I’ve considered breaching this topic a couple of times now, but held back because A) I didn’t feel like I had any fully-formed thoughts save for a few small, internal rants that would reappear inside my head every time I wandered into the lingerie section of any department store, and B) I assumed no one would really want to read about some girl’s bra shopping frustrations. But, after spending the past few days preparing for my family’s upcoming trip to the Gulf Coast, shopping for flip flops, sunscreen, and the ever dreaded swimsuit, I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and word vomit all over y’all about a subject very near and dear to me (quite literally). So read on, dear readers who I hope will still want to be my friends after you finish reading this post, if you care to learn anything and everything about my boobs.
I’ve had a large chest for as long as I can remember. After I hit puberty and finally started wearing “real” bras (not those weird cotton ones that are basically just half of a tank top and given to young girls who wish they could wear a bra but can’t, so they just kind of fake it), my breasts kept growing. Even after most of my teenage friends reached a plateau (ha) in their boob growth, mine seemed like they were moody teenagers who basically looked around at what everyone else was doing, flashed a proverbial middle finger, shouted “GO BIG OR GO HOME, BITCHES!” and just kept on truckin’. By the time I hit college, I had accepted that the size of my chest was my literal and metaphorical burden to bear. These boobs were my Mount Everest(s). (I didn’t realize when I started this post how many great boob puns would come out of it. Score.)
But while I accepted the burden and all the frustrations that came along with it — having to buy shirts a size bigger than normal just to accommodate the size of my chest, leaving the lingerie store feeling defeated after trying on nine different styles of bras that all did not fit correctly, never being able to wear strapless dresses without employing some kind of wizardry, etc. — I never truly embraced the curves I was given. My flat-chested friends told me how envious they were of me. Friends who also had big boobs sympathized with my frustrations. But many of them alike told me to “show it all off,” to wear dresses that displayed how well-endowed I was on top, that I would at least get some looks and maybe a couple free drinks out of it. This idea made me anxious and insecure, and any time I wore a low-cut item of clothing, I felt completely out of my comfort zone. I wore tank tops underneath my more revealing dresses, and it took me awhile to get up the courage to wear v-neck shirts. I was convinced that things that looked “normal” on other girls with “normal” sized breasts would end up looking slutty on me. Sure, women all over the place wore tube tops or push-up bras to show off what they had, but when I did it, I didn’t feel sexy, I felt like I was selling myself.
I won’t go into a full discussion on the following topic, since it’s a different subject for another time, but I couldn’t write this post without at least addressing it. I think it’s easy for women not to embrace their bodies or play up their good features and allow themselves to feel sexy because we put so much emphasis on how others perceive the way we dress. Sure, maybe there are women out there who only dress for themselves, for the way their clothes make them feel, but how many times have you heard the phrase “dress to impress”? How often do we ask for other people’s opinions on our outfits? We want affirmation from the outside that we look good. And women who do play up their good features, their boobs or their butts or their legs, and dress to feel good about themselves, are labeled for that. But since when did self-confidence equal sluttiness? How does the neckline of a woman’s shirt or the length of her skirt have anything to do with her own sexual promiscuity? This notion was obviously even at the back of my mind, a self-proclaimed progressive feminist, as I tried to hide my chest under extra layers.
Today, however, when I was out picking up a few things for my vacation (sidenote: who can ever have enough travel-sized toiletries? I spent at least 20 minutes in that aisle perusing the tiny bottles of shampoo…), I decided on a whim to try on a cute black swimsuit that caught my eye. I had already purchased a new, relatively modest — meaning that it straps the girls in pretty well — swimsuit for the trip using a good chunk of one of my spring paychecks…and I think I probably promised my firstborn child in exchange for it as well. This swimsuit was expensive, much more than I would usually consider spending on something I won’t wear every day of my life, but it was cute and had a tiny little adorable floral print on it, and if you know me, you’ll understand why I could justify selling my soul for a swimsuit because of the print. Anyway, given how expensive this first swimsuit was, I decided it would probably be good to have a cheaper backup suit, just in case the cute floral one got tragically left behind somewhere or set on fire or eaten by a sea monster or something. (I’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones. Knowing my family, it’s more likely someone will spill wine on it and I’ll never get the wine smell out.)
Like any typical, self-loathing woman, I detest swimsuit shopping. Scratch that, I hate trying clothes on at all. I think the combination of the dressing room lights, mirrors, and my tendency to find my own flaws makes for an extremely unpleasant experience no matter what the garment is. So when I entered the fitting room, I was not expecting success. I was expecting, at best, to leave the room not crying, but thinking eh, close but no cigar. It’s a wonder I even got up the lady balls to walk in there in the first place, but I did, and I when I tried on the swimsuit, my first thought upon looking in the mirror was . . . my boobs look hot in this. Not wow, my boobs look terrible. Not you look like a dirty whore in this suit. Not even oh dear god, how will you ever live with yourself if you let the rest of the world see you in this swimsuit? I looked at myself and felt good. Attractive. Maybe even sexy, although it was pretty hot outside and my eyeliner was starting to melt, so that kind of killed the overall look. Regardless, I didn’t feel like my usual fitting room pile of crap; in fact, I felt like quite the opposite, and that was big. Let me elaborate by saying this style of swimsuit is one I never would have seen in a magazine and said, “Yes, uh huh, that would look great on me, specifically my enormous boobs.” It’s the kind with a chest section that is basically two triangles of fabric and thick straps that tie behind your neck. It is what I would call a Cleavage Galore suit, and it’s the most revealing swimsuit I’ve ever worn.
So I bought it.
I bought it because sometimes the only way to feel empowered about your body is to empower yourself. This swimsuit for me was a tangible representation of finally starting to own and embrace a part of my body that I’ve been hiding for most of my adult life. I’m not going to let myself be afraid of showing a little skin sometimes. No, I’m not going to go all Real Housewives of New Jersey all of a sudden and start wearing tight, cleavage-displaying leopard print tops on a daily basis — I obviously know how to dress modestly for the workplace, and I still like feeling comfortable in my baggy sweaters and flannel on the weekends. But I’m going to be less afraid of feeling sexy and letting my boobs look good. And okay, I realize this swimsuit isn’t going to change my entire self image in one day. I mean, I’m really only going to be wearing it on a low traffic beach in Florida for a week, but I’m going to wear it and know that doing so does not make me a slut. This is a big step for me and my boobs, and I think it’s (finally!) going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.