Imagine you have to carry around an extra 10 to 20 pounds of fat on your body every day. It just sits there centralized on one location of your body, and there’s not really much you can do about it. No amount of dieting and exercise will change it. You can’t just ignore it, because it somehow manages to affect every part of your life. You’re left with the choice to either suck it up or seek out expensive surgery.
I didn’t come to the decision to seek breast reduction overnight. I’ve spent years debating with myself, trying to come to terms with my body before finally deciding that this was something I wanted. I struggled for years to maintain a positive body image while at the same time hating how my breasts continued to get in the way of my daily life.
My story isn’t like most other stories you hear about large-breasted women. The stereotype of the Busty Girl usually goes as follows: she was the first girl in her class to get boobs, she’s larger in build and often considered overweight by society, and her boobs can take someone’s eye out. None of that describes me. I’m a small girl at only 5 feet tall with a tiny frame who didn’t even need a bra until high school. But when I was finally visited by the breast fairy, they grew rapidly.
Beginning my freshman year, I could barely even pass as a high school student, I was so small and skinny. It was something of a joke with my high school gymnastics team. As a gag gift at the end of the season banquet, the senior team captains gave me a pack of Miracle Grow in the hopes that I would maybe get a little taller. It was just supposed to be a joke, but by the beginning of sophomore year I was suddenly a B cup. My gag gift that year was a leopard print bra, and by the end of sophomore year I was a C cup. I was a DD at my high school graduation, and my breasts didn’t stop growing.
Even for someone who isn’t as small as I am, DD is a fairly large cup size to reach. But it’s not like you reach a certain cup size and bam: you start to experience back pain. It doesn’t work like that. I know plenty of busty girls who have never once complained of back aches. For me, my body is just not capable of supporting the weight of my breasts. The pain developed over time, increasing steadily as my cup size grew past the point of conceivability. I had trouble believing that someone with a 34 band size had a cup size that goes beyond a DD, even though I put on the bra every day.
I first thought about breast reduction a few years after I quit gymnastics. When I didn’t have the gymnast excuse to fall back on to explain my back pain, I had to admit that my breasts were the cause. But even then I was resistant. I thought that, despite my dissatisfaction with my breasts, I was strong enough to handle it. I truly believed in loving your body no matter what it should be, curves and all. Or at least I wanted to be that kind of person. The real me, the one I wouldn’t admit existed in my subconscious, was having trouble accepting her disproportionate body. Breast reduction surgery didn’t fit in with the views I was trying to maintain. I originally saw breast reduction as an easy fix. Instead, I clung onto this idea that I was stronger than that. I could ignore the pain. I could ignore all the mental stuff. I wouldn’t let it affect my life.
I was wildly out of touch with reality. I failed to factor into my ideas what a real toll both the mental and the physical damage would take on me. Ignoring the back pain, especially as it increases with time, isn’t as easy as it seems. Neither is ignoring the daily hit to my self esteem that my breasts cause me. My view has changed quite a bit since then. A person who seeks breast reduction isn’t giving in: that person is looking to take control of their life.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember who is in control, me or my breasts. Every day when I look in the mirror, I see these two gigantic orbs on my chest that cannot be overlooked, taking up the majority of my body. At first I would try to pretend they weren’t there, but they refuse to be ignored. There were some days when I would imagine my breasts were smaller or were gone entirely. I would try to push them aside so I can see what my body looks like underneath, trying to remember what my life was like before it was controlled completely by my breasts.
Still, I tried to remain positive about my body, but each day I am reminded that my breasts cause me pain. The underwire from my bra cuts deep red marks into my ribcage, and the straps make indents in my shoulders from the strain of trying to hold my breasts up. The back pain, while it can be masked for some time, gets worse with each day. I find no relief from it. I sit at my desk in class and within a few minutes feel an ache in my lower back. The weight of my chest naturally pulls my shoulders forward, and I feel the ache it causes up and down my spine. I lay down flat on my bed and may be comfortable temporarily, but within a few minutes I need to shift my position. I end up tossing and turning half the night, unable to find a position that doesn’t aggravate my back in some way.
I try not to complain, but when my breasts impediment my daily life, it becomes hard not to. I vacuum my apartment, and the way I bend over irritates my back. Any physical labor eventually begins to irritate me. I try to run across the street while the light is still green and I need to fold my arms across my chest to keep my breasts from moving. I stop being able to enjoy things I once loved: swimming, dancing at concerts with my friends, even doing gymnastics is painful for me.
I remember one experience dress shopping for my mother’s wedding. Because of the vast difference in the size of the top half of my body and the bottom, I was forced to try on dresses in a much larger size. The dress I finally chose came as close as I could possibly get it to actually fitting my chest correctly. After that, the waist needed to be taken in a significant amount. The tailor wanted to make sure that I would not be pulling up my dress all night, but in order to do so the dress needed to be incredibly tight. Getting into it became a multi-person activity, one which involved me sucking in my stomach and pushing my breasts up while one person held the top of the dress together and another fought with the zipper until everything was finally in place. Even after all that, the dress was so tight that I had trouble breathing.
I challenge anyone to feel good about themselves in moments like that, when the clothing in the stores is not designed to fit your body type, when you can’t even fit into the clothes altered to your body. How do you keep a positive image of yourself then?
Even when I have a good day, one when the back pain is minimal and I start to feel good about my body, I find that there’s always something, or someone, to put me down. They treat my breasts as an open discussion, and not something that is mine.
The sexual harassment is a constant. Guys will come up to me at parties or bars and say, “show me your tits” as though that’s appropriate behavior, and when I say “no” they call me a bitch, as though I have no real right to refuse because they view my breasts as public property. They try to find ways to touch my breasts, claiming that they’re “just curious.” They give me nick names like Bazooms or Big Old Titties or Saggy Tits, trying to make me feel ashamed.
The girls, however, are far worse. I can explain away anything a guy might say to me by equating it to ignorance or sexism. I would expect sympathy from people of my own gender, but what I often get instead are comments meant to minimize my feelings. One girl I met, who was suffering from back pain due to a previous injury, made me feel as though my back pain was insignificant in comparison to hers. Because the pain I was feeling is something that developed over time, how could it possibly compare? I’ve had girls I know only as acquaintances ask me flat out what my bra size is, as though they’re entitled to that sort of personal information. The worst comments, though, come any time I let a complaint slip about my breasts. There’s always at least one girl, usually with a small chest, who says, “Well at least you have boobs!”
The girls want me to know that I should be grateful. I have no right to complain about my breasts, because there are plenty of girls out there who have none to begin with. Just be glad you have something, they say. I should just sit down and shut up about the back pain and the constant sexual harassment and the humiliation I feel. Just be happy you have boobs.
I was feeling pretty down when I finally started looking into breast reduction. I had gone to a party the day before where many of the guys there were harassing me to see my breasts. I’d woken up the next morning to yet another painful back ache, and at that point I was tired of dealing with all of it. Why should I have to deal with people treating my body like a public forum just because my breasts are larger than average? Why should I let my breasts stop me from doing the things I love? Why should I have to fall asleep and wake up to back pain every single day? I finally saw breast reduction as something else: freedom. I could live my life again. I could exercise again and buy clothes that fit me and go out with my friends without feeling the eyes of everyone staring at me. I wouldn’t need to shift in my seat every five seconds because my back ached. That thought alone is the most freeing: I don’t need to spend every moment in pain.
As I attempt to move forward with breast reduction, I view the surgery in a whole new light. To me it now seems like freedom. Freedom to live my life the way I want to live it, freedom from pain, and freedom to feel comfortable in my own skin again. The idea of a light at the end of the tunnel keeps me moving forward. I sit here at my computer, adjusting my position for what feels like the hundredth time in a fruitless attempt to stop the ache in my lower back, and I try to find some last bit of wisdom to impart on everyone reading my story. There’s no way to really sum up the journey I’ve taken. I can’t say that breast reduction is going to be the solution to all my problems, nor is it the answer for everyone. But it’s the answer for me, and the one that I think will bring me the most happiness.