The Barrenness of Beverly Hills

Since I was about to lose an ovary, I thought I should at least have a little fun


So, this is how the end begins—the loosening of grip, still climbing, scrambling, but now sliding back. I feel the change in my life tides. I'm fighting the seismic shift in my gravity, noticing the endless time between my moons. I'm losing youth, losing enough hair in my hairbrush each day to make a pubic toupee. I am now officially infertile.

I pace the surgeon's plush office, examine a photo of a wife and two daughters smiling secure with Daddy looming large around them, then my X-rays on a lit screen awaiting him: a Rorschach of my ultrasound. I've never once seen the things doctors say are revealed there. I've always farmed out my bodily decisions to physicians.

I hear peals of laughter welcome his voice in the hallway. All the women who work for him, who visit him, seem respected and respectful. He's a nice, modern post-feminist metrosexual who champions women in all ways. He swooshes in, smelling of disinfectant, smiles at me, then, expertly, making articulate sense of my blur, points out what he posits is my right ovary surrounded by a cyst. He says that one has got to go, and while he's in there, he might as well take the rest of my reproductive system out, too.

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I'm stunned. He explains to my frozen face that he'll come in through the navel, snip-snip, scar-free and take out all the (to him) "useless stuff" but is (to me) the magic that makes me female, that makes me me. Dr. Trigger-Happy wants every vestigial thing not in current use out, will probably bilk my insurance extra to fly the juicy wife and girls to Asia on the back of my ovaries, cervix and fallopian tubes.

"Hey, hey," he says gently. "Go think about it. Get a second opinion, do your research, but decide soon. Don't invite trouble."

He's so casual about this irreversible procedure. To him, I'm just another pointless piece of protoplasm like other infertiles. But, to me, he is suggesting a murder, a gender-cleansing.

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I storm out of his office, muttering, "Find yourself another practice round, another dry run, another cadaver—you ageist, sexist butcher."

Barreling past the front desk, I grab the women's room key, a badminton ball with a ruler attached. (What the hell does that signify?) Beverly Hills doctors are too surgery-happy, I sniffle in the sanctuary of my car, stashing the badminton ball ruler key under my seat as a sort of hostage. It's like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" in this place. No one has original parts or faces or thoughts.

They took my tonsils when I was a kid because they had painful infections. My wisdom teeth hurt, so they came out in my teens. Seemed necessary to lose those parts. But my other innocent innards never hurt. I'd hardly have known they were there if I hadn't seen photos that were maybe faked, like the photos of the walk on the moon. These supposedly disposable parts still held the magic of the motherhood I'd missed. They needed repurposing. If not a child, maybe there was something else I could make of them. To me, with my tomb of a womb, a hysterectomy seemed monumental. (And why wasn't it called a "hersterectomy"?) Wouldn't the upper parts of me collapse without these placeholders? My breasts collapse onto my stomach, my intestines onto my bladder? Didn't I need them all in order to be a complete woman? OK, maybe sexuality was in the mind, but wasn't it down there, too?

I sought second and third opinions. My cardiologist, a female of advanced years, many times a mother, concurred with my surgeon, as did my young, childfree female gyno and my gay gastroenterologist. These turncoats said just get it all out and they wished they had an excuse to get THEIRS out, too—such a time-bomb reputation women's organs had. Why, they could explode at any time, like live grenades with my body thrown on top of them. These denatured traitors, more academics than females, were so duped by the patriarchal medical establishment, anticipating cancer at every turn, they couldn't possibly be objective.

As I mourned my irreversible sterility, I gave birth to a new goal. I would take six months to conduct research. I would attempt to rid myself of this cyst by other more holistic means: trampolining, meditating, dancing, running for my life in the park. And, before I got spayed, I would get myself thoroughly laid.

I had been a wholesome virgin in the free-love '60s and '70s, when everybody else was having wild recreational sex. I had been serially and lengthily monogamous until now. I could count my men on two hands—all white and slightly older than me. Why, it would be prejudiced of me to stop there! I would now explore my libido in one long, wild orgy, before my body lost all its urges and juices. Past the point of impregnation, I'd reach out to all the seemingly clean, flirtatious, stout-hearted men I could trust would protect me. I would turn the tables. I would go courting. Different ages and colors and sizes. I'd make up for lost time. I'd become the wanton barrenness of Beverly Hills.

I was honest and heartless. The men knew I only wanted one thing. And when I told them it was due to medical necessity, it's remarkable how many were happy to oblige. One half my age, with hair twice as long. One a rock star whose ax went to bed with us. One was a child of the Holocaust who wept of his losses while we loved. One was a handsome half-Hawaiian, half-Portuguese car dealer. One a Kenyan importer. One was an Asian man who owned a chain of dry cleaners. This was like easy travel to other lands, with no passports or jetlag, no attachments or complications. It was good, clean fun.

When my six months was up, I felt free of regret. I didn't feel I'd missed out. But, I still had the cyst.

I returned the restroom key and allowed the surgeon to take one ovary from me. I held on to the other for safekeeping. The procedure was pain-free. And, after the removal, the barrenness rested on her laurels, looking forward to how nature would fill this new vacuum.

Tags: aging