MPI Report on Brexpats: the End of Migration for the Masses?

I’ve been following the shipwreck looking for a coastline that is Brexit.  It’s not looking good, folks.  I make no predictions but the magnitude of the task seems to be surpassing the competence of the political class in the UK.

At stake here are the lives of millions of mobile EU and UK citizens.  No one knows for sure if they will be able to stay in the countries where they live and work.  If they are allowed to remain, under what conditions will they be living in the UK or the EU?

If you are interested in the possible fates of UK citizens in the EU a recent Migration Policy Institute report Safe or Sorry? by Meghan Benton is a must read.  She brings some much-needed clarity to the many issues to be resolved before any Briton in the EU can feel “safe.”

Benton makes a very important point at the beginning of her report and that is the diversity of UK citizens on the continent.   It’s not one population, it’s many and while they share one concern (the ability to remain in Europe) what they need to be able to stay differs.  For example, a young Brit working in Germany is living in a very different context from a student in France or a retiree in Spain.  The first may be more concerned about continued access to the labor market, the second about having to pay non-EU tuition, and the last about the status of their pensions and having access to health care.

Access to the EU labor market:  Under EU law UK citizens enjoy a number of benefits:  free movement across the EU, recognition of professional credentials, and no labor market tests “which employment agencies impose to determine whether a local (or EU) worker could do the job before it can be offered to a third-country national.”  Benton argues that UK citizens who are already working be “grandfathered” and allowed to keep their jobs (provided that they get residency) but those from the UK seeking jobs in the EU will find it much harder and she notes that there may already be discrimination against them because there is risk  in hiring a UK citizen in the EU right now given their uncertain status.

Pensions:  National pensions can be independent of the country of retirement:  Americans in  France get their Social Security from the US,  French retirees in North Africa receive their retraite from France, and I even met a retired Scottish woman in Japan who was still drawing on her French pension.  Every year she visits the French consulate and declares “I’m still alive” and the payments continue.  The issue for the UK retirees in the US is not about continuing their pensions but about, as Benton notes, automatic increases in pension amounts based on inflation, for example.  According to Benton the UK usually freezes pension amounts on the date the British retiree leaves the country but “exceptions have been made for those who leave for EEA countries and Switzerland…” (The EEA is the European Economic Area which includes all the EU member states plus Norway, Lichtenstein, and Iceland.)

The question is will the UK continue to “uprate” the pensions of UK citizens in the EU?  It’s not obvious that they will because it’s a lot of money.  Benton says that the UK could save 511 million GBP (573 million euros) over 5 years by freezing those pensions.

These are just two of the many issues facing Brexpats in the EU.  Read Benton’s report for more about healthcare, for example.

I was very interested in what she had to say in the final section of her report Looking Ahead:  Issues to Watch.  Here are some things she thinks we should pay attention to as the deadline for Brexit gets closer and closer:

Changing UK Expat Communities in the EU:  I think it’s safe to say that there will be far fewer new arrivals in the EU from the UK.  In areas where there are large communities of Brits there will be a lack of new blood to invigorate and sustain them.  At the same time there is likely to be an exodus back to the UK.  What will these communities look like in 5 years?

Mass Movement of Retirees:  If there is an exodus back to the UK will many if not most be retirees?  If so that has some important consequences for the National Health Service and the pension system.  The return of a large number of older citizens who are likely to need much more healthcare will put a strain on the system.   And returning retirees are likely if their pensions are locked to have their pensions increased once they become UK residents.   It may not be in the interest of the UK to have these people come back.  From a purely financial perspective the ideal situation for the UK would be to have these retirees stay in their EU countries of residence with frozen pensions and  either private healthcare insurance or access to the local national healthcare systems that would not be reimbursed by the UK.  I would watch for new constraints on access to public services for the elderly returning from abroad.

An Unfriendly EU Labor Market:  Benton points out that there is not much incentive right now to hire a UK worker.  This is not likely to improve once they become “third-country nationals.” Benton says that those who will keep their jobs may find themselves stuck in them:  too risky to try to find another employer and impediments to looking for work in another EU country.

Winners and Losers:  As I said above not everyone is in the same boat here.  Students who have the financial capacity to pay more tuition at EU universities will pay and stay.  Same for retirees who have other sources of income and not just their state pensions.  Furthermore, as Benton points out some will be able to get EU citizenship or will marry their EU partners and get automatic residency.

Given the early evidence that some Britons are exploring their options for claiming long-term residence or citizenship of other EU countries, the next few years may see these people – the affluent, resourceful, cosmopolitan – retain EU citizenship while the majority of Britons lose it (and the free-movement rights it brings).

In other words the Brexit rain will fall  most heavily on the most vulnerable present and future UK expats in the EU:  job seekers, retirees on fixed incomes and the “merely middle-class” (and below).   Would Peter Mayle have been able to move to Provence under the conditions likely to be applicable after Brexit?  One has to wonder. I do note, however, that he has become a French citizen and with the success of his books I’d say that he’s set.

And that, I think, drives home Benton’s point which is that Brexit has little impact on the lucky few.  As for all the other Britons dreaming of a life in Europe this may be the end of “migration for the UK masses.”

 

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What to Read on a 13 Hour Flight

I am watching my last sunrise in Japan.

Last night I finished packing and then turned my attention to something equally important:  books for that long long flight to Paris.

You’ll find my selections on the left toolbar under What I’m Reading… 

Yes, I know that there is no way I will read all or even most of them, but I like to have a choice (and thank goodness for e-readers which make that possible).

Have a look.  Perhaps there will be something that strikes your fancy.

Sayonara, Japan.  Bonjour, France.

I can’t wait to be home.

Secular Penitential Rites

“Brethen, in the Primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open penance, and punished in this world that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord; and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend.”

The Book of Common Prayer,  A Commination or Denouncing of God’s Anger and Judgements Against Sinners.

I sense that many of us would find this practice which does indeed go back to the early days of Christianity to be rather horrific.    Rest assured, today it is a mere shadow of what it was in the days when repentant sinners were asked to do public penance for over a decade (see Canon XI of the Council of Nicaea) before being allowed to return as full members of the Christian community.  The Commination that I cite above is, I understand, rarely used and  like the Confiteor in the Roman Catholic Mass is a general admission of the sins of the faithful; no one is singled out and required to make a public confession of his or her particular failings (that’s saved for the very private Sacrament of Reconciliation).

That does not mean, however, that the idea of public confession and repentance is no longer with us.  Just open any newspaper and you will find people being pilloried for having committed acts that offend the law and community standards of right conduct.  In some cases you will even read their “confessions” with explanations of why they did what they did and perhaps a general plea for understanding and forgiveness.  These are the penitential rites of our time and they are no less powerful for being completely disassociated from organized religion.

This says several things to me.  First, that the notion of “sin” is alive and well though it has been redefined to mean offenses against individuals or the community that are not necessarily illegal  but are perceived to be wrong and worthy of some sort of punishment (if only the loss of reputation and standing.) Second is the idea that these offenses should be revealed to the entire community, and with the internet “community” is a very broad term indeed.   This is said to be for the good of all, a way toward a more just and fair society.  It is even more necessary, some say, when the offenses seem to contradict the offender’s public stand on certain issues.  This is the sin of hypocrisy which is said to make  the offense that much worse.

Far be it from me to tell people what to do (that’s not my job, thank God) or to get in the way of journalists who have to make a living but I find this secular notion of public penance to be troubling.  For in our rush to judgement there is too little said about forgiveness.

The purpose of religious rites of penance is the saving of the sinner’s soul and the establishment of right conduct among the faithful.  There is a clear path to follow from sin to reconciliation.  It starts with the principle that no one is irredeemable, that all sins however grave, can and should be forgiven.  Offenders, said the Synod of Nicaea (325 AD), “shall be dealt with mercifully” and all Christians are reminded even today to be careful about judgement and “to love the sinner and hate the sin.” People are more than their good or bad conduct; they are children of the deity just as you or I.

The modern secular rituals of public penance have, I think, almost entirely dropped the idea of mercy in favor of public punishment.  Worse, they offer no clear way for the offender to make things right.  There are certainly things that he or she can try:  public apologies, retiring from public life, going to rehab, marriage counseling, and even offering money for restitution.  None of these things is sure to gain forgiveness, rather it seems to be up to the public to deem that the person has suffered enough and may be now be readmitted to our good graces.  Some are never forgiven and their deeds will follow them all their days.

I find this to be rather horrific.  Whatever the faults of organized religion, it has the merit of being very clear about what constitutes immoral acts that put the individual at odds with God and the community.  In secular society, there is no such clarity when it concerns acts that are not illegal but are nonetheless viewed as immoral.  That people will have opinions about such things and will debate contentious acts amongst themselves poses no problem as far as I am concerned. The problems occur when the public decides that it, not God or the government, is the arbiter of what is unacceptable conduct, and then having made such a determination leaves the offender in a situation in which she/he must guess what to do to right the wrong and be forgiven. I find that to be so lacking in clarity and mercy as to be cruel and even tyrannical.  How many days in the desert?  How much money?  How many days of rehab?  No one knows because it is subjective and we all know about the changing tides of public opinion.

Ultimately religious rites of penance serve to bring peace to the sinner and the community.  They do not deny that something very wrong has occurred.  They require an admission on the part of the offender and he or she must (figuratively, not literally) “weep at the door of the church and ask pardon.”  And then we weep together as a community for what has been broken.  But once the penance is done people are reconciled with themselves, the deity, and the community.  They are healed.

I contend that the secular rites of penance hurt but do not necessarily heal.  (Perhaps Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are the exception to this and I am open to that argument.)  Some might say, “Good. They deserve to suffer for the rest of their lives.”  I’m not one of them because I believe in the wonderful saying about resentment being a poison that one ingests with the hope of the other person falling ill.

Now  I am certainly not arguing here for a return to the practices of 4th or 21st century Christians.  I think the late, great Chistopher Hitchens was correct when he said that human decency was around long before organized religion.  I don’t think there is anything decent about perpetual punishment without the possibility of redemption, the restoration of reputation, and reintegration. What I would like to see is societal judgement tempered with mercy, containing clear paths to right wrongs, and culminating in forgiveness.    How to achieve this?  I have no idea but we could start by recognizing  that we share at least one thing with those transgressors:  we are all delightfully and dangerously human.

And “to be human is to ask unanswerable questions, but to persist in asking them, to be broken and ache for wholeness, to hurt and to try find a way to healing through the hurt…” (The Spirituality of Imperfection by Ernest Kurtz.)

Miserere nobis.

 

A Person Should Wear What S/he Wants To And Not Just What Other Folks Say

“Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being.”

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Back when I was a foot soldier for international capitalism I was well aware of this two-front war.  As a woman in an industry dominated by men it was a daily struggle to be heard even though I was hired because of my experience and expertise.  In the corporate struggles for power what I looked like, what I wore, my marital status and motherhood were considered fair game.  “Buy some new clothes,” said one of my bosses. (I did.) “You should be grateful we gave you this job and pay you as much as we do given that your husband has a very good job and you have children,” said another.  (I quit.)  “You can’t be an American; you’re not fat.” (A backhanded “compliment.”)

None of these things had anything to do with my ability to do my job, nor did they have anything to do with my worth as a human being.  With hindsight I can see it for what it was: an abuse of power and a deflection.  A deflection because by shifting the focus to what I looked like or what I wore or my marital status they could shut me down when I had opinions, raised uncomfortable questions like why I was being paid less than a man, and exercised the power of my position.  So my strategy was to put on my “armor” and show up for work every day in makeup, suit, and high heels looking as little like a mother (or an American) as possible. In short I submitted to a dress code imposed on me by the men I worked for.   Dress which had nothing to do with my personal preferences:  the heels shortened my tendons and made it painful to walk barefoot or in flat shoes.

So I must admit that I have had visceral reactions to a topic that has been in the headlines in recent weeks.   There is a lively debate in Quebec over Bill 62 which would require that faces be uncovered when public services are being used.  This has been interpreted as an attempt to ban the burqua, a style of dress worn by Moslem women in some countries that covers the entire body including the face.

Bill 62.  I have listened carefully to those who are in favor of the ban.  It is a matter of security, some say, not religion and it certainly is not aimed primarily at women.  The clarifications on the law provided by the Justice Ministry have indeed made it out to be a matter of identification: an individual can read a book in a public library with the face covered, but he/she must uncover it when dealing with library staff.  The purpose then, as I understand it, is to be able to match a face with an item of identification like a bus or library pass.

Is this law actually addressing an issue that needs to be rectified?  Is there a significant number of Quebecois residents who are covering their faces so that they can fraudulently use public libraries and transportation?  Have public servants complained that they are unable to do their jobs as guardians of public services because they cannot identify users or have there been serious security issues in public spaces related to people who have hidden their faces in order to wreak havoc anonymously?  In all the articles I have read I have heard a great deal about potential security issues but nothing about actual ones that would justify such a law.  Unless someone can point to some empirical data about this I must conclude that this law is either a frivolous “solution in search of a problem” for political gain or a nefarious attempt to discourage men and women (mostly women) from dressing in ways that some find offensive or threatening.

Some of the law’s supporters are indeed very forthcoming about the latter being their goal.  They say that the ban is indeed a matter of religion and more specifically about how a minority of  women of a certain minority culture and religion dress.  Reading those arguments I am hearing a great deal about how these women are suffering from “false consciousness” and how we are under no obligation to help these women “self-oppress.”  Banning the burqua is thus a step forward in the liberation of these women.

I read these arguments and I want to weep.  Or rage.  Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century and somehow what women wear is a matter for public debate.   A debate that is, mind you, impossible for women to win.  In one era we are chastised for wearing our skirts too short, in another because we wear them too long.  We have been forced to wear veils and we have been forced to take them off.    We are sluts if we reveal too much, but we are prudes if we cover too much.

The underlying topic here is not security, it is: Do women have the right to dress as they please without harassment or violating the law?   In some countries the answer to that is a resounding “No!” and I am no fan of such places.   But I also note that for much of my life spent in a European liberal democracy  I too have not felt I had the right to dress in a way that was most pleasing to me (and most beneficial for my health.)  And I’d say that’s true of most women just about everywhere in the world. Even when we are unveiled, I would argue, we have to fight to be seen or heard.

But the law is the law, as some people point out ever so self-righteously.  So let us channel our inner anarchist and “work to rule.”  Let every functionnaire in Quebec diligently check the photo IDs of every single person using the public services in the province and let not one person escape the identification requirement: if the photo shows no beard but the person has one, send him home for a clean shave before he can use the public transportation.   Furthermore,  there should be a hotline to report any public servant who fails to enforce those all-important security measures.

As for the private sector perhaps we could have a little fun here.  One response to “Buy some new clothes” might be “We should go together because that suit of yours has certainly seen better days.”  Or how about “You should be grateful the company gave you this job and pay you as much as we do given that your wife has a very good job and you have children.”  And lastly, “Your belly is hanging out over your belt; you can’t possibly be French.”

I dream. 🙂

Australia: Citizenship and Consent

And yet another saga of citizenship.  This one concerns Australia, a country of immigration whose elected representatives are being scrutinized in light of Section 44 of the nation’s constitution.  Any individual, it says, who is “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”  may not run for or be elected as a senator or member of the national parliament.   In other words, a dual citizen may not be an elected representative of the people at the federal level in Australia.

That’s the law and it’s pretty clear.  (The Australian high court in fact ruled on the matter a few days ago concerning those who did not know they were duals. ) That is not, however, the end of the matter.  Though Australian politicians  who are dual citizens have been deemed ineligible for office there is now a national discussion about whether or not a single citizenship really should be a requirement for public office.  Does the 1901 Australian constitution still reflect the will of the people in 2017?  If so then how best to enforce it?   The Green party argues that “citizenship audits” by immigration and citizenship experts is one way to resolve the matter.

Is single citizenship a reasonable requirement for elected officials?  Well, this question goes to the heart of one of the greatest fears around dual citizens – that dual citizens have dual loyalties.  This is particularly pertinent for elected officials in a democratic nation-state who are expected to act solely in the interests of the people who elected him or her. There are indications in other countries that voters do care about citizenship status.  Ted Cruz, a US senator, renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014 even though there is no legal impediment to his holding office as a dual.   Renho, a Japanese politician, had to declare her choice of Japanese nationality after it was shown that she still had Taiwan citizenship though her father.  In France Eva Joly, a French politician from Norway has been controversial because she is a dual.

What’s interesting about these cases and that of the Australian politicians caught in these citizenship controversies is that the other citizenship (the one causing the issue) was not one that was actively chosen.  The citizenship was conferred on them by the other state’s citizenship laws. They had a first or second-generation immigrant parent who was a citizen of another country and that’s enough under some countries’ laws to make them citizens, too.  Or, as in the case of Joly, they have a citizenship that they did not renounce when they naturalized in another country.  Some of the Australian politicians, in fact, were unaware of their dual status.

Is this unusual?  Not at all.  Ascription is the general rule, not the exception when it comes to citizenship and it’s assumed far too often that the actions of the state are congruent with the wishes of the individual. Thus, citizens of democratic nation-states have this erroneous idea that citizenship is purely a matter of choice.  To think otherwise would be to admit that most members of a nation state’s political community did not actively consent to be governed. Rather, they passively accepted a status conferred upon them by the state and then simply acted as citizens exercising the rights and submitting to the responsibilities of that state’s citizenship.  Behavior  is deemed to be consent (and there are problems with that but let’s roll with it.)

So a better question here about these politician duals might be:  Did the dual citizen in question ever actively consent to the claim of the other nation-state?  Has he or she sworn allegiance, sought a passport, paid taxes, voted, or given any other indication that this citizenship is active?  In other words has he or she consented by word or deed to the claim of the other state?  If she hasn’t than honestly I don’t see that there is much to be concerned about.  But that judgement could perfectly well be left up to the voters who, one hopes, would ask questions about the other citizenship and the candidate’s relationship to the other country.  They could then make up their own minds.

What is a bit troubling in the Australia debate over politician and dual citizens is how easily Australia seems more than happy to recognize the claims of the other state on its own citizens (even those who were unaware that some state had conferred citizenship on them.  Nothing forces Australia to recognize the other citizenship(s). They could perfectly well say that as far as they are concerned all Australians in Australia only have one citizenship.  If another state wants to make a claim that’s their business but it would be irrelevant to the Australian government and any responsibilities that go along with that other citizenship could not be applied to any Australian in Australia.  And thus there would be no need for those “citizenship audits.”

So I would argue that Section 44 is due for a revision.  Insofar as multiple citizenship is an issue, it is one that the voters can perfectly well decide for themselves based on their questions to the candidates.  But as far as the law is concerned instead of assuming that a second citizenship conferred by another state is an active one that was chosen by the individual, they can make a very different one:  that the claim of the other state over that citizen has no validity in Australia and neither confers benefits nor poses impediments to participation in public life.

Angels in the Architecture

“He doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound
The sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen! and Hallelujah!”

You Can Call Me Al”, Paul Simon (Graceland, 1986)

One of the things that has been lost in our secular age is religious literacy.  To the uninitiated a church or a cathedral or a temple is a fine thing to visit and admire.  I certainly have played the tourist here in Japan, wandering through shrines with very little curiosity about why they were built in this manner and not another and what their precise purpose is.  It is easy to think of them as anachronisms from another time that remain only for the amusement of visitors like myself.

I am, in these places, a religious illiterate when it comes to Buddhism or Shinto. Lately I have tried to do a bit better but time is short and soon I will be back in a world where I am fully literate in the language of sacred architecture.   Or am I?

A superb book that I read recently called into question my own ability to read the chapels, churches and cathedrals of my own faith:  Theology in Stone:  Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley (2004) by Richard Kieckhefer.

Now there are many books about church architecture and most of us have some idea of what a Gothic cathedral looks like and how it differs from, say, a Romanesque one. Kieckhefer takes a different deeper approach which is not so much about theology as it is about liturgy – “a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship” within a religious tradition.  In other words, these churches were not built as static monuments but as sacred spaces within which people moved, listened, prayed, received the sacraments and so on.  It’s not precisely form following function but there was a plan for how the layout was to be used and it favored certain things over other things.

When discussing the spacial dynamics Kieckhefer divides Christian churches into three rough forms which, he argues, “follow largely from the conception of the spiritual process it is meant to suggest and foster, the type of dynamism it aims to promote”:  the classic sacramental church, the classic evangelical church, and the modern communal church.

Plan of Notre Dame
http://www.conservapedia.com/Notre_Dame_de_Paris

If you have ever been to Notre Dame in Paris it’s a long walk from the entry to the altar at the other end.  Think if it as a space that encourages movement like processions which you often see at the beginning of the Mass when the clergy walk the entire length of the church, past the participants and right up to the chancel.   In between are segmented spaces and during a service there is constant movement between one space and another as everyone moves their attention or their bodies from one place to another.

In a classic evangelical church the pulpit is the center of the action – this is a sacred space for people to hear the Word of God.   If you look for the pulpit (1649) in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam you will find it in the nave where the participants sat.  (See this video for pictures of it.  It’s magnificent.)

nieuwe-kerk-in-amsterdam-st-catherine-map

PISANI_03-300x301
http://faithandform.com/feature/hide-and-seek/

The third model Kieckhefer talks about is the modern communal church.  A place, in the words of F. Debuyst, which is “a kind of livingroom, a place where the faithful come to meet the Lord, and one another in the Lord.” Kieckhefer argues that these spaces are designed for people to come together as a faith community and encourages them to be active participants in the service.  His example is the Church of the Autostrada in Italy which has the most fascinating floor plan I’ve ever seen.

So in a sense going as a tourist is an impoverished experience – a lot like visiting a theater when there is no movie or play being performed.    Perhaps this is where some people get the notion that religion is dead; they only visit places when there are no believers about and no rites being performed.  Space, as one blogger put it, “is only poor when it is not inviting interaction.”

So much only becomes clear when the space is being used.  I wish I had thought more about it in the churches I’ve visited over the years.  I suspect that I missed so much because I never looked at my own places of worship in this way and I remain illiterate about religious rites that are not my own.

So the next time I visit a church, mosque, synagogue, shrine or temple I resolve to seek those angels in the architecture.  And perhaps I will find them standing right next to me.

 

 

 

Freedom First, Beauty Second

“I pointed to my right breast. ‘This is Danger.’ Then my left. ‘And this is Will Robinson. I would appreciate it if you addressed them accordingly.’

After a long pause in which he took the time to blink several times, he asked, ‘You named your breasts?’

I turned my back to him with a shrug. ‘I named my ovaries, too, but they don’t get out as much.’”

First Grave on the Right* by Darynda Jones

In 2012 my unnamed breasts went to heaven ahead of me.  I appreciated the sacrifice since it saved the rest of my parts and my life.  Some days I still mourn the loss but not as often as I once imagined I would.

I don’t know if other women remember the days of their youth when we could run and play without strapping ourselves into a support device.  When getting dressed in the morning meant throwing on a dress or a shirt and never having to worry about straps showing or what color our upper underwear was and did it peek through the white t-shirt?

To some extent those days return once the breasts are gone.  I can get up, throw on my running gear, and fly through the streets of Osaka or Versailles with such freedom and joy at just being alive and moving.  It brings back those days in the neighborhood where I grew up when I could burst out of the house feeling like I had wings on my feet and join my friends in a rough and tumble game of kick the can that would go on for hours.

But breasts are more than an impediment to exercise, they have a function.  I fed two children with them and in my dreams, the very best ones, I am sitting in a chair with a child at my breast watching her feed with eyes closed and her fingers on my flesh.

I am far past my childbearing years so function is no longer an issue.  That leaves only two reasons in my mind to opt for reconstruction:  identity and aesthetics.  For some women their breasts are a part of their identity as women. Not having them makes them feel de-sexed, like quasi-men with ovaries.   I understand.  That was my own reaction when I woke up after the operation and saw the scars.  Something about how I thought about myself as a woman  suffered a severe shock that day.  It was an amputation of identity and not just flesh.

As for aesthetics, it turned out that how I felt about my silhouette depended on where I was.  In the US, I had a chance to talk to women who chose not to have reconstruction.  Certainly, I noticed the lack of breasts (all the more because I was in the same boat) but I was struck by how other aspects of their femininity became apparent.  It was as if by removing the thing that many people so often notice first about a woman, other things were able to shine through:  lovely hair and eyes, the curve of a hip, shapely calves, a graceful walk.  Beautiful women without breasts.  Imagine that.

In Japan there was yet another revelation.  In Osaka I can walk down the street and no one notices whether I have breasts or not because Japanese women are not particularly well-endowed in that respect.  A quick look around me in the women’s car of the local subway train reveals many flat-chested women who are lovely and sensual.  And it’s easy to find clothes that don’t assume that you have breasts to fill them out in a particular way – something that is harder to find in France.

So to reconstruct or not?  I’ve been thinking about this for 5 years now, weighing the pros and cons.  I’ve decided that if I do it, I try to get the best of all worlds:  breasts that are small enough not to be a nuisance (think champagne cup and not cereal bowl) but large enough to give some shape so that I can wear more of the clothes that I find in the Hexagon.  Freedom first, then beauty.

And I will not name them.  They will be mine, for sure, but they will never be the ones in my dreams of nursing my children.

 

*An urban fantasy series that I highly recommend.