My boobs are bigger than I thought.
Actually, than anyone thought.
I'm tall, thin - well thinnish. I'm sure my bum isn't as big as my mind has perversely convinced me it is. I was a girl who kept waiting for those bumps of pre-puberty to come to fruition, who never needed a "training" bra. And I was the last girl in my grade 8 class to get one. When puberty launched me into womanhood, and it was all done, I said, "whatever."
My boobs never entered my psyche as one of my "features" - never made it to the mythical billboard advertising "Me".
Me did not equal Boobs.
I remember being off on a research trip in Cleveland a long time ago - I was forced to spend the weekend in the racing pit of Jacques Villeneuve's IndyCar team - it was pretty fucking cool. (That was when Paul Newman said hello to me...like, totally, that kind of cool). They had all these chicks delivering car parts along pit row - I say chicks because they wore short shorts, high heels, teeny tiny t-shirts that showed that these girls knew their billboards were real, not mythical, except for any lowly grease monkey who dreamed of finding out.
Anyway, after inhaling four days of ethanol fuel, testosterone and words like torque, shaft, and cockpit, with a few hours to kill before my flight, I needed a strong antidote - an extreme version of femininity - so I tracked down a Victoria's Secret.
Now being of the non busty-variety I tended to feel somewhat alien in there. Whenever I found myself in a lingerie dressing room, being handed something lacy, padded, underwired, and squished together - I bent over double laughing - which always worried the salesgirls. But really. I mean come on. Once I was strapped into it, I looked like I was trying too hard.
I've never, ever been able to pull off sexy if I was aware that I was trying to pull off sexy. Sexy, like goodness, is innate, and if you put it on, it goes rancid in its falseness.
So off I went to Victoria's Secret. Which is a treat because we don't have them here in Toronto.
We have Sophia, of Sophia's Lingerie on the Danforth. She's an institution. She carries all those little thingies that you hold like vapour that cost $350 - but they're from Europe. And Sophia, the institution herself, flies into your dressing room to feel you up and see how the whole thing is coming together. It's kind of like being sexed up and lingeried by your mother. That said, she knows of what she speaks. And I dis a cultural lingerie icon at my peril. But again, I didn't feel quite like I had enough to offer poor Sophia. And I didn't really care.
Back in Cleveland, the V.S. salesgirl offered to measure me. I'd heard the stat - 80 billion women in North America alone are suffering life in the wrong bra size. I chuckled and stepped into the change room. "I'm a 34B. Have always been a 34B. Will always be a 34B," I swaggered a little I think as I said it (probably some lingering gas fumes from race day).
She got the tape. She pulled it round. I looked off to the distance, kind of aware I was drawing my posture skyward, filling my lungs - kind of like those Soviet memorials to the brave women who harvest the wheat with a scythe, looking off to the future, confident that Stalin wouldn't let them starve. Kinda like that...
"Well I've got good news and bad news," I seem to remember her saying. "You're a 36, not a 34. But you're an A cup, not B cup."
So I was wider in the back and smaller in the boobs than I thought. Huh.
I could get a job harvesting wheat.
I bought a pullover bra and panty set from the girl anyway - for lighting my life with humility. I became a convert to matching underwear - that, I thought, was sexy.
So, I stopped thinking about my boobs - only went to Sophia's with my girlfriends who had assets Sophia could appreciate.
Now, I think my boobs are beautiful, and a lovely part of me. Now that I have to consider losing one, and maybe two - they have asserted their place in my mind, heart and soul. Breasts are fraught with meaning - they're sexual, they feed and nourish, they make halter tops look good.
I have to, as in, I must, consider them existentially. I'm in this unusual, totally unexpected place of trying to place what my breasts mean to me, so I can handle their potential loss and the grief that will come with that.
They are not my identity, any more than the breast cancer has turned me into only a cancer patient. I am more.
My doctor wasn't kidding when she said this challenge will make me stronger - it's like vinegar on grease - you can see so much better, the measure of things.
And Steve has to figure out what life will be like to have bigger boobs and better cleavage, than I.
We laugh about it now. I'll keep you posted for how long.
*The photo is from my wedding - Auntie Joan is my second Mum.