WNaRBWjLN2-10A (Too?) Personal Essay

Being a lover of language and someone who is deeply intrigued, though hesitant to use, slang, I want to share with you a most curious compendium, my mental collection of common terms for the female breasts: Tits. Titties. Boobs. Boobies. Bosom. Bosoms. Dirty pillows. Hooters. Headlamps. Knockers. Bazoombas. Melons. Chichis. Boulders. Jugs. Girls (as in “my girls” or “the girls,” respectively). Twins. And, courtesy of Stephen King’s novel The Long Walk, jahoobies. Have I managed to forget any?

But, whichever of the aforementioned terms you use, I kindly ask that you do not use them around me. I suppose I just find them disgusting, degrading, repulsive, infantile and completely unnecessary. I always have.

Perhaps I am more sensitive to such things because I am a woman with a unique situation. Point blank: I hate my breasts.

Not in the sense that I feel they are too small and wish they were larger. Nor do I wish they were fuller or less lopsided or perkier or any other such thing. Rather, I simply hate the idea of them on my body, hate knowing that they are there, hate the look of them, the way they feel, cumbersome and ugly and terribly wrong. The truth is, I have never wanted breasts and have always tried to come up with ways to hide them, mask them, ignore them if you will.

I really mean it. I hate my breasts. And I’ve hated them since the day my body began to grow them.

I equally loathe all the things that come with them too. I find bras excessively uncomfortable and restrictive. I do not like the way they hold my breasts up and push them out, the way they make them obvious and noticeable. Even now, if I must don a bra, I wear a T-shirt and slip the bra (which I refer to as a “torture device,” not necessarily in jest) over it because, at the very least, it is not directly touching my skin. Being a runner and sometimes fitness club patron, I loathe skin-tight sports bras (is there any other kind?) and cannot wait to tear it off my body as soon as I hit the showers.

Truthfully, I cannot think of a time when my breasts have not been a bane and a burden to me.

As a junior high student, I recall rather humiliating and emotionally excruciating moments when my mother would check me for a bra in public or when we were on some family outing. She would scold me for not wearing one and further embarrass me in front of my dad and brother by pointing out that I was “not a flat-chested little girl anymore.” (Did she have to rub it in?). My father, who always struck me as a rather insensitive, boorish pig, made very inappropriate comments about how I didn’t like to try on bras or how I needed to put one on that instant. Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn’t that be like a mother telling her son that his penis or testicles were too noticeable in his jeans? At the very least, if the mother insisted that something be said or that there was an issue with her son’s anatomy, wouldn’t it be a somewhat better idea to have the father gently bring the subject up…and not in front of anyone else, for that matter?

Around the age of fifteen, I began to strap my breasts flat against my chest with a belt. I found it more tolerable than any bra I had ever been forced to wear. I was lucky that this practice was never discovered by my parents or any of the people I attended high school with. Had my painful secret been revealed, my teenage years might have been even worse than they already were. What if the belt had broken or slipped while I was forced to run during gym? What would I have said? How would I have explained it? My gym shorts were cotton and didn’t have belt loops. The idea of it makes me shudder and cringe to this day.

Still, that was just one of the problems I had as far as my breasts and gym class were concerned. The fact of the matter is, I attended a high school that sadistically thrived on showcasing introverts and relishing their shame and discomfort: I was forced to wear a bathing suit for swimming (a ridiculous requirement that I loathed and a fantastic source of angst, as it highlighted my body excessively), made to perform a dance routine during P.E. (I don’t dance and never have), and forced to perform a gymnastics tumbling exercise while everyone looked on among other things. Gym class made changing difficult, even more so because I was required to do it in front of girls I didn’t really know. I would slip my gym T-shirt on and then peel my street shirt off underneath it. Doing this with a bathing suit was immensely more difficult. At the beginning of my freshman year, I used to change in the safety and relative privacy of a bathroom stall until some of the older girls began to complain and one of the gym teachers decided to make it her personal responsibility to stand guard over the stalls and loudly denounce anyone who dared change in them.

Secretly, I wished for breast cancer so that I might have my breasts removed. Please do not think me cruel or callous. My heart and deepest sympathy go out to every woman and man who has ever suffered from breast cancer or any other form of that illness. My greatest compassion and apologies for anyone who has ever endured the agony of watching a loved one battle and, sometimes lose to, cancer.

Forgive me, but it was the only way I could think of that would allow me to rid myself of breasts without facing harsh criticism and consequences.

A tremendous fan of the printed word, I recall an article I read in which the author posed the following question:

What would you do if you knew no one would judge you?

For me, the answer was obvious: I would have my breasts surgically removed.

Though I am not a mind reader by any means, I am sure you are probably wondering why I just don’t do it, why I don’t scrounge up several thousand dollars and find a surgeon who is willing to cut them away from my body, toss them in a biohazard bag, and hurl them into the infernal mouth of a basement incinerator. After all, we live in a progressive world, right? People are more accepting and understanding of these sorts of things, aren’t they?

The reason I have not done it is this:

I am deathly, tragically afraid.

Not of the surgery, no. Procedures, anesthesia, needles and knives have never really bothered me, at least, any more than most people. What frightens me, what makes me inwardly shudder, is the social reaction that I would most certainly incur. My family would notice the change and demand an explanation. I don’t know how I would even begin to explain it to them. Would I stammer? Freeze? Shrug and hand them these pages? Consider the complete strangers, not all of whom are polite or well-bred enough to keep their curiosity and their too-personal questions to themselves, who would inquire about my breastless (breastless? De-breasted? Unbreasted? Unmammaried?) condition in public, maybe even in front of their friends for a laugh or, if my theoretical tormenters happen to be the ruder sort of adolescent that I attended high school with, as part of a dare.

The problems don’t end there, however. What if I had to go to an emergency room or see a doctor who wasn’t sympathetic to my plight? They would undoubtedly ask me what happened to my breasts and when I bluntly told him or her that I didn’t like them so I had them taken off, what then? While doctors are generally very intelligent people and highly skilled in their field, this doesn’t automatically make them kind, understanding, and unbigoted. What’s to stop them from pointing out my painful difference under their breath to the receptionists and nurses? Or going home and telling their spouses and children about the repulsive and weird patient they had to treat today? Worse yet, what if they boldly stated that they wouldn’t treat me at all? Such things do happen, even in this day and age of political correctness. Furthermore, what if I needed to use a public restroom? Or a fitting room? I could compile a Mountain of Maybes and a World of What If’s, both of them enormous and endless.

I do not know what you, my reader, are thinking as you make your way through this. But it is reasonable to assume that you wish to know more about me because you cannot grasp it, you cannot fathom the very notion: what sort of woman hates her breasts and wants to get rid of them?

Another confession: I am a homosexual female. Or, if you’ll allow me to consult my mental compendium once more, a lesbian. A dyke. A queer. A rug eater. A carpet muncher. A crotch cannibal (I learned this term from a conservative Christian who I argued with via email over what she dubbed my “deviant, perverse condition.” Mainly, our disagreement consisted of the fact that I didn’t think it was a big deal or worth getting upset about while she seemed to think otherwise).

While writing this, I had the following particular dilemma: should I reveal that I was gay or would that simply open a can of worms and allow people to assume that, really, it is no wonder I hate my breasts because I am a lesbian and lesbians are not like other women. Straight women.Real women. Allow me, please, a few words in my defence.

I am not transgendered. I do not wish to be a man. I do not want a beard, a penis, excessive body hair, additional testosterone, the ability to develop a Hulk-worthy physique, the chance to play professional football for the Colts, or anything else that heteronormative society likes to associate with men and masculinity. Honestly, I am fine with my small stature, with my emotional viewpoints, with my full, dark pink lips, and the stronger connection between the two hemispheres of my brain that women tend to have (a scientific fact).

I have a shorter haircut, true, but I do not necessarily flaunt my sexuality. In many aspects, I am neutral and androgynous. I have been asked out on dates by men and had some inquiries as to my marital status because they wished to be potential suitors. I do not wear baby doll T-shirts or tight jeans or use cosmetics other than very lightly and only on special occasions. I wore slacks, a patterned formal vest, and a dress shirt to my younger brother’s wedding. When I married my wife, I wore the same black slacks along with a green tuxedo vest and green tie. But I would be lying if I said that, even walking down the aisle, I wasn’t secretly wishing my breasts away. The truth is, given my shorter hairstyle and my androgynous appearance (breasts excluded), I have been asked about my gender before. I try to pretend it does not bother me or that I can merely laugh it off, but it vexes me and frightens me and I find it inappropriate on the behalves of others. Though I ought not to be, I am surprised that they even had the audacity to ask.

On a positive note, I have long since abandoned the belt. I stopped wearing it as soon as I started college. Looking back, I wonder how I managed to wear one all day, every day, ever since I attended high school. Furthermore, the belt was uncomfortable, yes, but it also left a lasting effect upon me that I hadn’t considered: as a result of being strapped down regularly for several years, my breasts are somewhat flattened and sag prematurely. This has further complicated and added an additional negative component to my already shaky self-image. If an occasion arises that requires me to wear a bra, though, they appear relatively normal. But the truth is I do not want you or him or her or anyone else to notice or look at them in the first place.

At present, I have found a different and better way to hide my unwelcome protrusions: loose-fitting hoodies and pullovers that won’t let you tell if I am sporting a bra or not, the added bonus being that they cover my breasts to the point where I can somewhat forget about them…until I have to shower or change, anyway.

What do I hope to achieve with something as deeply personal and confessionary as this? The answer is both simple and puzzling: I don’t know. It could be I have managed to reach out to you because you also secretly struggle with your body image or your own physical flaws. For others, perhaps they do not feel so particularly odd now that I have revealed my rather unusual and uncommon insecurity. Instead, I might have merely managed to anger the myriad of women who have lost their breasts to disease and accidents and they find me foolish and ungrateful.

I will not lie to myself or to you, for that matter; I seriously doubt that I will ever find the courage to change my physical self the way I would like to. Given that I had the cash, I could customize a sports car, a kitchen, a private jet…but my own body? It’s out of the question. Society encourages and insists on breasts (the larger, the better, actually). Empires, fortunes and careers are built upon them and if you scoff at such notions, I suggest you look up a little magazine called Playboy.

And though I have already said a great deal, I must say a little more. I am not, nor have I ever been, a misogynist. My wife and I have been together for almost eleven years and I find her body, with its naturally generous endowments, to be the epitome of goddesshood. To put it bluntly, it’s not that I think breasts in and of themselves are wrong. They are, however, wrong for me.

In the meantime, I suppose I will go on carrying the secret of my twin banes up the Mountain of Maybe’s, the top of which is shrouded in a thick mist of What-If’s and crowned with hordes of curious teenagers and strangers who will send me running to the nearest metaphorical closet that is, hopefully, full of hooded sweatshirts and pullovers that will allow me to temporarily conceal that which I cannot bury for good.