At 16 years old, I was already a J cup. I had to wear a souped-up bra made from a Lycra-like material, with two pieces of underwire and super-thick straps—but not even my fortified breastplate was enough to prevent the aches and pains that inevitably followed a 15-minute run. If I bent down for more than a few seconds, the weight of my chest became so intense I’d have to lie on the floor to help realign my back.
I was self-conscious and I was extremely uncomfortable within my own body, so instead of wearing what I wanted, I wore what I could. My wardrobe was a steady rotation of oversized, potato-sack t-shirts. The loose shapes allowed me to breathe, but I felt stifled.
My wardrobe was a steady rotation of oversized, potato-sack t-shirts. The loose shapes allowed me to breathe, but I felt stifled.
My boobs, of course, didn’t appear overnight. First came puberty, then came years of unexplained weight gain, and then, finally, a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). A hormonal disorder that involves heightened levels of androgens (or male hormones, such as testosterone) and insulin, PCOS can throw your metabolism way out of whack. I hoped that once I began treatment for my PCOS (which for me included a number of medications), my metabolism would correct course, the weight would come off, and I’d be able to exercise again without fear my body would break in two.
Over the next year and a half, I did lose weight—about 100 pounds in total—just not in my boobs. Instead, my new proportions succeeded in making them appear larger. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, I would have been impressed by my bosom’s apparent ability to defy the laws of nature.
So, a few days after I turned 18, I went in for a consultation with a surgeon to discuss the possibility of a breast reduction, and a few months after that, I was on the operating table. The goal of my surgery was to reduce my breasts to a size that would no longer negatively impact my life. And when I woke up and saw my new DDD chest, I immediately felt that the emotional weight those four cup sizes carried had been lifted.
When I woke up and saw my new DDD chest, I immediately felt that the emotional weight those four cup sizes carried had been lifted.
That’s not to say that recovery was easy. Actually, it was a panic-inducing horror show. For the five days following my surgery, a glorified Tupperware container clipped to the inside of my shirt collected blood and other bodily fluids that drained from my tits. (I never managed to empty it without feeling faint.) Scars from the three incisions made to each boob criss-crossed my areolas. And the gore reached its climax when my left nipple, which I’d taken to calling Frankenipple because of its stitched and scabby appearance, fell off. Or, for one heart-stopping, nausea-inducing moment, I thought it had fallen off; Frankenipple, it turned out, wasn’t a nipple masquerading as a scab, it was just a scab. My real nipple was safe and sound underneath.
It would be 10 days before I was able to shower, and months before I felt comfortable sleeping on my stomach again. But the minute I was healed enough to wear a bra, I discovered I had a new lease on life—and fashion. I bought dresses, vintage clothes, button-down-shirts. I went bra shopping for the first time since my early teenage years at an actual department store, rather than a specialty shop. Instead of using my clothes to hide a body I found awkward and agonizing, I found that each outfit was an opportunity to reveal another piece of who I was. I felt more like myself than I ever had before—despite the fact that, technically, there was less of me.
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