On saunas and breast cancer

Another "breakfast post" of blogging. I wonder if I can knock it off before The Kid has finished his porridge? I already have finished mine!

An unrelated thought: those of you who also switch between two (or more) different languages on a keyboard, do you also find it difficult to type in English after you've used the other language? My keyboard has English markings only, but I use it to type in both Estonian and English (I type Estonian from memory of where the punctuation marks and "other" letters (like ü, õ, ö and ä) are) and when I switch between the two I keep typing @ instead of ", _ instead of ?, ) instead of =. Punctuation mess, basically.

But back to breakfast blogging: reading what Dooce has written overnight is part of my morning routine, along with a cup of herbal tea and oatmeal porridge. Today she has written about breast cancer her mother is facing - or, actually, she has shared what her mother is saying about the breast cancer she is facing.

And it has reminded me of Estonian sauna culture.

I come from a culture where public nudity is much more accepted than it is in British-origin cultures. I think all of Scandinavia is like that. We have a culture of saunas!

You see, part of growing up in Estonia, to me, meant going to a public bathhouse on the weekends - at least during the summers, and a little less during winters. It meant taking off clothes in the changing room, scrubbing and washing and splashing in the washing room alongside other nude women of all ages, and sitting the hot sauna room, sweating. I grew up being... accustomed to being nude among other women.

Then, when I was already in my twenties, I grew accustomed to being nude among both women and men. Our skydiving club had a shared sauna concept - something that is somewhat customary in Estonia anyway, but my family for some reason had never practiced it - and so I grew accustomed to not only breasts and butts of all sizes and shapes, but also penises and balls.

(I'm actually giggling to be writing this here. "I grew accustomed to penises and balls of all sizes." Man Booker prize for this sentence right here, please! :P)

So, anyway, where I am getting with this is that I feel much less... protective about my "lady bits" than a lot of the New Zealand women seem to be. Even going to a public swimming pool here is a bit of a cultural experience, for I just strip off and change, whereas a lot of the women around me do the cover-yourself-with-a-towel-and-change-underneath-it thing. Oh, that and the fact that showers are in cubicles, rather than out in the open.

So... where was I going with this? Oh, yeah: lady bits.

I am much less protective about my "lady bits" than Heather's mother seems to be. "This condition invades one of the most private parts of your body, one of the most beautiful parts of your body, a part of your body that IS womanhood. From nurturing and feeding your child to the intimate pleasure that is gained with your partner." I mean, don't get me wrong: I understand where she is coming with this and it's an entirely natural attitude to have, I think.

But here's where we also differ: being just short of turning 30 in a month I have already considered having a preventive double mastectomy sometime in the future, and I don't feel like I have a much of a hang-up about it. As much as I like my breasts they're somewhat... functional to me. I mean, yeah, sure, they make for a lot of fun in the bed, but having come across a lot of information about how prevalent breast cancer is these days, I don't feel like I have a hang-up about losing them. I've considered doing genetical testing to see if I am a carrier of the "breast cancer gene" (yeah, I know, it's a totally technical term, dude), but even outside of that - double mastectomy may be the way to go. Not in the next few years, probably, but a little further down the line when the odds start going up.

(Also, yes, I am aware that double mastectomy doesn't remove all the breast tissue, so please don't feel like you have to give me a lecture in anatomy, thank you very much.)

When I think about that it reminds me of the sauna culture, and the way it "normalises" a lot of the external anatomy. The way I've had a male gynecologist since I was, what, 16? I don't go around parading my bits, but I also don't have a problem stripping off in front of medical staff if need be.

And it's a very healthy side effect of having a sauna culture, I think.

Aaaaaaaand... phew! Got done with writing before the breakfast was over. Yuss!


  1. Answer to the unrelated thought: I use Estonian keyboard layout no matter what language I'm typing in. Its original layout is US or EN or something.

    1. oh, i used to do that - but then i got an english boyfriend/husband who kept going, wtf? :)

  2. I change layout only when someone else needs to use my laptop, otherwise I type Eng and Est with Est keyboard. I'm too used to it, know the layout and there's no need to look plus I use like that most of my fingers.

    On sauna culture.. I had a conversation about this recently. But what I was trying to explain to Brits went way over their heads :) But there also is a difference in nudity. Getting changed, showering, sitting in the sauna with your family, friends, strangers is quite normal. But in some other situations I feel uncomfortable. Depending how free you feel, just a loose towel or whatever but nobody stared, made rude comments or anything. Getting (un)dressed in front of your friends in sauna is normal. Yet somewhere else I wouldn't do it!

    Sorry if I have missed it but has your dearest husband been to Estonia and in a sauna? :D I think that's quite an experience!

    1. When we visited Estonia together in 2010 he came to lake Peipsi with us, friends have a holiday home there, and together we sat in a sauna. Granted, he had to slip out way earlier than me because he doesn't tolerate the heat that well :P but he loved it and he loved the feeling afterwards, sitting outside, fresh and clean, cooling down.

      Minus the mosquitos, of course.

      One day when we have our own home, he wants to build us a sauna.