My sister travels often for business, and a female colleague commented on her boarding pass, “34B?! That’s a bra size, not a proper plane seat.”
Breast comparisons are everywhere. There is the famous cocktail joke, “Martinis are like breasts: One isn’t enough and three are too many.” Or the myth that the champagne coupe glass was modeled off of Marie Antoinette’s left breast. That is not true, but she did use it for a mold for porcelain bowls used on her “Pleasure Dairy” at Versailles. Then there is the importance of mothers’ dairy delivering important antibodies to babies. So why is it, if you call someone a boob, you are saying they are an idiot?
At a recent women’s gathering, a question of who makes a good bra turned into a litany of women’s self-descriptions, usually critical, ranging from “used to be perky,” to “mine are headed to Venezuela.” This self-conscious body part faces implants, lifts, or reductions, where it seems, in terms of size, the grass is always greener on the other side of the push-up fence. Do you envy the figure that can wear spaghetti straps and jog without needing to be duct-taped in? Or long for voluptuous curves?
I come from a long line of naturally busty women. At a dive bikini beach bar in Florida, a woman asked me who did my work. I answered, “God.” Her boyfriend pretty much spit out his Bud Light. A college friend of mine embraced her endowments, calling them The Great Americans. In nature, women’s bodies are beautifully diverse, and there is no one size fits all. We can choose from sports bras, padded, lace, T-shirt, strapless, front closure, and racer back. Is there enough support? Are the straps comfortable? Does it give you the dreaded uni-boob? Will the copious underwire set off the metal detector at the airport? So much more complicated than a simple boxer-or-briefs discussion. Even Instagram is filled with filters to reshape your chest size.
One online bra site asks you to pick from descriptions ranging from asymmetric to athletic, bell, relaxed, and east-west (think side mirrors versus headlights.) It also asks “How old is your current bra?” with answers ranging from less than six months to more than two years. Some women are shamed that they have actually replaced their mattress more often than their well-worn lingerie. Clearly, undergarment shopping is not that fun for most women. I love the department stores in Paris that have dressing rooms with a switch for different lighting. You can choose le jour or la nuit. No wonder night is “la,” the feminine. It is only in the soft nighttime lighting that a department store dressing room doesn’t cause horrifying body-shaming thoughts.
There is so much judgment around this issue for women. Breasts are a source of life. And they are a source of death. What once represented pleasure then turns to fear or pain. One woman in an article documented her breast cancer journey including a beautiful, flower-filled ceremony to say goodbye before a mastectomy. Can’t we learn to shun social ideals and just be nicer to and less critical of these amazing, multi-tasking female parts? Be kind and be healthy and let go of all the judgment. Embrace The Great Americans, big and small. Know you are just fine as you are . . . no matter where you sit on the plane.