There’s no doubt America has a breast obsession, and a rather one-sided one at that. The proliferation of establishments like Breastaurants and ubiquitous strip clubs, in conjunction with bans on non-sexual displays of breasts (like breastfeeding in public or on social media), dictate that boobs exist for no other reason than heterosexual male pleasure. What’s more, breasts should be big, round and perky at all times, and if they aren’t, plastic surgery and a litany of push-ups bras are readily available (and heavily marketed) to fix ’em.
The result? Many women are left feeling inadequate, self-conscious or even shamed about their natural breasts.
Though my breast size and perkiness have never been major concerns of mine, recent events in my life have made me re-evaluate my boob confidence, leading me to join the throngs of women who likewise doubt their assets.
Ever since I developed breasts, my right one was always a little bit bigger than my left (which, for the record is totally common). I was aware of the difference, but unless someone really scrutinized my chest, my breasts appeared symmetrical.
That changed five years ago, when my gynecologist found a tumor in my left breast and I had it, as well as surrounding tissue, surgically removed. After the procedure, my left breast was visibly smaller than its right counterpart — by an entire cup size. While relieved that the tumor was not cancerous, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious about the size difference.
Since then, I’ve dealt with my differently sized boobs; it’s become my new normal.
But three weeks ago, my fiancé and I went shopping for engagement photo outfits, and I decided to parlay that shopping trip into a chance to also buy some new sports bras. The experience shattered my confidence.
I tried on a bra that had a cute design and a cinch between the breasts. When I looked in the mirror, I was shocked to see that one nipple was literally pointing in another direction than the other. Needless to say, I did not purchase those bras. I did not even try on a shirt to see if the difference was noticeable under another layer of clothing. I felt incredibly insecure and wanted that piece of clothing to never be on my body again.
Those who know me can attest to the fact that I have never really cared much about my appearance. I have never worn makeup (even when experiencing serious acne throughout middle and high school) and my cowlick controls my hairstyle, not me. Sure, I like fashion and have experimented with many different clothing styles in my life; but, on average it takes me no more than 20 minutes to get ready. I shower, put on clothes and head out the door. This has been one area of my life that I have been endowed with innate confidence.
After this most recent bra experience however, my confidence has admittedly been shaken. Since trying on that bra, I am trying to regain my former confidence.
While I know that my femininity does not come from my breasts, and as much as I want to say that I am not affected or influenced by America’s breast obsession, my new-found insecurity would suggest otherwise. Somewhere along the lines, I have been conditioned to believe that having one breast smaller than the other is something to be ashamed of.
Truthfully, I don’t want people looking at my breasts anyway so why should I care if they happen to notice that they are two different sizes? Am I afraid that because they are asymmetrical, more attention will be drawn to them and I’ll receive more stares? Do I invest more of my confidence in my natural appearance than I had previously thought?
These are difficult questions that I’m asking myself and I can honestly say that, in this moment, I do not have the answers. But my experience is making me think long and hard about how much our cultural fascination with “perfect” breasts actually infiltrates and affects my life.