Not breasts in the abstract, but in the specific. Namely, Angelina Jolie’s newsworthy decision last month to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. She revealed this uber-personal and private detail in an interview published just yesterday (Monday). As you might have expected, this story has now gone viral.
As but two examples of this, a front-page piece published this morning on the Huffington Post has so far garnered over five thousand two hundred comments. And similarly, at the moment I turned on my car radio to hear the afternoon news, the commentators were talking about this story.
I guess my question is, Why? Why is this newsworthy? (Women undergo this surgery every single day.) Why such interest? (Is it because Ms. Jolie is an international star? A beautiful woman? Both? Neither?) Why the shock and surprise, as registered in so many of the comments I’ve read in print or heard on TV or radio? (Dare I say it? Is it because so much of Angelina’s beauty is attributed to her figure? Are we as a culture really that shallow and superficial?)
OK, here are my take-aways from this story: 1. In the words of her fiancé, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie made a “heroic” decision, one that was selfless in the extreme. She did this for her family.
In Angelina’s own words, “My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was… My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer… Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventable double mastectomy.” You can read her entire statement HERE.
2. Angelina Jolie is no less beautiful this month than she was last month. (How I WISH that more teenage girls and young women — and yes, even older women — would understand this!) That, if I may be so bold as to be blunt, beauty has nothing to do with curves, or the lack of same!)
From where comes this beauty? Look, I’ve never met her personally. But I ask you to consider the following:
Angelina is a depression survivor, having battled suicidal depression throughout her teens and early twenties. She was a cutter and a drug abuser. Despite all of these challenges, and so many more, she rose to international stardom, and received the fame and fortune that goes with it.
BUT (and this is a big “but”), rather than live a life of comfort and ease and selfish entitlement, she decided to give herself away by seeking — in any way she could — to leverage her fame and fortune to help the most needy, desperate, and underprivileged in this world.
Ms. Jolie visits refugee camps around the world. She has met personally with refugees and displaced persons in over 30 countries, including active war zones. We’re talking places like Darfur, Pakistan, Cambodia, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Somalia. Not as a tourist. But as someone reaching out to the displaced of those troubled lands. People who have nothing. People who can give her nothing in return.
She has even adopted a son from Cambodia, a daughter from Ethiopia, and a son from Vietnam.
Now before anyone gets all high and mighty, and huffy and puffy about, “Well, she and Brad Pitt are — you know — living together in sin, and even had children out of wedlock,” you tell me how many of us oh-so-holy people have done anything with our lives that even approximates any of her beautifully selfless acts of care and compassion? And since I am not without sin, I am not going to cast the first stone.
Bottom line: Angelina is a beautiful person, both before and after her surgery. No surgeon’s scalpel can ever change that. I can only hope that her decision — to make public this most private and personal aspect of her life’s journey — will help us as a culture to grow up, leave our adolescence behind, and begin to understand what real beauty is all about.