By the time I was 18, I had a DDD cup. This is not even that large in comparison with what some women have to carry around, but it was painful, and I was constantly uneasy about my body. I couldn’t explain it, but I felt like I wasn’t meant to be born with large breasts. I didn’t like to stand up straight, and I felt ashamed when I caught someone staring. I didn’t want to go through life hating something so prominent on my body. I daydreamed about things being different — about having the kind of breasts that I felt fit my body, and that I would feel comfortable with.
At this time, the list of things I hated about my breasts was longer than ever.
"I hate the way they feel on my upper belly when they don’t have a bra on...I hate sweating there. I hate having dents in my shoulders from bras, and irritation on my skin, and I hate feeling so constricted by my bras...I hate the way my breasts are saggy and point downwards. The weight causes me to slouch, making me look and feel unattractive. I hate the way my breasts look. I hate having so much cleavage, too much. I hate not being able to wear a button-up shirt, or a matching set of bra and underwear, or a bikini and lots of things. I don’t like having huge, ugly nipples. They seem like the same colour as my too-large breasts. I hate how, when I lie on my back, my breasts spread out, like my nipples are parallel to my shoulders. I hate that when I lie on my side, one boob falls on the other. Or when I’m lying on my stomach...oh my god, I’m a few inches up, and my breasts come out by my arm."
I then wrote, ruefully, "You know, in the '60s, I couldn’t have burned my bra."
I knew breast reduction existed, but I didn’t know anyone who’d been through it, and there certainly wasn’t a surgeon who performed the surgery in our small town, which had a population of 3,000. Thankfully, I was deep into Live Journal at the time, and I discovered forums where women talked openly and, most revealingly, gratefully about their breast reduction surgeries. Finding stories of regret after the operation was rare — women mostly talked about the length and difficulty of recovery. They spoke of the lightness they felt, the pleasure they took in wearing clothing, the enviable ability to wear a regular sports bra instead of a sports bra over an underwire bra (my improvisation). One sentiment kept coming up over and over again: These women all wished they had done it years earlier. I was just 19 at the time.
I worked up the nerve to visit my primary care physician, the same doctor’s office where I’d gone for vaccines, ear infections, and physicals, the same place where I’d pray my mother wouldn’t see my chart and discover I was on birth control. I worked up the nerve to ask my doctor if he knew anything about breast reduction, my cheeks flaming with embarrassment. He gave me a referral to the only surgeon in the next town over who took my insurance.
During my first consultation, I talked timidly with the doctor, reading out the questions I’d scrawled in nervous handwriting. I asked about references, expected results, and what type of procedure he expected to use. He listened, not patiently, but vacantly, and assured me that everything would be fine. As I was putting my shirt back on, he patted my stomach and said, "Then we’ll just have to take care of this, and you’ll be perfect." I was shocked, totally unprepared for such insulting up-selling at the doctor’s office. I felt humiliated and embarrassed, like it was my fault that my stomach wasn’t totally flat. If I’d been older and more confident, I would have gone for a second opinion, or travelled to a larger city to get the surgery. Instead, I let my enthusiasm outweigh my misgivings about the doctor.