As a precursor, let me explain: I love boobs. Big ones, small ones, firm ones, saggy ones, old ones, young ones, real ones, fake ones, different coloured ones, all of ’em. Boobs are just great. They are magical inventions that keep other humans alive, and they are goddam sexy. Whether it’s a lovely big pair of bangers coupled with a tiny waist in a figure hugging dress, or a teeny tiny pair with fabulous nipples trying to escape, or a pair on an older, larger, matronly lady they are always stupendously fascinating. Tim Minchin’s Confessions says it all: whatever else might be going on in the world, you can rely on boobs to make you feel better. They’re soft, kindly things that only want to do good and make people happy. They are immediate, natural stress relievers. I have wondered at the breasts of women I don’t know and complimented the breasts of women I do. I have observed breastfeeding mums and welled with tears of joy and jealousy, knowing it’s something I’ll never do again. Boobs are beautiful, brilliant, sexy, kind things. I love boobs.
The first boy I ever kissed got all his friends to call me “boobless blondie” at school. I still knew I was ok. I was a good, intelligent person. Breast size doesn’t matter. A man in a bar once said to me, “Tell you what love, I’ll put in two grand if you do the rest and we’ll get you a pair of tits. Call it my bit for charity.” I still knew I was ok. I was a good, intelligent person. Breast size doesn’t matter. I grew up with Benny Hill and Carry On on the telly and Page Three in the newspapers. Plain, flat chested girls were boring and bitter. It was the pretty, big-boobed girls who had and provided all the fun. Thank goodness times have changed, eh? Oh…
Still, l knew I was OK. I was a good, intelligent person. Breast size didn’t matter.
After having three children and, despite having the top half of an athletic fourteen year old boy, successfully breast feeding all of them (I swear I could have run my own dairy or at the very least have been used in small riots as some sort of cheap replacement water cannon), I thought I’d have felt better than I did about the lack of boob situation. I’d kept other humans alive with my totally shit tits, after all! It was all going to be OK. I was a good, intelligent person. Breast size didn’t matter. Thing was, that nagging sense of not being good enough wouldn’t go away. I didn’t look right, I didn’t look the way women are meant to look, I wasn’t sexy in the way we’re meant to be…so I finally decided to stop moaning and sort it out. I had breast augmentation surgery. A boob job.
Try really hard not to judge me; it’s not easy, is it? I feel all the time as though I am waiting to be found out. The surgery has made me a bad person, a deceiver and a non-feminist. It’s like my breasts follow me around – not literally obviously, that would be a particularly bad boob job. I wish I could be more, “Ha…deal with my fake boobs, world! In your face!” Not my fake boobs in your face…you probably wouldn’t like that. Or you might, but that’s not how I mean it.
Pre-surgery, when I slept with someone, I would always say something along the lines of “I’m so sorry about my tiny non-existent boobs; I fully understand, and absolutely don’t blame you for probably thinking I’m rubbish”. So obviously a boob job would end all my self-loathing and fix everything. Brilliant! So post-surgery I slept with someone else, and said, “I’m so sorry about my fake boobs; I fully understand, and absolutely don’t blame you for probably thinking I’m rubbish”. So it was a major success and made me feel much more secure about myself and made people love me. Yay! Oh, no it didn’t. Turns out my insecurities had nothing to do with the size of my breasts. Who knew? Yes, somewhat predictably, I came to realise that boobs were not going to fix the way I felt about not being good enough. It wasn’t the boobs’ fault! Who’d have thought?
I tried to fix myself with boobs and I know it wasn’t the cleverest idea I’ve ever had, but I did it and they’re kind of here to stay. People don’t like Boob Job Women. I wonder why.
We view breasts as overtly sexual symbols. The larger the breasts, the sexier the woman. Ergo the smaller, the unsexier. I’m simplifying, I know, but this is what we grow up with. This is what glares out at us from newspapers, magazines, internet sites, television programmes, Barbie dolls…even female Lego figures now (wouldn’t be a proper female scientist unless she can fill out that lab coat, I guess). BUT as women, we are not to acknowledge this. DO NOT pay any attention to all of the above. You’re OK. You’re a good, intelligent person. Breast size doesn’t matter. Therefore, if you are weak enough to cave, and go in for breast enlargement surgery (in fact, any surgery that buys into this pressure – just look at the recent furore over Renee Zellwegger), not only are you giving in to the patriarchy, you are also admitting, most explicitly, a desire to be seen as a sexual being. You want to be regarded as sexy and you feel that larger breasts will help you to achieve that end. You laughable failure. When the Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) health scare happened in 2012, people were angry at the thought of helping to pay for women who had been affected. There was a definite sense of, “You gave in to all the things you know you’re not supposed to. You deserve whatever poison is in those implants to leak out and disable you. That’ll teach you”. It was unsettling, to say the least. I was lucky, my implants weren’t PIP, but I had to wait a while to find that out. People were venomous in their conviction that women who’d been stupid enough to pay for bigger boobs deserved everything they got. People tend, thank goodness, to accept that their taxes will be spent on helping smokers’ cancers or drinkers’ liver failure…but helping protect those weak enough to have succumbed to the vanity of elective surgery? Tough.
Earlier this year, I wrote about finding a lump in my left breast. The tests to find out whether or not it was cancerous (it isn’t) were far more time consuming and troublesome than they would have been had I not had implants. I found myself apologising to the wonderful NHS staff (who never once judged me for my choices) and feeling embarrassed that a choice I’d made based on narcissism and insecurities was suddenly having serious consequences.
My rule of thumb (rule of boob, if you will) is that I don’t tell people about my boob job. I don’t think this is because I’m ashamed, but because I fear people will judge. I’m afraid of being called a hypocrite or having to explain my choices to women who’ve gone through the hell of mastectomies and rebuilding surgeries. I had a perfectly well functioning body and made a decision so that I could, what? Fill out a tight sweater a bit better? How shallow. Close friends will contact me as the “in-house expert” whenever they know someone who is considering the same procedure. I’ll always be happy to speak to anyone in that situation about my experiences, but I’ve yet to say anything other than “Don’t do it to yourself”. It breaks my heart to see girls and women who simply can’t see how beautiful they are because they’re comparing themselves with airbrushed images that don’t represent anything or anyone real. They’re just there to make you feel shit. Before my surgery, it wouldn’t have mattered what anyone said to me. I researched and researched. I saw horrific images of botched procedures and read numerous accounts of women undergoing repeated corrective procedures. Yet I still went ahead…because our own insecurities are always the loudest, most convincing voices.
So, do I regret having my boob job? Sometimes. If I could go back, knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Probably not. They’ve been fun at times I suppose, but not the life-affirming, fix-everything miracle I must have thought they’d be when I made the decision a few years ago. And I’m not sure that something “being fun” is enough of a reason to undergo a general anaesthetic and have two balls of silicone sewn into my body. But none of this seems to matter. We all know how we’re supposed to react to the pressures. Girls are singing along to Meghan Trainor’s glorious plea, “I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop. We know that shit ain’t real, c’mon now make it stop.” We know. And yet the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) is reporting a 13 per cent year on year rise in breast enlargement procedures. It’s an alarming statistic, and proof if it were needed that the Voice of Insecurity is the most invaluable ally the beauty and cosmetic surgery industries could ever have.
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