Saturday, 5 December 2009

Moobing forward

A great privilege of being a journalist is meeting people, visiting places and seeing things you wouldn't otherwise be able to.  Not every experience is pleasant, of course; for every personal hero you get to interview (Tony Benn), there's a personal villain (Ann Widdecombe).  For every fragrant, jewelled palace, there's a damp, overcrowded council flat.  And for every obsequious handshake from a grateful PR, there's a mouthful of abuse from someone who'd much rather you weren't poking around in their nefarious business.

Last Friday, I attended a surgical procedure and I'm still trying to work out whether it was a Tony Benn or an Ann Widdecombe moment.

I've been making a film for Channel Five TV's 'Live From Studio Five' show in which Melinda Messenger, Ian Wright and Kate Walsh meet celebrities and chew the fat entertainingly about the (mainly) inconsequential issues of the day.  They like a bit of more serious meat in their sandwich, however, which is where I came in.

When I was a boy, I developed man boobs or moobs, or gynecomastia, to give it its proper name.  It's a much misunderstood condition.  If you are overweight with a beer gut and a fat arse as well as man boobs, you probably don't have gynecomastia - you have pseudogynecomastia and need to diet and hit the gym.  If you are slim, fit and firm everywhere else but your moobs persist, you do.

My story is typical.  I tried diet and exercise to no avail.  I laughed along with schoolmates' jibes, some intended to wound, others just uttered unthinkingly, then cried in private.  I became a master of illusion; clothes were bought on the basis of how effectively they camouflaged the abnormality.  I was always first in and last out of the swimming pool, and I never sunbathed topless "because of my sensitive skin".

Finally, at the age of 40, I plucked up the courage to do something about it.  I found a cosmetic surgeon who pronounced me an ideal candidate for liposuction.  Not to put too fine a point on it, under general anaesthetic, the fat was sucked out of my tits.  My chest was then tightly bound so that my new shape could consolidate.  After a few days, my swaddling was peeled off.  Staring back at me from the mirror, amid a glorious, abstract artwork of red, blue, purple, brown and black bruises, was an unremarkable, unmistakably boob-free, male torso.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life.  A decade on, my chest remains as flat as the proverbial pancake and I remain euphoric and grateful.

Since then, I've unintentionally become a cheerleader for corrective surgery for the condition.  I've written about it in national and regional newspapers, debated it on radio and reported on it for television.

For this latest film, the producer had found a man who was prepared to let us film his going under the knife.  It took her some months; when you've spent most of your life loathing part of your body and treating it as your guilty secret, you're disinclined to show it off to millions of strangers, even it if is about to be rectified.

It's perhaps not entirely surprising that the brave soul who finally stepped forward is a professional performer.  Simon Evans is a stand-up comedian and co-writer of TV sitcom Not Going Out. 

After I'd interviewed him and his surgeon, it was time to don surgical scrubs and accompany them to theatre.  I had no idea whether I would sail through the sight of human flesh being sliced into or immediately crash to the floor.  I'm glad to report that I was fine and able to witness the whole fascinating sequence of events.  Simon witnessed it too as, these days, it's carried out under local anaesthetic.  If you, on the other hand, topple over at a nosebleed, look away now.....

Small incisions are made to the side of each breast and anaesthetic injected.  This is followed by a probe which delivers ultrasonic vibrations to break down the fat.  Before they get smaller, the breasts become larger; Simon's chest alarmingly transformed from Kate Moss proportions to something Katie Price wouldn't have been too ashamed of.  Then, tubes are connected and the broken down fat is sucked out.  Along a long, transparent tube it crawls en route to a measuring jar.  Here, it separates like fat and meat juices when you're making gravy for the Sunday roast.  It looks more like a strawberry milkshake, though, with a white frothy head above pink liquid.  (I did warn you to look away.)

During the 90-minute sessions, Simon revealed that he had a gig that night.  Even though the change from general to local anaesthetic meant he'd recuperate faster than I had a decade before, this seemed a bit optimistic and was not endorsed by the surgeon.  But that's performers for you; we never turn down a gig unless, possibly, we have a temperature of 105, at least two of our limbs are hanging off and our entire family has just been wiped out in a freak accident.  Mind you, even then.....

I'm thrilled for Simon because I know it's the best decision he'll ever make.  Anyone cursed with a physical characteristic associated with the opposite sex will know how wretched it makes you feel and how severely it can limit your life.  Society just isn't ready to deal maturely with high-voiced men or balding or bearded women.

And that's why I never miss a chance to bang the drum about correcting gynecomastia.  I want every man overly blessed up top to know how easily their problem can be resolved.  To put it bluntly, don't be a sucker - get 'em sucked!

Photo courtesy of

No comments:

Post a Comment