Jodi Jaecks didn’t mean to become an issue. She just wanted to go swimming at the public pool without the pain her bathing suit top was causing her. The 47 year-old Seattle chef and longtime athlete had a double mastectomy last year. “Her body looks mostly like that of a tightly built man with a very thin waist,” writes ESPN columnist Rick Reilly. Jaecks wanted to go for a swim at the Medgar Evers public pas part of her recovery but wearing a swim suit or bikini or one-piece, caused her terrible pain so she asked if she could swim without a top, there being nothing to see. She was turned down.
When the Seattle newspaper the Stranger found out about Jaecks dilemma it became an issue and quite a controversial one. Then Seattle Parks and Recreation Director Christopher Williams, who is getting chemo for lung cancer, stepped in and made a special rule for Jodi to swim at the pool topless during adult swim times.
Problem solved? Not so fast. Yes it helps Jodi but all the other women with double mastectomies who would like that option were left high and dry. Williams is now looking into the matter and trying to extend the rule to “make Seattle pools more “inclusive,” Reilly writes and an answering should come in a few months.In the meantime Jaecks is not taking advantage of her swimming option until it is offered to others in the same boat as she.
Nothing brings out compassion and empathy like scars. When someone is willing to show them, whether they are physical or emotional, most of us respond to their trust in us with empathy. Moreover they remind us how fleeting out own good health and fortune might be so we might want to value it a little bit more.
So why not let these women – who, like Jaecks, aren’t trying to be provocative, just comfortable – feel a little more free? Who could it harm? If it’s an issue of squeamishness the powers that be aren’t giving people enough credit for compassion or allowing the squeamish people to confront and get passed their discomfort. If it’s an issue of aesthetics, that’s even thornier. Once you start deciding whose bodies are attractive enough to be seen in public well … you might have to provide an awful lot of bathrobes because most of us aren’t Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.
And scarred bodies can be just as beautiful as any other bodies, the proof being in The Scar Project, a portrait series by photographer David Jay of breast cancer survivors and their scars – and some of the most beautiful photos you’ll ever see. They show, that beauty isn’t always about mutable standards of perfection, but about other things, like strength, perseverance and the ability to go through fearsome things and come out still able to enjoy life’s little pleasures.
Like an afternoon swim.
Image via The Stranger