I’m just gonna say it. I’ve always hated my boobs.
I come from a long line of boobalicious Jewish women: my mom, my Nana, and her mom. It seems to be the dominant gene trait in my family. Although J is only 8 1/2 (going on 14), she’s well aware of what’s in store for her, lucky girl.
Q: Mommy, when I’m 14, am I allowed to date Justin Bieber?
A: Ummm. No.
I love to tease her about her “big boobs” that she’s going to get. “You’re gonna get ’em! Big ones! Big ones like me and Nana!” I say to her with a smile as she contorts her face and imagines the worst. Girls go through puberty way earlier than my friends and I did and develop breast buds and begin their periods much, much earlier. Craziness. So I take a page out of F’s playbook and talk openly and frequently about what’s around the corner for Miss J.
My earliest memory of my boob shame began in 7th grade when I started to develop. I didn’t want breasts, didn’t ask for them, and didn’t like the way they looked in my Merona tops and Esprit sweatshirts. And instead of getting a bra (Hello? Totes uncomfy, and you could totally see the outline of the bra through t-shirts and tank tops – no thank you), I opted for a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes to smooth and flatten me out. I remember rockin’ my speedo one day under my fancy Rosh Hashanah dress and my mom said to me: “You know, you don’t have to wear a bathing suit under your dress. I am more than happy to buy you a bra!” But I liked my bathing suit – this way my budding breasts were barely noticeable. For awhile.
When the jig was finally up, and I had to acknowledge that wearing a speedo to school every day was not only ridiculously impractical (you try taking that thing on and off to pee – I hadn’t yet mastered the crotch side swoop), but also um, not terribly hygienic, I agreed to let my mom take me bra shopping. (Enter painful and embarrassingly tortuous memories here.)
Little lacy numbers in lavender and pink with cotton padding and skinny satin straps soon made way for matronly, nondescript, beige contraptions with thick straps that promised to separate, lift and minimize. M and I nick-named these bras “kick ass”. I think they used the same material for my bras for on-the-ground-assault in Operation Desert Storm. Steel traps, those things were. While my friends could wear those teeny tiny triangle bikini tops, I was stuck in underwire hell. As far as I was concerned, my boobs were enemy #1.
Fast forward to a breast reduction, a couple of pregnancies, and a couple of kids later, and my boobs have remained the cellar dwellers of my fave body parts list. My breasts have singlehandedly prevented me from excelling at certain sports like golf and running (okay the last one is a lie – I would have never enjoyed running!), made it difficult to find bathing suits that fit, and cause me to “bust” out of a few tops here and there. Indeed, the irony is totally not lost on me that one of my breasts would grow a malignant tumor. I guess the silver lining here is that I don’t feel “connected” to my breasts in a way that defines who I am as a woman or mother, or is one of the best physical attributes that I like about myself. So wherever my cancer journey and treatment path leads me with respect to my ample chest, as long as it starts with the word “cancer” and ends with the word “free”, I’m fine with that.
So there you have it. My boobs: an anti-love story.