My 32DDDDs sat proudly on my chest, never asking for but always receiving attention. They were the ultimate paradox — my gift and my curse. Boys drooled over them, while girls positioned their breasts methodically in padded bras that promised to offer a mere fraction of what I had. And what I had was plenty.
To others, being well-endowed was attractive; for me it was an awkward responsibility that came way too soon. I went from cotton training bras, screen-printed with daisies, to sturdy straps and painful underwire in the course of mere months. I felt like I was being pushed into womanhood when all I wanted to do was be a 14-year-old kid — jump double-dutch in my Southeast Jamaica Queens driveway, emulate dance routines from TLC videos, rock my jeans baggy and wear my hair in finger waves, write rhythmic lust letters in smudgy red ink to the varsity basketball player I had a major crush on and never deliver them. (Making googly eyes as we passed each other in the hallway was as far as my adolescent swag would get me.)
But being marked as the light-skinned chick with big tits — that was a compliment that hit harder than an insult. Each time the words echoed through Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, I envisioned how much easier life would be without them.
This may sound odd in a time when curvy figures are glorified — from waist trainers to ass shots, the more curve the better — but in the early '90s, 14-year-old girls still maintained a sense of innocence. We were guarded from oversexualization. There was no instant access to the extent others would go to look perfect. We didn't have Instagram and Snapchat, or Dr. Miami offering a front-row seat to cosmetic surgery as Views plays in the background, making the nip/tuck seem all the more cool; or reality TV stars to idolize. Adina Howard and the Fly Girls was as risqué as it got, and they were entertainers, so a bit of spice was expected. Shit was never force-fed.
Plus, when you're 5'5, 125 pounds, all legs, and straight boobs, 32DDDDs aren't as fun as they sound. That's a heavy load for a relatively small frame to carry.
The first time I seriously considered a breast reduction was when I found out that another girl in my graduating class deflated her human balloons for "medical reasons." If she could convince her family's insurance to cover cosmetic surgery, why couldn't I?
Debbie* was three inches shorter and two cup-sizes larger, making her tit situation a lot more critical. I understood her struggle, but mine was pretty serious, too. I suffered from chronic lower back pain. My shoulders had semi-permanent dents, thanks to the matronly bras I sported by day and slept in overnight. It was hard AF to shop for my body type — button-down shirts always gapped, spandex and cotton gave the illusion that my breast were a lot larger than they actually were, boxy cuts made me look fat, sculpted shapes made me look grown, and forget about bathing suits.
When I graduated high school and completed my first year at Howard University, I crushed fear and began my breast reduction journey. After researching the best plastic surgeons in New York City and reading every client review the internet made available in 2001, I narrowed it down to three doctors and set up consultations with each.
"How long you been living with these things?" asked the white-haired body magician who topped my list. He was Ivy League educated, sat on the most prestigious medical boards, and won numerous awards. On paper, this jerk was the perfect pick. I responded to his question politely with a smile. No teeth. Just cheeks. "You're 19. Yes?"
"Yes," I said.
"So it's time to get you some perky 19-year-old tits," he said.
It was time, but not with him. I was eager to leave.
"Ms. Webb," he said, "We have some great news."
I straightening my posture in the tufted leather chair positioned directly across from his devious stare. The quicker he shared, the quicker I could leave. He was my first stop and not my only option.
"You're triple the size, density and weight of the approved coverage under your mother's medical insurance. I honestly don't know how you've been living with these things."
The shame I felt in high school was nothing compared to the discomfort I was experiencing with one of the most celebrated cosmetic surgeons in New York City. He should know better, but obviously etiquette was not his forte. He was crass and gave off an entitled creeper vibe, as I longed for comfort while making one of the biggest decisions of my life.
"Thanks, doc. I'll be in touch."
I took my "things" along with my long list of questions up Franklin Avenue to Dr. Kilgo, a 30-something surgeon with a charming face, sweet demeanor, and most importantly, answers.
Will I lose sensation in my nipples?
This is a legitimate risk since your nipples are partially removed during surgery — thankfully, mine still respond just fine. Unfortunately, some women do lose sensation.
How bad is the scarring?
That really depends on how many incisions you have and how well your skin heals. My skin tends to keloid, so I do have scars but they are only visible on the outer upper corners of my breast, right below my armpits.
How long is the recovery process?
Of course that varies from person to person, but I was on bed-rest in excruciating pain for 10 days. My scars took several months to heal, and like any wounds, I had to treat them on a daily basis. For weeks, normal gestures like lifting my arms, bending over, and picking up moderate-weight objects were very challenging.
How many incisions do you need?
I went from a 32DDDD to a full C/small D, a pretty drastic reduction, so my surgeon suggested we move forward with the anchor incisions: around the areola, vertically down the breast crease and along the base of the breast. The only visible scarring is along the base of my breast, which is easily concealed with a bra, or not. I'm proud of my scars.
Will the reduction make me look fatter?
Nope. It actually made me look slimmer. When I returned to Howard, second semester sophomore year, people wondered how I lost so much weight in such a short period of time. My 32DDDDs gave the illusion that I was a lot bigger than I actually was.
Will they grow back?
They did, but never to their original size. I'm a 34DD now and about 15 pounds heavier than I was in 2001 — the growth is justified. Your breasts can fluctuate with your weight, so if you're in the midst of a body transformation, I would wait until you reach and maintain your goal weight to begin your breast reduction journey.
I decided to have a breast reduction because I no longer wanted my breast to define me. It was time to rewrite my story and eradicate the perception that men and women ignorantly formed based on my bra size. For too many years, I was "the light skinned chick with big tits" — it was time to change the conversation. And I did.