When you’re younger, there are certain ideas you have about your future. Like maybe you’ll have two dogs or a fast-paced, powerful career, or live somewhere exotic. Some of these ideas become true and some, obviously, do not.
One of the ideas I had about my future was that I would have boobs one day. Seems lame, but as a very flat-chested pre-teen, I just assumed I would one day grow boobs like every other girl around me. *Spoiler alert* I am now in my mid-twenties, and I can tell you I did not grow boobs like every other girl around me.
When I was younger, I didn’t handle it so well. So when I read the headlines last week that Iggy Azalea had gotten a boob job, I was a bit surprised when I thought genuinely, “Wow. Good for her.” Her news hadn’t fazed me in the slightest, when about five years ago it would have been a pretty brutal hit to my self-esteem. Back then, it would have felt like a flashing red light telling me that they way I looked wasn’t enough, that my small boobs were not, and would never be, beautiful.
Growing up as a teenager, I had a slight obsession with breasts -- probably not unlike most young straight boys. But my fascination had nothing to do with sex. I was jealous.
As I got older and my friends and other girls my age started developing, I noticed more and more that my boobs were not. How did everyone else get at least some increase in size and I was left looking like a 12-year-old boy?
I’d always been on the thin side, but there were plenty of other girls just as skinny as me who were already wearing proper bras and actually filling them out. I was left with my cotton sports bra for pre-teens, which wasn’t so much to support anything as it was just making my nipples less obvious when I wore T-shirts. I wondered why any dude ever want to date someone who looked like me.
I was embarrassed, and I got made fun of one more than one occasion. Direct comments or whispers just loud enough for me to hear would send the blood rushing to my face. Once I decided I couldn’t deal with sports bras anymore, I ventured out into “real” bra territory. It was hard to find anything that fit, or didn’t look ridiculous on my frame.
As a teenager I had terrible self-esteem. I was painfully aware of how awkward my body was, always wondering if anyone was looking at my chest and wondering how it could be so flat. I looked at plastic surgery websites all the time, emailed doctors' offices about the cost of a boob job and calculated in my head how much I would need to save. I examined hundreds of before and after photographs, closely examining them for the breasts that most looked like mine.
Would my skin get stretch marks? What size would I get? How long would the recovery time be? When would I have to get them replaced? Would I finally feel pretty?
It amazes me how much time I spent obsessing over this, making myself feel terrible. But even though I wanted a boob job, a small part of me wondered, would this really make me happy? Will I still be me if I’m someone with boobs?
I was always on the lookout for celebrities, other girls, any female with a similar chest size. I noticed what clothes they wore, the people they dated, the things they said and did. These girls are confidence about their bodies, I would think. Why can’t I? I could not let go of the overwhelming feelings of shame and inadequacy about to my chest.
But subtly, over the years, my relationship with my boobs changed. I got a boyfriend, who said he loved my body, which both comforted me and amazed me. I started figuring out what clothes looked best on me, and although I still worried about my chest, I worried about it less.
I also started reading more about feminism, and the complicated relationship women develop with their bodies. I thought a lot about why I felt the way I did, about how I tied my chest size into my entire self-worth. I wanted surgically enhanced breasts because I felt it would finally validate me as someone who was attractive, desirable and worthy. Honestly, if it hadn’t been my chest I probably would have fixated on something else on my body.
I started to appreciate my body for what it gave to me every day, which was a healthy, vital vehicle to experience the world around me. My boyfriend and I broke up, and I wasn’t scared that no one else would be interested in me because of my lack of boobs. If I’m not someone’s type because of my chest size, that’s totally fine, I don’t need to be. I don’t want to be with someone only because I have a certain bra size. I realized I could be sexual and skinny, sexual with small boobs, sexual and not ashamed.
I also started finding bras that fit my small size, and no longer only chose ones with seven layers of padding. I didn’t feel the need to trick the outside world into thinking my boobs were bigger than they actually were.
So when Iggy talks about how much she loves her new boobs, I’m genuinely happy for her. Because I know how shitty it is to feel like you’re lacking something that everyone else has, and that your genetics decided not to give to you. She’s the one who decides what happens to her body, and there is power in that.
Because that’s what I’m starting to feel: powerful. It wasn’t some grand epiphany I had one day, but a small series of steps that led me to where I am right now. One of the best parts I’ve experienced so far about getting older is accepting myself, and my relationship with my breasts is one of the best examples.
I still have days where I find myself on a plastic surgery website checking out before and after shots, but those are rare. Who knows, maybe one day I will decide to get plastic surgery. Maybe I won’t. But it will be because I made that choice for myself, not to please anyone else or validate my body in someone else’s eyes.