Today was my annual mammogram. Julia, the technician, was, of course, Russian. Not that all radiology technicians at this clinic are Russian, but many are.
Julia admired my pink bangs, then marveled that I didn’t look 75. “Good genes” is my usual response, and I added, “and oily skin.” She had an accent, so I asked if she was from Russia (years ago, I helped start a nonprofit supporting women activists in the former communist countries, so aware of different east European accents). Yes, she said, from St. Petersburg. Julia still has cousins there, and they are doing very well. Not everyone in Russia is poor, she added. She sounded proud of that, so I didn’t ask what she or her relatives thought of Putin.
I mentioned that my grandparents all came from what was then Russia. Julia was impressed, then asked hesitantly if I was Jewish; she wasn’t sure because I had fair skin and light (green) eyes. Julia had brown hair and brown eyes, and said her mother was Jewish and had married a Jewish man, but her mother’s sister married a Russian and her cousins were blond and blue-eyed. And, Julia said, she’d been discriminated against because she didn’t look “Russian.”
She’d had a Russian boyfriend here in the States who’d wanted her to dye her hair blonde, and she had refused. “If I wanted to do that, I’d do it,” she emphasized, “but I wasn’t going to do it for him.” And she gleefully reported that this ex-boyfriend brought back from Russia a blonde woman who proceeded to “screw” him legally and financially. We both agreed that the “dumb blonde” stereotype was a stupid stereotype. Her mother was blonde who’d been an engineer and supervised 1,000 men, so clearly, the stereotype did not apply.
I enjoy this kind of conversations when having to go through the intimate, and also very uncomfortable, experience of the mammogram. The choreography of squeezing my breasts flat, positioning one arm just so, keeping my chin up, and holding my breath feels like a bit of stationary dance.
I’m participating in the 11th annual Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. This is day 27 of the 31-day challenge. It’s not too late to make space for daily writing in a community that is encouraging, enthusiastic, and eager to read what you have to slice about. Join in!