Let’s play a round of everyone’s favorite dinner party game, “Never Have I Ever”. Never have I ever been to India, though I would like to someday. Never have I ever been scuba diving (this makes me feel very non-Floridian). Never have I ever driven a motorcycle… no immediate plans for this! Here’s a good one: Never have I ever felt comfortable in a bra.
As someone who’s worn a bra almost every single day for the past twenty years, this still takes me by surprise. And it’s not just that I’ve never felt comfortable in a bra—I’ve never even liked how I looked in a bra.
I developed at an early age, and was constantly teased about the size of my chest. It’s not like I asked the boob gods for this, it was simply the hand I was dealt.
Growing up, my sisters and I had a flair for the dramatics. We loved dressing up and putting on plays for whoever we could convince to watch (my poor parents). We loved singing and dance classes and being in the theatre. But the older I got—and the larger my chest got—the less comfortable I felt doing the things I once loved. I didn’t want to dance (tap dancing became an actual hazard) or be on stage. I didn’t want to run or play sports. I didn’t want to swim or get in a bathing suit. I didn’t want to be seen. All out of fear that my boobs would get in the way.
“Voluptuous” and “curvy” were words I started hearing people use to describe me. I love hearing these words now that I am thirty, but as an eleven year old I was horrified. My parents were very gentle and kind in trying to help me understand, “It’s normal, what you're experiencing is normal”, but trying to reason with a teenager is impossible.
I don’t remember exactly when the unwanted stares started, but I do remember some so vividly they still make me cringe to this day. I was so embarrassed and convinced my boobs had robbed me of the last, precious years of my childhood.
In high school, I squeezed my way into our uniform polo shirts, which only accentuated my large chest. I started wearing two, sometimes three sports bras to smash everything down. I couldn’t understand why my boobs were so much bigger than everyone else's. Why couldn’t I just be “normal”? I became so self-conscious—5’ 2” and all boobs—I felt like my body had betrayed me.
The migraines started in college. The weight of my chest had quite literally become a burden on my shoulders and back. Working out was miserable, so I stopped altogether. I gained weight and fell into a funk.
My mom is my BFF, and she sensed something was wrong. We started talking, and through those conversations I realized for the first time in my life, there was so much underlying unhappiness tied to my bra size. It hit me like a ton of bricks. At the same time, being able to share this with my Mom was a huge relief. She encouraged me to start talking to other women, and I quickly discovered I was not alone.
Several close friends shared they had breast reductions, and all had positive experiences. I spent hours researching the procedure, recovery time, doctors, and finally started making appointments for consultations.
The doctor I selected was the very last one I saw. He was so understanding when I described how I felt, and thoughtful in how he approached his recommendations. His staff told me they had heard so many similar stories, from women of all sizes, ages and backgrounds. Again, I felt like I was not alone.
When I woke up from the surgery, I remember sitting up and feeling the literal weight off my chest—almost two pounds to be exact. I burst into tears. After years of minimizer bras, corsets, duct tape (yes, I said duct tape), I finally felt like myself.
I healed quickly and without any complications. With my reduction, I actually had newfound energy—I wanted to work out, and try new things, and be more social. I felt inspired and uninhibited, like anything and everything was possible. I wore a tank top out in public (gasp) and remember thinking I was practically wearing nothing!
Bras are still a pain point, but that’s because trying to figure out sizing is like working your way through The Matrix. (... though not for long!)
In writing this, I realize the grass is always seemingly greener. Many of my small chested friends long for a larger cup, while many still are proud of their size. Whether big, or small, or something in between, what I can say is this—Love yourself. I spent far too much time in my own head about my body before realizing the only person who cared was me. I still have things I am working on, but being a work in progress means I will never stop learning.
I will forever be grateful to my family, friends and wonderful husband (boyfriend at the time), who supported me on this journey. I take my literal scars and stretch marks with me proudly into the future, and know the best is yet to come.