28 December 2007

the saga of my boobs, part one million

Sarah Hepola has a great salon piece on what it's like to have big boobs. She articulates everything I really minded.

I was in the middle of a semi-naked makeout session with the man I was (foolishly) dating when he interrupted to ask a question.

"What size are those?" He meant my breasts.

A sleazeball, right? Of course. But I've gotten that question, too. It's like kissing me is some kind of license to ask. Gee, why don't you ask how much I weigh, too?

A gajillion porno sites and essentially all of modern pop culture would suggest having big boobs is a wonderful thing, an aspirational thing; hey, people pay good money for these puppies. But for me, it's something I never wanted, something that never fit what I felt like inside, something I try badly to ignore. Unfortunately, most people don't return the favor.


But underneath all the good-natured self-mockery and the saucy, low-cut tops, there is something else: I am embarrassed by my knockers. And the fact that something I am embarrassed about is the first thing people notice about me? Well, that kinda sucks. I feel like I could save a baby from a burning building, I could cure cancer with glitter alone, and I would still be referred to as "Sarah, you know, the short one with the big tits."

Ditto. It's not really any fun. One of my first husband's best friends referred to me, for years, as "the lassie wi the big tits." Um, thanks. That was after the reduction, which, if you are interested, brought me down to a 32DD. My surgeon's response, a year after the reduction: "Huh. I thought they'd be smaller, more like a C cup." Yeah, I thought so too. But you don't need to slice me up again and cut off my nipples and reattach them again and leave big swathes of ropy scar tissue - it's okay, I'll live with it. It's certainly an improvement from the G cup or whatever I was wearing before. I was too embarassed to go to the old ladies in a department store who would have measured me, and it's uncommon to stock even a 32DD (which is why I often end up wearing a 34D and tugging at the back as it slides up all day). Never mind the 32G.

And not knowing your own cup size is another point that Hepola touches on:

I'll sum up my early adolescence like this: I wore T-shirts in the pool. I showered alone. I learned that clever ruse of changing clothes but never being naked. I tried to be terribly quiet about all this, because if I was terribly quiet, then all of it just might disappear.

Which is the kind of magical thinking that got me to the age of 33, not knowing the size of my breasts. I don't need an "Oprah" episode and a thousand women's magazine articles and the cast of "What Not to Wear" to tell me I'm in the wrong cup size. My breasts spill out the top. (I was horrified to discover the tabloid press had a name for this: quadriboobage!) My breasts spill out the bottom. They spill out everywhere boobs can spill out, basically.

It's been ten years since I had the reduction, and I still think it was a great decision. Even though my boobs, outside of a bra, fall about halfway to China, at least within a bra, I can look normal and wear dresses off the rack and stuff. Mostly because I am 5'7" and slim, so the boobs can get smushed into a sheath and look fine, as long as it's got some elastic.

But pre-operation, I was the object of admiration from my friends for how I could change without ever getting undressed. They also admired how well I hid my disproportion. And then they refused to let me borrow clothing, because it would get stretched. Which was true but annoying.

They look like I expect: Beige and giant, like you could parachute out of a plane with them. I try them on and she is surprisingly hands-on with me, running one finger along each seam, sticking a finger deep in the crevasse of my cleavage and rooting around, jiggling things unexpectedly. Even my boyfriend and my doctor aren't this thorough.

Yeah. How about the time I was getting fitted - bad enough to be topless in front of a bunch of strangers with your untoned stomach jiggling all over the place and muffin top seeping over the top of your pants with no sweater in place to camoflage it - and one lady commented on how saggy I was. Awesome. Why don't you also recommend aerobics so I can tone my thighs a little (as a waxer once did)?*

I'm sure she didn't mean to wound me, but if you're 21 or so and some white haired old broad is clucking over your tits and speculating that it's happened extra fast because of the reduction, that's no fun. Of course she's right; they are at my elbows and I offer proof:

cat pictures 002
I really should go braless less often.


I might be angry, but I'm supported.

it has always been my not-so-revelatory suspicion that this entire industry -- this luxurious, pink powder-puff, thongs-as-women's-empowerment industry -- is really just about pleasing men. Because let's face it: I am much more comfortable in a jogging bra and cotton boy shorts, and those don't run me $100 a set. It's all well and good to find a bra that fits, but the truth is that I wanted a bra that not only fit but could also be seen in daylight by the man I'm in love with.

Yeah. Except actually, a good sportsbra with an underwire seems to run me about 50 - 60 bucks. Worth every motherfucking penny.

* it's funny, I seem to mind the comments from other women more than men. Maybe because I expect that kind of bullshit from men, but when another woman - and one you are paying, who is seeing you vulnerable, in a state of undress - offers up her opinions about your body, well, it's like a double betrayal.


Kaethe said...

Painfully familiar. Yeah, a boyfriend once described me as "the little girl with big tits". Creepy. While I've never used to be all that endowed, pregnancy and breastfeeding did scary things to my boobs. Afterwards they are as two golf balls in my husband's sweat socks. I don't have a lot of body embarrassment, but I would kill someone for taking a picture of me without a bra.

Cara deBeer said...

you know, I wrote this whole post and it wasn't until like 2 days later that I realised I'd hadn't talked about the actual childfeeding function of my breasts, which is what they're FOR. Of course I also don't have kids, but it still says something about how heavily sexualized breasts are (as opposed to, say, balls, which don't get a whole lot of press.)

Kaethe said...

There's nothing like breastfeeding to de-sexualize a breast.