When I was 7 or 8 years old, I was taking a bath with a friend and she started pinching her nipples. I asked her what she was doing and she replied, "I'm trying to make them grow. This will make them grow." At the time, I was not invested in the breast debate. I didn't think about breasts at all. I was too busy thinking about climbing trees, riding bikes, and convincing my older brother to let me hang out with his friends and him.
Three years later, I was still thinking about climbing trees, riding bikes, and convincing my older brother to let me hang out with him. My body had different ideas, though. I went from being flat chested to having the breasts of a porn star seemingly overnight. It was not a happy time for me. For much of 5th grade, I was nicknamed "tissue hill" by the 6th grade boys. Why would I possibly stuff my bra so that I could be made fun of? 6th grade boys are not known for their sense, though. Grown men should be. When my pastor made me put on a men's button-up shirt over the top of my already too big t-shirt while swimming to keep his son from looking at my breasts, I was devastated. I wore t-shirts that were three sizes too big for the next 15 years. It wasn't until I had been married for many years, had two children, and was in my mid-twenties that I began to wear clothes that fit properly.
Stretchy, V-neck shirts are my friends. I can wear a shirt that fits in the shoulders and has room for my boobs. Granted, they sometimes spill out a bit, but I'm not going to apologize for that. Women give me dirty looks. Men give me a different kind of dirty look. But, for the most part, women and men tend to at least make a show of ignoring my breasts. I can't though. They're irritating. They get in the way when I golf. They make all my clothes tighter. I have to wear two bras when I workout, and that is with one of them being an excellent sports bra. I can't wear any of White House, Black Market's clothing, no matter how much I like their style. Button-ups are pretty much a no-no. Dresses are hard to find. I even have a hard time finding bras that fit. Apparently, you're only allowed to have large breasts if you also need a large band. And always, always, always, I am conscious of my breasts. In fact, the only time I can remember not being aware of my breasts was when I was breastfeeding. That's a bit ironic, isn't it? And none of those things even begin to compare to my back and shoulder pain. I have what seem to be permanent marks on my shoulders from bra straps.
Ever since I was in high school, I've wanted to get a breast reduction. I've recently been talking about it at length with my husband. He is supportive of my desire and downright encouraging. He understands how much frustration I've experienced. My breasts have not been a source of joy for me most of the time. (Occasionally, I look down and think, "Wow. I've got great boobs." But those times are way outnumbered by the times I've not been able to find a dress that fits.)
But the women in my life. Oh my. I've spoken to a lot of women about the subject. All of the women with large breasts seem to be 100% behind me. They've all considered breast reductions for themselves. But women with small breasts? You would think I was talking about cutting out my vagina. I've been told my breasts are what make me feminine. I've been told the other woman would kill for my breasts. I've been met with downright hostility. And it makes me wonder about how women truly see their bodies.
Why are our identities so wrapped up in our bodies? Why are women with small breasts desperate to have larger breasts? Why can't we be happy with what we have? Why must we conform to an ideal that is perpetuated by other people?
Beauty is what we make it. Beauty is who we are, not what we look like. Why are women so concerned about their breasts they won't cut them off to save their lives?
I don't know how I will feel with smaller breasts. I know it will be awkward; I know so many people! I'm okay with that, though. Eventually, people will forget that I use to be the large busted woman, and remember that I'm just their beautiful friend who likes to laugh. Perhaps my identity will not be about my breasts at all. Perhaps, people will see my face, hear my voice, know my soul. Perhaps, some already do.
What about you? Do you struggle with self-image related to your breasts? Would you consider a breast implant or reduction? Have you had a reduction? If so, was it a good experience? What will you tell your daughter about breasts? Will she be happy with the size of her breasts, even if they're small? How can we change this culture?
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