A couple years back, I got a call from my credit card company at 3am.
“Hi…” the lady’s chirpy voice began. “So sorry if I woke you, but we’ve just noticed some suspicious activity on your account and we were calling to say that we’ve blocked the transaction.”
“Ooohhh… Was it to Freya in the UK?”
“Um, yes.” The woman seemed confused. “So I’m guessing that was you then?”
“Yeah, sorry, that was me… Don’t you buy swimwear online from the UK at three in the morning?”
She laughed. “Not often… It only popped up in our alerts because it was an international transaction at an unusual time of day. If that was definitely you making the purchase then I’m happy to release the funds though.”
It probably could’ve done with more explanation, but the fact was that I couldn’t sleep and I was online shopping because Rob wanted to go to the beach over the summer and I literally had nothing to wear. I’d complained to a friend about my lack of swimwear earlier in the day, and she’d suggested K Mart… and I’d similarly walked away from the conversation without explaining the problem. Which is what left me sleepless and depressed at 3am. Which is what led me to spend an eye-watering amount of money with Freya. Which is why the credit card company called me and nearly stopped me from getting a swimsuit.
See, K Mart doesn’t stock swimwear that caters to my body type. In fact, I couldn’t find anywhere in New Zealand that sold swimwear to fit a H-cup breast. This is hard to explain to women who are a C-cup and under – mostly because they think we’re just being a bit precious and lycra stretches anyway. But alternating pain and sweat rash with drowning in your buoyant cleavage is enough to convince any large-breasted woman that normal swimsuits are not designed with our special needs in mind. No, I’m not boasting. It’s really not very pleasant at all.
Believe it or not, most people who meet me actually have no idea how large my breasts are. I pick the clothing I wear because it tends to disguise and diminish the visual line of my breasts, even where things are v-necked or brightly coloured. Without fail, whenever I walk into a lingerie store and ask for bras in my size, I get the once over from the staff and get told “Whoever told you you were that large? I’ll find you something in a double-D.” And then I take my top off in the changing rooms… and they apologise and go scurrying looking for anything over a G-cup (which is hard to find, but not as impossible as it used to be).
When I showed some colleagues pictures from my wedding last year, they looked at this one:
… and asked how much padding I was wearing in the corset.
Then I told them that it was actually shaped to flatten my breasts, which bugged me because my ribcage under my breasts is actually a lot slimmer than it appeared, but it’s just that things were being squashed downward as well as upward and sideways. Then I showed them this one:
… and the response was “Crikey!”
Yup. That’s what happens when they’re a bit less disguised.
The funny thing is, when I was younger I actually really wanted a large bust. Mostly because when I was an adolescent, this was Bret Michaels and these were his… friends:
My mother is a AA-cup, and I really hoped my life would turn out differently. So I was greatly relieved when I hit 12 and they started growing… but then they didn’t stop. And by 15 I was a DD. And I came to understand that real breasts don’t look like the things in the pictures. Real breasts need more than two postage stamps and a piece of dental floss to hold them up. You basically never see large, real breasts in porn, and there’s a reason why.
I was reading tonight about the young actress Ariel Winter, and the fact she’d had breast reduction surgery at 17, and the fact that people could see glimpses of her scars at the Screen Actors Guild Awards over the weekend. Quelle horreur! But she’d been a 32F at a very young age, and she was sick of it. And frankly I don’t blame her. When I hit a 32F several years ago, I tried explaining the problem by posting this picture online:
That’s how big a 32F is by comparison. I could fit a single cup of my bra over my head with room to spare. Each breast was larger than my cranium. Each breast also weighed 2kg (5lbs).
And I know that my breasts have caused both wonder and chagrin to people (mostly men) over the years. And I also know that plenty of busty women have complained bitterly about the back pain… and generally been met with contempt from others who think they wish they had that problem.
Yup. I have back spasms. All. The. Time. My trapeziuses are doing a two-step as I write this.
Yup. Bras have left permanent grooves in my shoulders and darkened the skin in a band around my ribcage. If I showed you a chest x-ray, you could see the bones in my shoulders have changed shape under the weight.
Yup. Lying on my back can sometimes make it hard to breathe.
Yup. Some people seem oddly convinced that growing large breasts is a voluntary character flaw.
But more than anything else, it’s the difficulty dressing that has bothered me the most. Big bras are generally expensive bras. Swimwear must be sourced like first editions of Harry Potter. Anything dressy has actually led to strangers scolding me to “put them away!” Anything loose has actually led to friends asking when I’m due to give birth. People have cheered me when I run down the street, and I’m not a very good runner. No, I can’t leave them at home. No, walking about the world with large breasts does not automatically mean that I’m showing them off. They are what they are, and what they are is obvious.
… Sometimes I am kind of showing them off though. In the same way that some people show off their long legs or nice hair. Why not make the best of what you have? Especially when most of the time they are more bother than benefit.
I have often wondered whether I should have the surgery and bring them back to a more manageable size, but it’s ridiculously expensive and probably too late for me now anyway. Instead I invested in a rowing machine to keep my back muscles strong, and a corset to help take the pain out of my shoulders sometimes. Only large-breasted ladies understand that corsets can relieve pain.
So it seems unfair to draw attention to a young woman’s surgical scars, given that her surgery (while elective) was done less for vanity and more for quality of life. Again, tough to understand if you haven’t walked a mile in her bra, but large breasts are a great deal less fun than they look. And mostly because other people think they need commentary.
You try walking around with two extra heads.
… I never did go to the beach that summer.