By Jessie Kate
“I need you to go through this box of photos and cut them up. Make sure to slice through the nipples so people can’t decipher them. Okay? Cut in diagonal strips. Throw some pieces in this trashcan, and some in this one. Got it?”
I pulled back the cardboard flaps to find hundreds of Polaroid shots of breasts. The boobs were asymmetrical. They were discolored. There were inverted nipples. And then there were hundreds of beautiful, round and perfectly shaped bosoms too. I never knew boobs came in such variety.
The first couple Polaroids were fun to snip and snap into little pieces. But the scissors were dull and my hands began to hurt as my eyes began to blur. Nipples. Side boob. Little boob. Big boob. Missing boob. I couldn’t get through the whole box in one day. I had to stop after several hours, my hands cut up from the sharp plastic edges as I tried to snip each nipple into oblivion.
How did I get there, you ask? Well it started when my brother and I, in a major act of desperation, decided to sell Cutco knives for a summer. That might’ve been easy if we were selling over-priced cutlery to our parents’ friends, or our old soccer coaches and music teachers. But our family had just moved to a new city and knew no one. So I started by calling our neighbors and asking if I could come over to give them a knife demonstration. Sounds pretty creepy now, but somehow I managed to phrase it in an endearing way.
The next day I sat on our neighbor’s back patio overlooking a tree-filled ravine. “Do you have a penny?” I asked innocently.
“Sure,” our 60-year-old neighbor said as he pulled one from the pocket of his dress slacks.
“Do you think I can cut through the penny with these scissors?” I asked, like a pretend magician.
“Well, I don’t know,” he said with an almost flirtatious twinkle in his eye.
Clumsily I held the small coin in my left hand as I worked the heavy-duty kitchen shears with my right. Snip. Whew. I did it. From there I launched awkwardly into my sales pitch. “Think of all you could do with these sharp scissors!” I knew I was unconvincing.
Carl looked at me directly without saying anything. Shifting his weight he asked, “Jessie, do you need a job?”
I sat surprised. At first insulted, and then interested.
I quit my knife job that day and within a few weeks I was sitting slicing before and after pictures of Carl’s breast augmentation procedures. Carl was (and is) one of the best cosmetic plastic surgeons in the Midwest. I worked for him and his often-hysterical wife for that entire summer. It was my first full-time job, and I loved the routine. When I wasn’t cutting up boob photos I was scheduling women to have their boobs sliced and reconfigured by Carl. When I wasn’t scheduling them for appointments I worked as a medical assistant for Carl, cleaning up exam rooms, assisting him on his visits, and preparing the patients for operation.
Early on in my time there Carl’s wife approached me in the storage closet. “Have you read the manual yet?”
“Um, not quite.”
It was a seventy page manual outlining everything from how to write in patients’ medical charts to how I needed to dress.
“Okay, well let me know when you’re done.” She began to leave the closet and then turned back, “Oh, don’t forget to initial at the bottom of each page to let me know you read it.”
I wondered what the manual said that was so important that I had to initial each page. I began flipping through later that day and came upon the 2 or 3 pages outlining the expectations of my appearance. “Since this is a cosmetic surgery office we expect your appearance to meet our high standards. Thus female employees are expected to wear tasteful make-up each day along with decent clothes and panty-hose.” The manual went on to describe all of the things I could not wear, including hot pants.
I approached my boss later and told him that I didn’t wear make-up. He consented that I looked fine enough without it. I wasn’t so lucky with the panty-hose battle.
Our office was small both in size and in staff. Other than Carl and his wife there was only one other employee, a Romanian firecracker named Ana. She was in her fifties and had worked in the office for years by the time I arrived. She was snarky and quick when it was the two of us, but she would morph into an obedient, quiet woman when Carl or his wife were near. We’d often get into long, hushed conversations as the days went by. “Getting new boobs changes women,” she’d say knowingly as she sorted through medical charts.
“Yeah?” I asked.
She nodded. “I’ve seen lots of women come in here all flat-chested and mousy and leave a few months later strutting with a big chest and lots of confidence. A lot of them divorce their husbands after the operation.”
After a few months there I began to see that transformation she was talking about. I never knew what I was going to get when I came into the office each day. Most days I would be asked, “Are yours real?” to which I would sheepishly nod “Yes.” The best was when one patient came in and proudly showed me the porno magazine where her new jugs had just been featured. Her boss subsidized the surgery. Another day a woman came in and paid for her $2,000 surgery deposit in $1 dollar bills. I had to count it. All of it. Twice. As I sat huddled and anxious counting singles in the closet (so patients couldn’t see), Ana popped her head in the door and said with a smile, “Now how are you gonna put this on a resume?”
I looked up at her and laughed, although inside I was super anxious about my counting skills. We locked eyes for a moment before I licked my finger and put my head back down to continue sorting the cash. “How do you put cutting pictures of teats on a resume?” I asked, but Ana was already gone, and I was alone with the Botox and Restylane again. Shit, where did I leave off? Oh no…1, 2, 3…
Jessie Kate is a guest writer for Tumbleweed Diaries. She lives in Connecticut where she recently escaped the depressing workforce of doctor offices and music gigging to pursue a master’s degree at Yale. When not in class, she manages a student-run coffee shop, hangs out with her husband, and plays the harp. She dreams of one day being her own boss and making lots of money so she can buy her friends pretty things.