My birthday last October coincided with “No Bra Day,” which alleged support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Though the origins of the day seemed dubious, I took it at face value and decided to celebrate my birthday with a good old-fashioned bra-burning complete with boob cupcakes, boob balloons, and boob-loving friends. The ceremonial cremation of my undergarments would commemorate the freeing of my tatas in a double mastectomy scheduled for later that month. I would never need to wear a bra again after the surgery and burning the bras, rather than throwing or giving them away, seemed like an auspicious and reverential way to acknowledge the transformation and self-scrutiny and reflection that breast cancer had activated in me.
The bra-burning bash took place on a mild mid-October evening around a fire pit at a friend’s house in the woods along the Potomac River just outside of DC. Once the funeral pyre roared to life, I tossed the first bra into the conflagration and the flames vaporized the polyester and nylon in seconds, leaving behind glowing red wires over which we roasted marshmallows. Laughter and happy chatter filled the air until the final bra was sacrificed into the bonfire and then we stood silently in a circle, each of us lost in thought.
Earlier in the spring of that year, I smashed a cotton candy pink Fender Stratocaster into small bits on the stage at Cherry Blast. A musician friend who liked to smash guitars on his birthdays proposed the idea a couple days before the event and I agreed right away.
The night before the event, my friend taught me enough chords to impersonate someone who knew how to handle a guitar, coached me on proper rock ‘n’ roll style stage strutting, and shared a few pointers on how to protect my eyes and hands from flying shrapnel. I failed to heed his safety tips so my ungloved hands ended up bloodied and bruised, however my eyeballs remained unpunctured even though I forgot to pull down the sunglasses from the top of my head to cover my eyes.
I had been producing Cherry Blast annually for five years for the National Cherry Blossom Festival along with hundreds of other events over the same period and had begun to feel adrift and burnt out and like something was missing. The catharsis of lifting the guitar over my head and smashing it to the ground again and again until the solid, hard body gave way to tiny bits of wood and metal and wire that littered the stage in a mangled mess propelled me a little closer to my true and best self.