

                May 5, 2022 at 6:49pm

                Trans men can be pregnant – how did I miss that? Not all trans men are going to be taking hormones that make it impossible (do they?) to support a pregnancy, if they have a uterus.

                Forgive me for being dense – and thanks for explaining.

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                • Author

                  Marian Allen

                  May 6, 2022 at 7:26am

                  I probably wouldn’t consider it, either, but I have a transgender woman friend that I know of, so I’ve been sort of educating myself.

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                  • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

                    May 6, 2022 at 12:18pm

                    It’s a rare combination, but it exists: identifying as male or non-binary or…, but able to bear a child. We should celebrate it. And protect it from the evil ones.

                    The same way the mother of an albino Black child must fight for that child’s very life in some cultures. Not fear, not try to use for one’s own benefit.

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  5. Dan Antion

    May 5, 2022 at 9:44am

    Leave it to you to teach a lesson, make a statement and rail against an injustice all in one lovely story. I admire your ability to weave this message into a story, and add just a touch of snark-seasoning at the end. Well done.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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