Yes, that’s right, let’s talk about Boobs. Today is the One Year anniversary of my Breast Reduction. I think it’s funny that it is also the day I decided, unmindfully maybe subconsciously, to start a Movement Challenge, promoting making time for yourself – building mental resilience through physical resilience; it was just meant to be.
Over the next few weeks I want to go back to evaluating and flushing out Values and look deeper into the following 3 values; Beauty, Fitness and Health. These three values often overlap, intertwine and coexist in our lives. How we prioritize each of them can make huge impacts.
I’ll start sharing my relationship with my breasts and how I came to a decision to have them reduced. I went through puberty young, exceptionally young. I got my period in Grade 3, at age 8, one month after my sister, a year older got hers – so you know I have always been ahead of the game; it was then that I started developing breasts. I remember being in my Elementary school library and having classmates comment on the fact that I already had boobs. I think it was Grade 4 when we did a night away at a local sleep away camp, we had parents and some teenage siblings as chaperones, I remember one adult that had not known me commented to my mother that by looks they thought I was one of the volunteers, not a student. This is what having Breasts at a young age did, it made others perceive me as older, and because of this I was often treated more like an adult, than the child I was.
By the time I was in Junior High, my breasts were easily what I suspect now was a size E/F cup but having no knowledge those sizes even existed I settled for DD. Other girls were just getting into bras and navigating puberty, where I was 4 years in. The thing about Junior High is, in hindsight it’s awkward for everyone. For me it was the 90’s and grunge, baggy clothing was all the rage, which any large chested person can attest too, does nothing for your shape. I vividly remember walking into Drama class to two boys (yes, I remember their names, Jon and Spencer) singing to the tune of ‘That Girl’ by Shaggy and Maxi Priest, ‘Fat Girl’ in regards to me.
The boys actions stung but what was worse was the reaction and advice I was giving when recounting the story to a friend. Instead of saying what assholes the guys were, which they were, for commenting on my body and basically bullying me in front of our entire class, she suggested I look at getting a breast reduction. She said that she heard it would make me look much thinner. I know her intention was good but let me tell you the result was really hurtful. To add insult to injury, when I went to my mom, she said if I was really interested in it, she would look at the cost and be open to covering it for me. At 14 years old, I was being told that my body was wrong and needed to be fixed.
To me this story is a great example of how we raise girls to believe that others have a right to comment on their bodies. That for some reason another person’s opinion of your body, of how you look, is more important than your own. The result is that girls and women strive to fit into an ideal, not too big, but also not too small, just right, but what is just right? With Boobs, is there an ideal?
OK, so moving on to High School, when I lost my virginity; American Pie came out in the summer between grade 10 and 11, the summer of 1999. I made a pledge to myself that I wanted to lose my virginity before the new year, kinda in a celebration of the new millennial but also to claim my body. I think of it now and how crazy young I was, 16 is not old enough to be sexually active. I was very lucky, I had a good friend from my swimming days with whom I was really close and attracted to. We would hang out and even though he would never date date me, was willing to participate and help me achieve this particular goal. Now I am not advocating for any one way to enter the sexual experience but mine was pretty great. He was really respectful (for the most part, until after almost 6 months he leaked our activities), he always asked if I was ok, and I’ll never forget his face any time I took my top off, he looked like a kid in a candy store; this was when I started to love my boobs.
I’m sometimes sad when I think of it in a critical way, that my love of an amazing part of my body, came from someone else’s enjoyment of it, not my own admiration.
The famous Teri Hatcher episode of Seinfeld gave me my favourite quote for the better part of my teens and early 20’s, the ‘They’re real and they are spectacular!”. My breasts were perfect, naturally round, like grapefruits plunked on my chest with skin on top. I don’t know if anyone else would remember the store, San Francisco, my nanny growing up lived next to a mall that had one and we used to go there. It was kinda a gag store, small silly gifts, and pop culture shirts; I remember this one shirt they had that showed all the different shapes that breasts came in, from Pancakes to Oranges to Ski Slopes, I remember being jazzed that I got the Grapefruits. So you see even at a young age, the understanding that boobs played a part in my (a women’s) worth was there. That it was acceptable for society to not just talk about them but judge them, make fun of them. I want to recognize that it’s not any easier being on the other end, possibly having boobs that are a size or shape that you feel is too small. What I am saying is that the societal pressures make all breast stories hard.
After learning to love my breasts for their shape and natural glory, I would still have to put up with others’ opinions on them. I often struggled to fit into dress codes, because button down shirts either popped across the chest or made me look frumpy, as then the waist wasn’t tailored. I would have constant comments from people that felt entitled to comment on how ‘booby’ an outfit was. In one instance, I was taking a course to become a First Aid Instructor, it was 6 months after having my second child, the Trainer felt it appropriate in my final review and in front of the class to tell me to cover up my chest when teaching. She said I wouldn’t be able to wear any v-neck/open tops because it would be too distracting to students. Even as recent as Fall of 2019, in a professional work environment, I was wearing one of my all time favourite dresses I own, a signature DVF wrap dress, and a mid fifties coworker, female, felt it appropriate to say to me that ‘I was really just putting it all out there’.
I have grown a thicker skin for sure, I now say, ‘They are there, so deal with it’. I recently did a headshot shoot for my work, and I had to pick outfits and even in doing my best, still received feedback that they might show too much cleavage. I find it crazy that this is even a thing – how is it that my body, in it’s natural state can be seen as unprofessional? That you as the viewer not being able to focus on the face would not be what was considered unprofessional. It’s a very self centred view to say to someone that their body makes you uncomfortable, as if their body has anything to do with you. If I am not rubbing my chest on you or anything of yours, you are not really entitled to an opinion and you should actively work against your desire to comment on them. My breasts, my body, do not belong to anyone but me.
Most recent Headshots taken – some still showing ‘Too Much Cleavage’, taken by Phil Crozier, http://www.photophilcro.com
My relationship with my Breasts changed after having kids. I was always open to the idea of having surgery when I was younger, not from outside pressure, but because I knew after kids I would want a lift. I didn’t realize how much my chest would balloon with kids, I went from a 30/32 E to a 32 J cup. Just one of my Breasts was the size of a full honeydew melon or small soccer ball; it would take literally 5 of my closed hands to cover just one. I know that’s a lot of describing but it’s important to paint picture. I went from loving my Boobs to hating them.
My Boobs were heavy, they were no longer mine, they were there to feed my kids. I had a strict rule of only breast feeding for 1 year. My kids all had teeth at 4 months old, like a minimum of 4 teeth that early. My breasts were hot to touch, sometimes hard, and I would need to sit in the shower for upwards of 30 min to just let the milk expel at night before bed just to be somewhat comfortable. I know these are good issues when you compare to those that maybe their milk doesn’t come in, but they were uncomfortable none the less, and when a friend says you look like you could be a fetish porn star, it doesn’t feel good.
It was after having my 3rd baby that I decided to go for a consult for a reduction. At the time I wasn’t even sure if I wanted one but I knew there was a long waiting list for it to be covered by my provincial Health care and I had thought maybe I would also inquire about a tummy tuck, because you know body and self confidence issues. I met with my surgeon, who is amazing, he was open and honest. The province I am in had just put in new restrictions (now they don’t even cover them anymore), that a minimum of 300 cc/units per breast had to be taken out. To give you an idea, if you were a size 32, it would be anywhere from 2-3 cups sizes. I was fine with that but took pause when the surgeon said he might not be able to preserve the shape, as it would be a lot of tissue taken off. This made me pause because I always loved my shape, I loved having the ‘implant’ looking shape, my Grapefruits. It took over 18 months to get off the waiting list and at that point I no longer had any hesitation. My neck and back, having started a more sedentary job, were in even more severe pain from the weight. I was at the point where I would have been ok coming out with an A cup.
A year after my surgery I am really happy with my decision; I would recommend it to anyone thinking of it. The healing process was long though, it was a good 8 weeks before I was comfortable working out and more than 6 months for all the swelling to go down. I would find a way to pay for it. The weight, literal weight that came off my shoulders was immediate. I am still wearing a 32 E cup (shows just how big they were), and my surgeon despite his reservations was successful in keeping my natural shape. I quite literally have my early twenties boobs back; what it also gave me was perspective, it made me really think about how much of my identity had been wrapped up in having large Breasts; it made me stop and think why that was.
To bring it back to Values and set us up for next week – my journey with my Breasts led me from valuing the Beauty of the them to the Health of them. The Beauty being, how they look, how others viewed them and the Health being how the feel, am I healthy and can I live a fuller life.
I want to explore all the ways we use these three values (Health, Fitness and Beauty) as synonyms, when really they are individual values and as humans we need to prioritize them; we only have some much capacity. Hopefully you got something from my overshare and will come back to the discussion next week.
Leave a comment and let me know what you thought. If you have any questions about my experience please feel free to send me a direct message via my Contact page.
Shameless plug – head over to the Body section of my page to check out the 50 Days of Movement Challenge that started today.