I just want to talk about breasts for a minute.
Last week, I just saw this amazing film called “ABSOLUTELY SAFE”, by Carol Ciancuti Levy, about breast implant safety. It is a film I Executive Produced, so I’ve been viewing it over the years. But it just had it’s premiere screening in New York and watching it finished in the darken theater, I was horror struck again. It made me think about what has happened to us in our culture. How is it that we as women have somehow gotten brainwashed about how we think about our bodies to the point that we willingly mutilate them in the name of beauty…?
When I was a kid I remember loving my body. Not my face – I thought I was ugly for a long time – but I thought my body was perfect because it was well proportioned and thin. That is until I was about 11-years-old and I realized that my breasts weren’t growing. My older brother started to tease me mercilessly about this and it just became fodder for another one of our many fights. Indeed, it seemed like all my girlfriends were growing something beneath their shirts, and I was growing nothing…
My mother was always small breasted, and during my childhood my dad often made remarks or innuendos about how tiny she was. Sometimes he’d even tease her about how when he married her he got cheated in the breast department. Unbeknownst to him, she had worn falsies and, when he finally got his hand inside the bra, there was nothing there.
So, of course, when my time came around, I was very sensitive to the issue. And my bother, having picked up on my father, really took the opportunity to get back at me big time.
I remember when I first started to be sexual, thinking things like – “Well since I don’t have breasts, I have to ‘go further’ with the guy to make-up for my lack thereof…”
By the time I was 16 or 17, I was dying to have my breasts “fixed.” It was only 1977, but I already wanted breast implants. I don’t even know where I read about them or how I found out about them because that was so early in the popularization of implants. But somehow they were already well imbedded in the culture of women’s magazines that I read voraciously. I talked about it so much that my mom agreed to take me to see a plastic surgeon when I was about 19.
I remember she took me on the train to New York from Philly where we lived, and we went to the doctor’s office. As we sat in the waiting room, I looked at a brochure he had on the table with photos of various headless women ‘after surgery’ – and how I wanted the ‘after’ so badly.
When we finally enter the examining room he made me take off my shirt and looked at my chest. He kind of smiled and said, “Why you have beautiful breasts, you don’t need implants at all, let me show a picture of women who is flat chested who I would suggest implants for….” And he took out a book of pictures of other women and indeed they were completely flat, whereas I had these little round mounds. He told me that I should think about it for a few years, and if I still wanted them to come back and see him, and he would discuss it with me again.
I never did go back, and the desire disappeared. Thinking back, I don’t know if my mom had called ahead and told him what to say or exactly why the doctor had been so altruistic to turn me away, but the pictures he showed me helped my self-image a lot.
Over the years, I can’t say I’ve always loved my breasts. They are small, and I now wear a padded bra, which is another discussion in itself. But now that I am older, I am so grateful I didn’t cut them open to put plastic in them to make them bigger. I would have lost so much that I love about my breasts – like the sensation of softness, the sensitivity in my nipples, the very nature of what they are….
I remember, when I was very young, how my mom replied to one of my dad’s wisecracks about how small she was by saying, “Breasts have a function, they are made for nursing children, they are not for show…” Now, I think back and realize how wise my mother was, but I didn’t know it then. I wish I had.
I’d love to know what other women think about their breasts and how they related to their changing bodies growing up? I am really curious how each woman finds self-acceptance and even love of our “oh so imperfect but oh so very perfect forms” in a world that makes us believe that perfection can be created by man. Please write me back.