I imagine that my breasts are rather disappointed with their lot in life. Born to a tomboy, they were rarely alloted their moment in the spotlight. I found them cumbersome and inconvenient most of the time, probably because I was given grown-up boobs at a point in my life when I still enjoyed climbing trees and playing sports. While most girls were busy stuffing their bras with tissues and rubberized chicken cutlets, I was using every means I could think of to diminish mine, short of duct taping them down.
I spent the better part of a decade either ignoring them, or wishing I had the option of taking them off and on like a pair of shoes. Though if I really had that option, my breasts probably would have ended up being stored in a shoebox on my closet shelf, collecting dust, until they shriveled up into two pitiful, peach-colored raisins.
I was in a training bra for about five seconds, and the next thing I remember I was fourteen years old, standing in a department store dressing room with my mother, and she was gasping, “Good lord! Where in god’s name have you been hiding those?! I had NO idea!”
I was spilling over the top and oozing out the bottom of the pathetic, little bra – giving my breasts the appearance of an exploded tube of Pillsbury biscuit dough. Without the camouflage of my usual baggy attire, I could no longer hide nor deny their existence…. especially now that there was a witness.
I was a late bloomer in every other respect, but I guess my precocious breasts decided to lead the charge into adulthood. Whether I liked it or not (at that point, it was definitely not), I was going home with my new 34C bras, and reluctantly leaving the last shreds of my childhood behind in that dressing room.
By the time my teens were over, I stopped treating my breasts like a dirty, little secret and started to use them to my advantage. I realized that they were handy things to have on the dating scene; finally connecting the dots that big boobs = attention from guys. So I’m a little slow, shut up.
But my days of attention grabbing low-cut tops and lacy bras were short lived because by age 23 I was married, and two years later, I was pregnant. No sooner had my breasts made their public debut than they were being placed into one of the most hideous garments a breast can wear – a nursing bra.
During my pregnancy, some of my old tomboy insecurities resurfaced because the damn things were getting bigger again. D-cup sized breasts were the things of most men’s dreams, but my own personal nightmares. I had visions of turning into my middle school chorus teacher – a woman who used her enormous chest as a writing desk whenever she wrote out a hall pass. While it would be handy to never be at a loss for something to lean on should I need to jot down a quick note, the thought of having classroom furniture jutting out from my chest scared the hell out of me. How was I going to nurse an infant with breasts bigger than she was?
As it turns out, nursing my newborn daughter was challenging, but doable. And when I looked down at her sweet face the first time she nursed, I felt something about my breasts that I had never felt before – appreciation.
I forgot about all the times they got in the way when I played sports, or the fact that they never fit into those cute, girlie tops designed for the B-cup set. They were sustaining life, and giving my daughter everything she needed to thrive. And that appreciation grew tenfold during midnight feedings when I didn’t have to go all the way downstairs to heat up a bottle; I was like my daughter’s own personal 7-11, convenient and always ready for business.
When I stopped nursing her, I kept waiting for my breasts to go back to their original size, but it never happened (much to my chagrin). I lost all my “baby weight” everywhere but in my bra. And when I got pregnant for a second time (four years later), it was time for another growth spurt that added another D onto my cup size. And like my previous pregnancy, my breasts didn’t decrease in size after nursing was over. I knew that unless I did something drastic, like undergoing plastic surgery, my double-Ds were here to stay.
And mine weren’t the double-Ds of most porn addict’s fantasies; they looked more like something out of Salvador Dali’s imagination. Despair took hold when I said goodbye to my chances of ever being able to shop at Victoria’s Secret again, and hello to unflattering bras that used descriptives like “minimizer” and “full-coverage” in their advertising.
My 30 year-old breasts were now wearing geriatric garments; bras designed with one purpose in mind – to prevent my breasts from making a pilgrimage towards my feet. I can remember as a girl, the test to see if your breasts were sagging was to place a pencil under your breast; when you let go, if the pencil stayed without falling to the ground, gravity was starting to take its toll. Well, by this point, my pencil days were long gone – I could successfully store all of my children’s back-to-school supplies under there.
Around age 35, I got a healthy dose of perspective that made all the years I spent complaining about my breasts seem absurd. I started hearing a lot of stories about women my age falling victim to breast cancer – a fact that was both startling and scary. Cancer was no longer something that happened to mothers and grandmothers, it was happening to my peers. And once I became aware of it, the subject seemed to be on everyone’s lips. Famed breast cancer survivors like Christina Applegate and Melissa Etheridge were championing the cause, and pink ribbons were everywhere.
It’s horrible for anyone to be struck with cancer, but it seemed particularly heinous for someone under the age of 40. The weight of that cruel reality hit me one day while I was in the shower. Without the cover of my granny-bras or my baggy t-shirts, my breasts were there, just staring up at me… well, I guess they were staring more towards the floor…. but let’s not get technical when I’m trying to be sentimental. As I stared back at them, it was as if I was seeing them for the first time. And a genuine feeling of gratitude washed over me.
I was grateful that my breasts had been there to feed my two children.
Grateful that they were still healthy.
Grateful that they were still here for me to bitch about – though I would probably be doing a lot less of that from here on out.
Ever since that day, my breasts and I have reached a new level of friendship and understanding (hey, if you guys can name your penises and talk about them like they’re separate entities, I can be friends with my breasts). And in the spirit of friendship, I decided to make them a few promises….
I won’t complain whenever I have to pass up the cute, lacy bras for ones that actually have a shot at holding my girls up.
I won’t make fun of them every time I lay down and they disappear into my armpits.
I won’t pine away for the breasts I had when I was sixteen… at least not out loud.
And in return, they will do their best to enjoy a long, healthy life with me. After trying to hold them up for nearly 30 years, I figure the least they can do is try to hold up their end of the bargain for the next 30.