Creation Upended: A tale of scoliosis and dating
I grew up in a pretty religious community where the Bible – or as we called it, the Torah – was taken quite literally, like a historical article rather than a collection of allegories. And when we got to the part of the Creation story where Eve is fashioned from a sleeping Adam’s rib, my teacher informed us that this is why a man pursued a wife. He was in search of his missing part and the person who could complete him.
This is what passed as sex education at my all-girls Jewish day school in Brooklyn.
(Little known fact: this biblical episode established the medical precedent for anesthesia. After reading this, early doctors stopped and thought – hey, maybe we should people to sleep before we remove their appendages? Less positively, it also gave frat boys everywhere the idea of slipping a roofie into a girl’s drink. Oh Bible, you can be interpreted every which way.)
If one takes the lesson of the rib story and the way it was taught to me to its logical extreme, you would get men saying something along the lines of this – “Excuse me beautiful woman, but do you have part of my rib?”
Guys, just so you know, that is the worst pick up line ever. No woman will ever think that’s romantic. And yet, I’d still be more likely to respond to that than I would the men on the street who yell, “Can I get with you?” Does that ever work? I imagine that it must work at least some of the time since the practice is so widespread and that one success story has now become something of a male urban legend. No seriously, my friend’s friend’s brother, he yelled at some chick on the street and she stopped and gave him her number. And now they’re married with kids and live in Westchester.
Anyway, back to the rib line – not only is it serial killer creepy, it kind of turns the search for a soul mate into a matter of orthopedic urgency. That makes two things I know a lot about – futile searching for a boyfriend and orthopedic surgery.
When I was 14, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. This was not Judy Blume’s scoliosis. I wasn’t Deenie, the titular character of one her books. Deenie wanted to be a model and she was only slightly crooked. They put her in a brace, which effectively ended her chances at becoming a teenage catalogue model, having sex way too young and doing lines of blow in a bathroom.
By the time I was diagnosed, I was already in the surgical range, which means my curve was above 50 degrees. When they operated on my spine a few months later, it measured 72 degrees. I was actually getting close to being contorted into a right angle. My upper body was literally trying to make itself perpendicular to my lower half. (I think that was my first use of perpendicular since I took my final math class during freshman year in college.)
Anyway, the surgery to correct this kind of freakishness is called “spinal fusion,” which sounds nicer than it actually is, and back in 1997, fusion cuisine wasn’t really thing so I didn’t have any Pad Thai associations when my doctor first told me about it. It was a purely clinical term.
I only grudgingly consented to the procedure. (But when we’re 14 do we really do anything our parents ask us to do non-grudgingly?) But I did refuse to wear a brace post-fusion. My poor mother, who had to simultaneously threaten to take away everything I loved and bribe me with things I really wanted in order to get me to the hospital, gave my surgeon a look of pure misery when I announced I wouldn’t wear a brace. “Please don’t do this to me,” she begged Dr. Hall.
As a result, he said he would fuse me from both the front and back. Most patients have what is called a posterior fusion. For that, they take a piece of the hip to use for the bone graft. In my case, since they were in the neighborhood, they took a 1/3 of my bottommost floating rib on my left side and slipped little pieces of in between my vertebrae.
And voila – I upended creation. Instead of being created from someone else’s rib, I was mended by my own. Well that, ten hours of surgery, two titanium rods with screws and so much morphine that I hallucinated that I was a little bug version of myself drowning in a giant class of orange juice. With pulp. But enough about my strange OJ phobia.
So what does it mean to be a woman fashioned from her own rib? How does this connect to my relationships with members of the opposite sex who were hoping to get their ribs back in exchange for reaching the things on the top shelf and opening jars and all that nonsense?
Well, they just might be shit out of luck.
I’m often the pursuer instead of the pursuee, much to the chagrin of the author of He’s Just Not Into You. (Not that I would take advice from Greg Behrendt or any guy with a soul patch.)
Can you really blame me? I’m rib deficient, just like the boys. I’m going after some extra rib just like they are. So if my general aggressiveness feels like an assault on your manhood, it probably is. Should you want me to stop, start telling me about your record collection and the band you’re in and the video games you play.
But it also has some positive, feminism affirming implications: namely, that I feel pretty complete and self-contained on my own. Sure, I want companionship and sex as much as the next red blooded American woman but the incision on the left side of my abdomen reminds me that I am pretty cool on my own.