Lindsay Longmeyer had zits and stringy blond hair; he was the attractive Bad Boy that teenage girls abhor and adore. He used to sit behind me on the bus and hiss, “You must, you must, you must increase your busts, the bigger the better, the tighter the sweater. . . ” My friends and I tittered nervously. He also went out with Claire. You know Claire, right? She’s the one who came back from the summer of fifth grade looking like a full-grown woman. She wore v-neck sweaters and had actual cleavage.
My mom also got to look good in tight sweaters and enjoyed the benefits of being well-endowed. Unfortunately my fruit fell far from that tree. She filled me in when I was a flat fourteen-year-old. ” If you haven’t filled up your bikini top by now, you probably aren’t going to. I had tennis balls by the time I was your age,” she said. I cried, and I’ve hated the smell of tennis balls ever since.
When I dried my eyes, I wondered, what are the options available to small-chested girls? It was like realizing I was going to have to attend the community college down the street and then try to transfer to a bigger school. The evidence was there for all to see: I was no four-year college applicant for the University of Sexy.
At the risk of offending anyone in a 12-step program who uses the serenity prayer to get through each day of sobriety, I altered the affirmation to fit my own personal breast-help program.
Grant me the serenity to accept the breasts I have
The courage to change the breasts I can
And the wisdom to know the difference
Accepting the breasts I have was defined when I saw Teresa at the park. She’d been through six months of cancer treatments and had her right breast removed. With short tufts of peppered hair growing back and a t-shirt that was tight enough to show she wasn’t wearing a bra, her left breast was all she had. I had to wonder, Could I do that? Could I be brave enough to not wear a prosthetic breast? I basked in her presence — this beautiful goddess, all woman with no Barbie or tabloid to reconcile her image.
Changing the breasts I can, means changing how I carry myself and project my body image, not how I look. My wish for my daughters, Ahna and Maya (and all growing girls for that matter) is that they won’t waste time thinking their bodies are unacceptable by anyone’s standards. I may have spent some of my youth wishing for really great breasts, but I’ve been in the locker room and I will tell them, eventually they all sag.
When my oldest daughter, Maya, caught a segment on the news about eighteen-year-old girls getting breast enhancement surgery as graduation gifts, she rolled her eyes and let out a weary sigh of someone who was hundreds of years old, then asked, “Why would any woman do that?”
I told her, “Some people think bigger is better when it comes to breasts. But large is just another size. A lot of magazines, movies and songs will reinforce this message. People will too, maybe even Grandma. But every size of breast can bring pleasure and be a pillow for babies; I believe every woman deserves to feel good about what she was born with.”
And the wisdom to know the difference is about being able to answer Maya’s question honestly: Why would a woman do that? A friend I’ll call Celeste, has three children, two cats, one dog, and a boob job. The surgery that lifted and increased her breasts came soon after she caught her husband surfing for new sexual playmates. I understand her desire to fix the physical to affect change on the psychological. “Screw this,” I imagine her saying, “I want to be desirable no matter what I have to do.” But then I think about how her boob job is an illusion and furthers the belief that bigger is better and that women who have nursed babies for years are supposed to look like our former selves and I can’t help but feel deflated.
Lindsay Longmeyer was right. We girls have work to do. But I think it’s about increasing acceptance, courage, and wisdom, not cup size or breast height. Sexy University is a state of mind, and I’m working hard on my degree because the underlying belief that I carried for years that being less busty meant I was somehow deficient or sexually irrelevant was just not true. Though I hit puberty late, through pregnancies and nursing I’ve been an A, a B, and once, an overflowing C and back down again. I’m finally at a place where I can appreciate my proportions. For me, for my daughters, along with all the Teresas of the world: we must.