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What Do Your Boobs Mean To You?

Lock up your boobs! Playboy is renouncing its tits in favour of culcha. As nipples become freed, Playboy are, against the odds, locking theirs up. There followed a debate in the office about why sexy Playboy boobies were out – and why fashion boobs were in. It’s currently de rigeur to wear a tank without a bra, the shadow of nipple shimmering beneath; and sheer tops were all over the SS16 catwalk, as well as Kendall Jenner’s own chest recently, shortly after she revealed – zut alors! – that she has had her nipple pierced. They’re all tits: what’s the actual difference?

They’re very political, boobs. If the body is a site for politics, then our boobs are the literal, metaphorical, political cherry on top of the cake(s). I’ve written about boobs before when The Sun‘s Page 3-gate rolled around in January (the ‘are they/aren’t they’ hoax). Back then, I focused on what I like to call tit snobbery. To quote myself (no-one else is going to):

What it comes down to, is this: some tits are acceptable and some are not. Which tits are OK? Fashion tits. Black and white, artfully lit, skinny fashion tits, in expensive glossy magazines, or through sheer fabric on the catwalk. Also, Mumsnet tits. Feeding infants, nourishing soul, wholesome goodness and milk-fed humanity at its intended best. Tits that are not OK? Pendulous tits, Jeremy Kyle tits, tits in newspapers, naff tits, badly lit, glamour tits, lad tits. Hardly an equal playing field.

I love writing about boobs. Partly because of all the marvellous breast words we have in our employ: tits; jugs; Michael Bublés (c/o my boyfriend); rack; wangers; bazongas; tatas; titty pillows; cans; breasticles (my own). If you want to read a poem solely based on how many words there are for boobs, I like this one. Some of these words, particularly the traditionally laddish ones like ‘cans’ and ‘wangers’, really offend people, but I love them all. I love the words for breasts. I just – which brings me to the other reason that I like to discuss the politics of the breasts – I don’t love my own.

I have a complicated relationship with my boobs. I know I’m not alone in this. Women o’er the globe have issues with their chest. From those with gigantathon boobs wishing that they could sling the damn things over their shoulders, to the teeny tittied who rely entirely on a decent padded bra, via the few perfectly perky. For me, it’s never been about whether or not they were perfectly perky, but that I couldn’t reconcile myself with the fact that my own were, well, my own. So much so that I felt compelled to do something about it. There’s such a thing as not being present in your own body. And my boobs didn’t feel like they should be present on mine.

When I was 20, I had a breast reduction. It’s not a secret. My family and friends all know, but I haven’t written about it before. It was, at that age, shrouded in mystery. I just hadn’t figured out the right way to tell everyone. Now, I’d give much less of a shit. Back then, delivery was everything. The rumour mill went into overdrive and some confused boys thought I was having a boob job, rather than a reduction, so when I returned to university without the requisite Jordan pillows, they were bewildered. It’s much more common now (and by ‘it’, I mean surgery in general.) But still, people had then and still do, lots of questions. No, it didn’t hurt, though they were numb for a few days. I had it done on Harley Street and yes, it was incredible expensive – I used all my savings to pay for half and my parents kindly matched it as they knew how important it was for me. My parents were confused, but supportive.  I had it done because my boobs were big for my fairly petite size – 30DD – but that wasn’t the main reason. The main reason, as is the motivation behind so many decisions we make about our bodies, from nose jobs, to hair colour, is how they made me feel.

I was 13 and it felt like my boobs came out of nowhere. I’d always been skinny, sporty and now suddenly my boobs were doing an independent tango. I wore minimiser bras; hunched my back to make my boobs look smaller. What was most disconcerting is that unlike the rest of my body, I had absolutely no control over the size of my boobs. That might have been at the root of it: the lack of control. You can eat less and your arse becomes smaller; there’s nothing you can do to change your boobs. My mum took note. It’d have been hard not to take note. I volubly hated them. Any time that anyone said I had “great boobs” I cringed, cried, scowled. I love boobs. I love women who love their boobs. I have friends with GG boobs and they’re happy as larry. Just as other friends are with an A cup. I just hated mine. I didn’t want anyone to notice them, positively or otherwise.

The operation now feels like a distant memory. When people are discussing plastic surgery, I forgot I’ve had it. I didn’t have anything built, but I had something taken away. It’s funny how, because it doesn’t look like I’ve had anything done, people will enter into big debates about how narcissistic and self-indulgent it is to have surgery – forgetting I have done just that. Mine was self-indulgent, yes. It didn’t build me a new leg; I didn’t have my boobs removed because I was forced to have a mastectomy, for medical reasons. And that haunts me. But it felt like a necessary indulgence.

I still have to remind myself to stand up straight. Those years of hunching have left my shoulders with a long-held tension that I am not sure I will ever rid myself of. Nor am I sure that I’ll ever wean myself off sports bras. My boobs have grown back a bit since the reduction – that happens – and I have to actively stop myself from trying to hide them. Just to let them be. Just to enjoy the fact that I have a healthy body; a healthy pair of boobs. That are, whatever my body may think otherwise, all mine.

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