A rat’s ass is tiny, miniscule. And yet so many of us are disgusted and alarmed by the presence of one, along with the rest of the rodent body, in our homes. My Great Aunt Blanche, about whom several non-fiction works could be written and read, though regarded as fiction due to the unbelievable content, was a widow for nearly sixty years.

In her nineties, she had a not so secret admirer, an 80-something recent widower, who left flowers on her front porch. Aunt Blanche had been through a great deal in her life, poverty, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, caring for her dear husband who was bedridden for the last eleven years of their marriage, and being a widow by age 48, just a bit younger than I am today.

Aunt Blanche was tough, made excellent baked goods, and carried all of her precious and semi-precious gemstone jewelry in her purse “so they won’t get stolen”.  She was incredibly funny and had a way with words. Sometimes her words meandered to the hateful, unfortunately when she spoke of “The JEWS” and “The BLACKS”. My mother would break the tension of these moments with her seditious humor. “Blanchie, where is Turner from?” (“Turner” was Blanche’s husband’s last name.) “Jiminy! I don’t know”, Auntie would reply. Without missing a beat, Mom replied, out of hearing range of Auntie, “Is it from Ike and Tina?”

Auntie lived to be 105. She lived in her own home until age 103. She looooved gardening and she loved animals, including her little dog, Popcorn. However, one day, she walked into the bathroom of her home and saw not the ass, but the head of a rat peeping out of the toilet bowl! She quickly closed the lid and called the police!

A young police officer knocked on the door. He appeared competent and the kind of manly man an elderly woman who avidly reads bodice-ripping romance novels, expects when she encounters a sewer rat. He worked swiftly and purposely by coaxing the rat into a cage using his most authoritarian baby voice!

If I’d seen that rat’s head coming out of my toilet, I will not lie, I would have given a rat’s head and a rat’s ass about it even though, really, what could one little rat do in all likelihood?

These day I find myself caring less and less about the “rat’s asses” of life, the things that produce real and palpable alarm but are really not that much of a threat. I have marks on my body that show, and I’m not talking about my cancer scars. I have a burst of spider and varicose veins on my right shin. It started out as a result of an injury I had at age 18 and grew over time, especially during pregnancy. Being a woman in a long line of generations of women with extensive, bulgy, and painful varicose veins, I told myself that I would have them “lasered” when I was done having children.

I am 49 years old. I am done bearing children. That network of spider and varicose veins is still abloom on my leg. I stopped caring enough a few years back to wear tights or long pants to cover it. I would be oblivious until some kid would point to it and say, “What is that???” I run warm with all of this middle aged hot flash stuff and I’d rather be vein-y than overheated. I saw a photo of myself with my mom on Mother’s Day. I could see the veins on my leg and I thought, “I don’t give a rat’s ass. Mom and I look happy together.”

I have another non-cancer related scar. Remember when you picked at your pimples when you were a teen and your mom told you that you would cause scars? I thought I had sailed through that time with clear skin, despite the picking. Then at age 37, it happened. I gave myself an acne scar, a small red dot, right above my right eyebrow. I have put concealer on it for years. Remember when I had my make up done professionally for prom? The make up artist put nothing extra over that blemish. She treated it like the rest of my face. As if it belonged there. I no longer cover it up. I no longer give a rat’s ass.

There are so many things that we apologize for. For having a voice that is not the same as everyone else’s, for existing, for “making” people uncomfortable with our cancer, for our perceived lack of perfection.

I am getting more and more comfortable with myself as I get older. I like this very much. Do I berate myself for not giving a rat’s ass sooner? No, because wherever I was in the past is the place I was at the time. And who knows where I will be in the future?