Getting It Off My Chest
Over twenty years ago, I had a mammaplasty breast reduction. I was out of high school and had survived my first year of college. I had been pleading with my parents, specifically my mother to allow this surgery to happen since high school. Her hang-up was specifically that I may not be able to breastfeed. This specific side effect of the surgery did not faze me. The last thing I wanted was anyone touching me there in any capacity because it was annoying, put me on edge, and was numbing to a lesser degree.
My father’s health insurance was going to cover the procedure but not before subjecting me to get photographed topless, treated like a specimen, and have the photos shipped off to Blue Cross Blue Shield for what I suspected was a pool of creepy, male gazing, lurking agents looking to get off on a pair of tits. I was willing to endure this sexist, bureaucratic bullshit if it meant relieving my body and soul of the big breast burden.
I remember the plastic surgeon telling my parents how he was “pushing the envelope” for the type of surgery I was electing. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, there were two types of surgery for reduction — one where the nipples stay intact and one where they remove the nipples and later reattach them. The medical industry had a margin of so many ounces being removed to qualify for the “nipples staying intact” procedure and my own predetermined fat excising was riding the line of this. I think it was the fact that I qualified for this surgery that finally pushed my mom into co-signing. With this procedure the likeliness to retain nipple stimulation as well as the ability to breastfeed was higher and with the other procedure it was highly unlikely. I also remember the surgeon talking about how as breasts grow in size they also grow in density and weight. Over time, the density and weight of the breast pull the nipples and areolas down as was the case with mine and the bulk of each breast was weighing down and stretching my nipples. Which is why they were numb and irritated.
“The Why” I Am Writing This
So why write about this now? I came across an article, “Boobs: The Last Frontier of Body-Shaming” on Medium recently that I related to and it inspired me to write more on the topic. I have included the link below this paragraph and recommend that everyone read it — whether you can relate or not. The writer, Adeline Dimond articulates what it is like to have boobs as well as be one of the ones who has the not asked for capability of growing them exponentially. They also describe societal beliefs and cultural norms surrounding breasts. The ideologies commonly held are absolute garbage to those of us who know what it is like to carry a physical load on our chests all day e’eryday.
Boobs: The Last Frontier of Body-Shaming
When you turn 50, if you're normal and not pathologically overly positive, you fall into a depression. Regrets hit…
What Led My Decision
Physical Pain and Discomfort. My back and shoulders ached every damn day. I can remember being curled up on the living room floor, crying, while my mom kneaded and rubbed my back. Part of this was due to my ginormous breasts, part of it was due to awful bras (and wearing the wrong size), and the other part was due to very poor posture. Thirty to forty years ago, no bra makers cared about the woman who exceeded double Ds. The bigger boobed bras were hideous to look at and did not make the wearer feel sexy or comfortable. I would have been better off wearing bungee cords, resistance bands, ace wrap, and/or maybe a potato sack. Additionally, I should have gotten sized which may have helped alleviate some of my discomfort. The poor posture came from me trying to obscure and hide the fact that I had ginormous boobs from my peers and elders who did not try to be coy about their obsessive gazes. I wanted to redirect attentions and so instead of sitting with my back straight thrusting my breasts out into the public domain I would sit with my back curved out (like a startled cat), my shoulders curved in, and my arms on my knees or school desk to block the view.
Emotional and Mental Distress. The comments began in junior high but the things being said were usually hearsay. No one was brazen enough in those grades to say things to my face. Apparently, one day I ran down the hall and one of the boys in my class sang to another boy in my class the Jello Jigglers jingle in response to my bouncing boobs. Another time, I was told that a boy in my class who had never bothered to talk to me or befriend me wrote on one of the boys’ bathroom stalls that I was a slut with big boobs.
Sometime after freshman year, the comments rolled in and it wasn’t just from the boys. The girls and their comments were just as harsh if not harsher. Suddenly, my body and one of its most prominent parts became a daily discussion piece. The boys wanted a piece of me and the girls despised me for the “attention I brought on myself.” Never mind that I am a bubbly person and have the capacity to entertain as well as put people at ease. Even towards the end of my tenure in high school, the teachers started making comments.
My family also contributed to making comments to me or to other family members that eventually reached me. I can remember standing beside my dad at a family reunion and him telling one of the out of state family members that “she grew out instead of up.” My older female cousins always jested with me about “saving some of the removed boob fat in a Mason jar for them.” My grandma told me that one of my older male cousins “was in awe of the growth of my boobs.”
At the time, the slights, jests, insults, and general commentary I did my best to make light of, suck up, move through it, and/or find ways to re-direct what was being talked about. There was one comment from a friend that I have never forgotten. It hurt me so much.
We had been in another state that day taking what had become an annual canoe and hiking trip with the people she knew. A new guy had been on the trip that was not on previous trips. He was a cute smartass and my friend and me were charmed. We had bantered back and forth throughout the day. For me, it was nice because for once someone was actively flirting with me. I tended to feel like the friend zone pal paling in comparison to the outwardly attractive females in this particular group. Occasionally, my friend would join in the banter and parry with the best of them. We ended up meeting at one of the people’s apartment after we returned from the canoe trip. The banter kicked up a notch and I was starting to feel a fiery attraction. My friend got quiet and terse and we ended up leaving. As we were walking to her car, she turned to me and bitterly retorted, “he was only talking to you because you have big breasts.”
In that moment, it did not matter to me to question the validity or relevance of that statement. What mattered was that she managed to sum up the collection of feelings I had amounting to being a “walking pair of tits.” In her jealousy and envy, I was reduced to a body part and dehumanized. She was my friend and she was supposed to know, understand, and empathize with me. From that moment, I would later come to realize that the people closest to you are often the ones who hurt you the most and also understand certain parts of you the least.
Natural Elimination. If you have read this far, you are probably thinking wow that’s rough or questioning why any of this is a big deal. You may also be somewhere in the middle and silently judging me for not taking the time and energy to go on a diet as well as exercise my breasts away. How could you do something so unnatural you may be thinking?
I am here to tell you, I did. I have always been health conscious/food conscious/diet conscious. At age six or seven, I told my grandfather I was cutting gum and desserts out of my diet because they contained sugar and I ate too much of it.
I was in softball from first grade through junior year of high school in field positions. In junior high, I ran track. I went to the local pool every summer to swim and detasseled corn for a couple summers. I took care of livestock all year round which required lifting heavy feed bags, carrying buckets of water, using a pitchfork to distribute straw and haw, and once or twice a year lifting bales of hay and straw up a ladder into the hay mow. I lived in the country and in my high school years, I would run up and down our road. In P. E., I did weight lifting, swimming, basketball, baseball, golf, roller skating, and other exercises. The results from these activities were always the same — my legs, butt, and arms would trim up and my stomach and breasts would remain.
When I had the surgery and returned to work one of my male co-workers said in front of everyone, “why would you take away what God gave you?” A similar sentiment was shared in a more crass way by one of my previous partners in saying, “reducing your breasts is like slapping God in the face.” What does religion or God have to do with this? Judging by this logic, when God gives us cancer we should let it remain? Or when we have heart attacks we should do nothing about the blockage(s)?
Pain, discomfort, self-esteem, mental and emotional abuse, behavioral conditioning, and a failure to lose the fat/weight naturally were all the reasons that led me to seek out a plastic surgeon and surgery. I wanted to live without feeling like I had to hide and to live not being weighed down. I needed to be seen for the person I was and not the humongous body parts that never seemed to stop growing. When I recognized getting surgery was something I wanted to pursue, I wrote a poem entitled, Be Big Breasted to express my feelings about what it was like.
Redemption and Results
I had the surgery towards the end of August, a brutally hot and humid month. I was in the hospital overnight and my mom slept in a chair next to my bed. My left side was a minor concern for the doctor when finishing up the surgery but everything went well. Other than when I was becoming conscious in recovery I was trying to communicate with the attending nurse I was too hot.
She could not understand me. I think I had cotton mouth and my speech was muddled. She finally heard what I was saying and explained that I had a hot water bottle and heated blankets up and down my left side. About the same time, she was finishing up I was trying to let her know I was going to be sick. Unfortunately, she did not comprehend before I vomited on her shoes, the bed, and the floor.
I was hungry, thirsty, and it was the first time I had been heavily sedated as well as operated on. I had not eaten or had anything to drink for fifteen or sixteen hours which was also new for me.
I was not allowed to lift anything, go to work, or attend school for two weeks. Nor could I take a shower. I could spot bathe. I was wrapped in ace bandaging for two weeks.
When I was released from the hospital, they wheeled me out to my mom’s car. My first memory with my newly improved breasts is from this moment and will stay with me forever. I remember being in the middle of the parking lot in the wheelchair, sun beating down, and feeling a pervasive thick fog of humidity. The most subtle summer breeze swirled around my top half and my nipples felt like tiny electric zings rushed through them. Internally, I screamed what the hell was that?! while gazing down at my chest. Never before had I felt stimulated there or had such a pleasurable tingling. It was a new day.
After the two weeks, I got to shower, lift some things, and go to school but I was not allowed to drive. My grandma drove me to and from my classes for the next two weeks. I was taking a Developmental Psychology class and ended up sitting next to a cute guy who was talking to me. My biggest takeaway from that first class and first social interaction post surgery was not the fact that someone I found attractive was paying me attention but that someone I was talking to was making eye contact. If he looked at my chest or any part of me other than my eyes it was undetected. But receiving eye contact and attention in the way most people expect was amazing. That small gesture humanized me and validated my existence.
Over time, I discovered I loved to be touched there. No longer was there this numb, agitated feeling. No more pain and discomfort. No more crying over back and shoulder pain. No more feeling like a pair of walking tits. No more of my boobs being the daily discussion board or main topic of conversation. I was allowed to enjoy my life and when the time came that I had my kids I was able to breastfeed.
What You Can Do
If you know girls or women with breasts, do them a favor and stop bringing attention to their body parts. If you are not the one bringing attention to their body parts or saying anything to the people who are you are still doing nothing by not intervening. Intervention can come in the form of redirecting the conversation, telling the speaker that what they said offends you and/or is not cool, asking the speaker to explain what they mean by their comment, and/or shutting the topic down.
If you want to understand, listen to girls and women when they talk about what they are going through with having a big bust. Some girls and women love their breasts but there are many of us that struggled or are struggling with everything that being chesty entails. If you disagree with someone’s choice to have surgery to increase or decrease their chest size, keep those opinions to yourself. Treat them with the same dignity and respect you would want. Again asking questions rather than sharing judgments and opinions are best.
While much of breast growth is often hereditary there are also underlying conditions that can promote the kind of growth that I was dealing with in my youth. I had developed a goiter at a young age which affected my thyroid and the hormones the thyroid produces. Years after surgery and after the birth of my first child I developed a new thyroid condition, hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid and this condition further developed into Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. All this to say that too often people treat females with big breasts like it is something under their control. This is not the case. Even after my goiter was treated, my thyroid was stabilized, and I was taken off the medicine is when my breast development ramped up.
Many females do not ask for the overly generous breasts they develop. Nor are they seeking attention, need shaming, or require that their chests be up for discussion at every turn. Help us — girls, women, nonbinary, and females change the dialog surrounding beauty standards, body shaming, and the narratives about what it means to be big breasted.