Standing Straight: Breast Reduction Surgery
President of the I.B.T.C., my family used to tease. “You’re the president of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee!” We would laugh, because in my early teen years, I certainly could’ve qualified. A petite girl, I always looked younger than my age until I was well into my mid-teens.
At that point began my course toward the opposite problem. Who would’ve guessed that 15 years later, I would be going in for a breast reduction? They always say “be careful what you wish for!” Thinking back, I regret that I also didn’t wish for millions of dollars, because my teenage prayers definitely were answered.
I had long prided myself on my hourglass figure, and even in my late teens I was a very curvy, but petite and fit young woman. My figure was a source of self-esteem and garnered a lot of attention from male students in high school and college.
I had grown up being teased about my flat chest, and my development felt like a righteous vindication. I enjoyed being curvy, voluptuous like a movie siren of old. And as a makeshift purse, my bra exceeded expectations. On any given night on the town, I could store my cell phone, credit card, driver’s license, pen, cash, lipstick, and car keys in my bra.
Somewhere along the way, however, my breasts developed beyond what I was willing, literally, to bear. A woman’s relationship with her breasts can range from hatred to pride, amusement to embarrassment. Mine fell, most of the time, strongly in the embarrassment category. By the time I underwent surgery, I was up to a 36DDD. Besides the costs of chiropractor visits and constant back and shoulder pain, the emotional costs ran very high.
As they increased in size, my own sense of self would disappear. Previously fashionable and trendy, with a straight posture that elicited compliments from friends, my sense of self esteem began to falter. Slumping and loose shirts became the norm, in an effort to disguise my most conspicuous features. I had also noticed a shift in the attitudes of others, or at least in my perception of them: appreciative glances were replaced with leers, and it was not uncommon to hear lewd comments being thrown my direction by strangers.
I changed the way I dressed in an effort to avoid this. When I wore baggy clothes, I just looked large and felt more invisible. Whenever I tried to dress more fashionably, perhaps even having the audacity to accentuate my waist, I was suddenly dressing ‘sexy’ or ‘slutty’, despite the fact that less curvy women wearing much more provocative clothes were not called these same names.
It was after living for years with the back pain, the neck aches, and the attempts at concealment, that I decided to take action. I researched several plastic surgeons in the area, and arranged for a consultation with one who had lots of experience with reductions. She stated confidently (and correctly) that my health insurance would cover the surgery for me, since I had such a history of pain and a mile-long list of pain complaints and chiropractic visits.
For weeks before the surgery I thumbed through fashion magazines, excited at the prospect of wearing strappy summer dresses and maybe, just maybe, even a strapless top! I fantasized about looking slim, properly proportioned, and even seeing my shoes when I stood up.
On the day of the surgery, I was more nervous than anything, but the surgery went very well. My surgeon had requested a blood timing test before the surgery, since I tend to bleed quickly. Thankfully no complications arose, and I went home that very afternoon.
The first few days after the surgery were an absolute blur. My plastic surgeon really believes in the healing powers of pain medication! I was so loopy that I eventually went off of the strong painkillers and onto the moderate ones, simply so I could remember that my friends had come to visit. The hardest part of the healing process was having patience. Nurses warned me not to pick up anything weighing more than a pound right after surgery, and nothing over 10 or so pounds even up to 3 weeks afterward. It only took one attempt to realize the wisdom in that advice. Once I also caused myself to bleed out of my sutures when I sneezed hard. Ice packs helped with the inevitable swelling, and friends and family helped take care of me.
During the convalescence period and extending into the weeks and months afterward, I couldn’t help but stare at myself in the mirror. Friends told me I looked like I had lost 25 lbs. I joked by saying I had only lost 2.5, but they were strategically placed! Reduction surgeries do make a person look much smaller though, simply by removing some width to the torso. I was thrilled with the outcome, and one of my favorite pastimes (after the bandages came off) involved dancing around the house (gently!) in just a tank top. How many years had passed since my chest was so perky?
At the same time that my relationship with my breasts became more positive, however, a strange lingering guilt would rear its head. More than once the tears flowed as I looked in the mirror and apologized to my now scarred breasts. What had I done? Why did I just let someone cut me up and sew me back together, like some modern day Frankenstein’s monster? My poor boobs didn’t ask to be so big. Was it unnatural to cut them down? From time to time, I felt bottom heavy. Pre-surgery, my hips and chest had been very close to the same measurements (my chest won out by a few inches). Now my hips were a bit bigger, and if I gained weight it became even more obvious.
More than this though, was a strange loss of identity. For so long I was the busty gal, the chesty one, the woman whose eyes and face were rarely seen by men. I had hated that. But yet when it was taken away, what did I have left? Was I now just going to blend in (even though this is what I wanted from the surgery in the first place)? Was I still sexy and womanly? After all, we’re force-fed by popular culture that a woman should be busty. My own surgeon, in the back of her photo book of surgery outcomes, had a large section of breast implant surgery pictures. Women filed through her door daily to pay for what I had wanted to rid myself of.
It was at these times that I felt disjointed, no longer sure of my own place in society’s identification list of Womanly Types. Logically I knew this to be ridiculous. Women shouldn’t be identified by their chests anymore than by their eye color or shoe size. And by most people’s standards, I was still full-figured. I had only gone down to a D cup, so that my figure would be well-balanced. So what was this strange identity crisis? Why did I catch myself apologizing to my breasts for “butchering” them? I had never apologized to my rear end for gaining weight, or to my feet for wearing uncomfortable shoes. I had fallen into the trap of believing that my breasts were something larger (pardon the pun) than just body parts. They had taken on an identity of their own, separate from the rest of me.
I feared I had somehow disfigured myself from how I was supposed to look, and who was I to go and change things surgically? My whole family was large chested. Was I weaker than my female relatives with large busts? Was I just being overly sensitive to discomfort, both physical and emotional? These emotional moments came and went for several months. Each time I began to feel that way, I would take countermeasures – sometimes I would go put on a dress I normally wouldn’t have been able to wear before, or I would dance around the living room and enjoy the lack of physical discomfort. Each time, the identity crisis faded, until it simply stopped.
It’s been several years now, and I happily identify with the smaller-chested me. I’m able to do so many things I wasn’t able before: dancing and sports, particularly golf. Clothing is easier to find. When food falls off my fork, it drops in my lap instead of on my shirt. (The first time that happened, my sister and I were so excited we just laughed!) I could see my shoes when I stood up, without having to lean over. I could sleep on my stomach. My chiropractor wasn’t as thrilled, because visits became fewer and fewer. These seem like such silly things, but the positive impact was huge. But there were more important changes too. Men started looking me in the face when they spoke to me. I didn’t feel like my breasts entered the room before the rest of me did. My shoulders straightened up a bit, as the weight pulling them down diminished. I felt taller. I felt prouder and more confident. I didn’t have to hide behind baggy shirts and poor posture anymore. I didn’t have to try to be invisible or to try to hide the evidence of my femininity.
Do I miss the larger bust? Not anymore. Only when I’ve put on a few pounds do I realize that I’m slightly more bottom heavy than usual. But it’s so much easier to exercise now that the weight can be lost easier. I think a realization of the silliness of our culture’s obsession with large breasts has also eased my transition. Why do we associate larger breasts with womanliness? How strange that some women pay to have their breasts reduced, while others pay to have theirs increased.
I feel more attractive now, which is one major reason people get plastic surgery of any kind. But it’s more than that. I feel more self-assured. I feel more of a whole woman. I am more than just my individual parts. I may not be quite as Rubenesque as before, but I’m healthier, more active, and stronger. I’m more comfortable in public, and more comfortable in my own skin. I may have scars on my chest, but they’re much easier to live with than the emotional scars of feeling my body is on display for everyone to notice.
Since my surgery, several friends and acquaintances have discussed the surgery with me, and three of them have since had the surgery themselves, with great results. I happily gave up my presidency of the I.B.T.C. in my teens, only to develop too far in the other direction. But thanks to my breast reduction surgery, I’ve found a very happy medium.