This is a piece I wrote a long time ago. It actually helped me earn a $48,000 scholarship (to a college I didn’t end up attending, unfortunately). I was reminded of it recently by this post at Shapely Prose, and then I read this at Kim Writes and thought that is what this little piece would want to be when it grows up.
I’d do things a bit differently if I were writing this now, hopefully better, and I’d have a lot more to say about the multifunctionality of my breasts, but I still love it for what it is. And while I continued (ok, continue) to work with my body issues, the moment described herein really was pivotal for me: the whole trajectory of my thinking changed course, for the better, and I am still so grateful for that.
I Saw My Breasts
I have rarely felt good about my body. The best I have ever had to say about it is that it’s “acceptable,” at least since I started puberty and grew breasts, and had the rest of my body fleshed out.
To put it bluntly, but truthfully, I am fat. Over-tall, over-wide, and flabby almost everywhere. Being manic-depressive, there are times when I could manage to describe myself as “voluptuous.” But the rest of the time, I’m just fat.
My breasts, especially, are a problem for me. In a bra, they are a decent, perhaps impressive, size D, and conform nicely to the shape of the bra. When out of a bra, however, they are triangular shaped, long, and flat. I tend to think of them as shy – when I’m standing up straight, my nipples determinedly stare just a few inches in front of my toes. I have long felt like I have old lady breasts – hanging halfway to my hips – while only a teenager. What’s more, never, ever, have I seen breasts like mine on anyone else.
Which, to my depressed and self-loathing mind, made me not just a fat geek, but a fat freak.
Of course, intellectually, I know that humans are unique, and no two are quite the same, and those differences should be valued, cherished, and rejoiced. And I do – in other people. I have enjoyed magazines like Hues and Radiance that embrace the variety of cultures, colors, sizes and shapes that humans come in. But for only short periods of time had I been able to carry that certainty within my heart as well as my head.
It was in one of those magazines, shortly after I started to come to terms with my bipolar disorder, that I saw them. My breasts – my breasts – on another woman.
Radiance, having its annual swimsuit issue, was doing a feature on Aviva Jane Carlin, who had written and was performing in a one woman play, as a nude artist’s model.
She looked about 50, and she was no supermodel, although she made a super model. And although not as fat as I, she was definitely not “perfect.” But her demeanor and confidence, and lack of self-consciousness, made her beautiful.
And she had my breasts.
I’m not sure which of those two thoughts I had first, but the third was amazement at the previous two – she had my breasts and she was beautiful.
And finally, I knew, I had proof that I wasn’t the only one. It shouldn’t have mattered, perhaps. But it did.
She wore no clothing. Nothing to hide her wide hips, with all their stretch marks. Nothing to cover her arms, that seemed to yearn for the earth, so much did they hang. Nothing to disguise her thighs, that danced at the least excuse. Her stomach was free, free to fall over her waist, to move when she breathed, to smile when she leaned over. Her hair was loose, wild, a dark springy brown liberally streaked with grey. Even her ankles, wide and solid to support her body’s movements and poses, were unfettered and exposed.
But most of all, most important to me, were her breasts. Just like mine, they hung low, and looked like thick Doritos. Her areolas were large and barely distinguishable from the rest of her breasts. And her nipples, cross-eyed like mine as she slouched, stared fixedly down. But looking at her gave me a different perspective on our shared glands cum fat deposits.
On me, those breasts have always seemed shy, or sad – depressed even. Their seeming attitude – of depression and defeat – characterized my attitude about my body and my appearance.
But on her… Her breasts characterized her views as well. They stared lovingly at her stomach, surveyed her hips, caressed her legs with their gaze. They were the caring queens of her body, not rising above their subjects, but joining them, looking not outside their domain with embarrassment, but down at it joyfully.
I had seen my breasts on another woman, and they were queens. They added to her beauty, her dignity, her womanliness.
And they were my breasts.
I am still fat. And my breasts are still overgrown Doritos, hanging halfway to my hips, or at least to my smiling belly button. But my breasts are also queens, and no longer detract from my beauty. I no longer shake my head in bewilderment when my lover comments on their desirability. And I can look at myself in a mirror, and see in it the breasts I share with a proud woman, who is not old before her time, but beautiful because of her years.
Thank you, Ms. Carlin.