Nadja Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

my thoughts

    This page is...I've decided, where I get to spew and share my opinion. I'll change it as often as my schedule allows and sometimes maybe, even sooner depending on how I am feeling about "stuff". I'll tell you now that it will rarely be about music or playing the violin except for the times when it is. I invite you to spew and share as well. For an archive of my previous opinions, click here. Email



    Have you ever taken a moment to ponder what it is to be female? I mean to say, what it is that we have to go through? I thought until about an hour ago that menstruation and childbirth were the only crosses to bear for us.

    That is until I returned from my first ever mammogram.

    Well, well, well. Where to start.

    Obviously it was enough of an experience for me to run home and write about it.

    Let's begin with a trip I took quite some time ago with my mother. We wanted to see the newly refurbished Ellis Island Museum. For those of you who don't know this, Ellis Island was where pretty much all the immigrants had to come through and register upon arriving in the "land of opportunity." My grandparents did it, so my mom and I went there to see their names on the wall. There is a section of the museum that shows what the immigrants had to endure as far as the physical check-up was concerned. While walking through the female section of this, we looked and studied and marveled at the glass enclosed display of tools, instruments, and other various torture devices needed to examine the female body. I say we marveled because we both recognized these instruments all too well.

    That is to say: NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED!!!!

    Why is that? I can't help but think of the much over-used phrase "they can send a man to the moon but..." I mean, really, the crap we have to endure is overwhelming. Okay, okay: to the exam (can't believe I am sharing this on my website).

    Lucky for me (as I was a little nervous) I had a very, very nice and considerate nurse doing the procedure. First of all, her hands were not icy cold which is a good thing because she manipulates and molds and squishes and folds and pushes and pulls those little babies to no end. I can't remember the last time they got so much attention.

    Then you have to wear this lead skirt for some reason unknown to me because they are not photographing this area at all. It was very heavy. I felt like a roman soldier getting ready for battle.

    Then my favorite part, the application of the nipple stickers. I couldn't for the life of me think what these were for. But then at the peak moment of torture I realized they were there so your nipples wouldn't pop right off. Very important.

    Okay, then just when you think you couldn't possibly be more embarrassed, the dreaded machine starts making it's way down. The squeeze play. At that moment my nice nurse resembled a submarine captain having just given the order to "dive, dive, dive." How low will this thing go, I thought? Are we still diving? Still????

    Hey, lady. Stop!!!!

    First of all, you're not embarrassed anymore; you really couldn't care less at this point. And secondly, now you're just worried, then panicked, that your boobs are going to splat right there and make a big mess. I mean, really, this goes beyond squeezing. There are no words to properly describe this sensation. None.

    During all this she asks me to relax but don't breathe. Enough said about that.

    Just when you think you're finished -- saying over and over in your head "thank god, thank god, thank god" -- she says she has to take two more photos.


    Side view.

    Oh lord...who by the way at this very moment in time I am not very fond of.

    Okay, so we go through this whole mess again.

    The nurse keeps talking throughout this, saying the most interesting things like "it's very common for one breast to hurt more than the other" and "it's much more painful for women with smaller breasts." Fascinating little tidbits like that.

    Now she says I should go wait in the waiting area for a few minutes while she looks at the photos and diagnoses them. Very happy to leave the room I run like a linebacker outta there.

    Sitting in the waiting area with 12 other women wearing the same opens-in-the-front robe, I became obsessed with the idea of sharing my new experience. I wanted to speak with them, bond with them, discuss and help and share and offer support and laugh and perhaps make a lifelong friend in that waiting area.

    As I searched the room for a victim, I saw each and every one of them working on their palm pilots, doing the crossword puzzle, reading the paper, and playing solitaire.

    Guess it wasn't their first mammogram.

    So I said nothing; just sat there and stared at my shoes feeling sorry for myself.

    The nurse returned in a few minutes and said, "Nadja, you're good to go."

    Oh joy!!!! I felt the blood rushing back to my face, and, no kidding, I skipped back into the dressing room to disrobe the robe. Just when I thought it was all really over, I realized that I had to peel off those lovely nipple stickers. I guess they didn't want to invest in the ouchless brand.

    Upon leaving the building I immediately called my mother. Christ, I'm 42 years old, and I had to call my mommy! But ya know, on the subway ride home I thought good and hard about all of this, thought what and how would I say on this website to describe this experience. Came to the conclusion that not even Shakespeare himself could offer a description.

    Yeah, a lot he would know about this.

    Come to think of it, I should have named this essay "FOR MEN ONLY."

    But what the hell do I know anyway.


    © 2001-2005 Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg