Breasts and Battle Scars

I remember the first sprouting of my breasts. It felt like it had happened overnight, as though I had rolled over onto two triangular slices of brie cheese while I slept. I couldn’t feel them initially—they were covered comfortably by my school uniform in the first year—but soon after, their presence became a physical and emotional weight on me. From the stares I received, to the muffled comments spoken after an intrusive observer walked past us: “your tits are huge.” I realised then that something had changed interminably, and that I would no longer be able to hide behind anything, let alone my school uniform. 

It was then that eyes took on a new meaning for me. They weren’t simply a means of seeing, but also judgement. I hadn’t before understood that others could have such a strong opinion on something so fundamentally unchangeable about myself, and that their perspective would matter in any capacity. By the time I was in the 7th grade, I was a C cup and I'd lost control of my body and would continue losing control until I turned nineteen - until I realised that my body was nobody else’s business. Until then, control was in the hands of those around me; the ones who watched, labeled, and questioned the woman I was gradually becoming.  

At twelve years old I was forced into old bras that belonged to my aunt (significantly less developed than I was) for no other reason than, perhaps, the apparently unnecessary spending of money on a well-fitting bra. It still puzzles me – why did my mother never take me to get fitted? Was she attempting to ignore my rapid development into a woman? A woman similarly shaped and just as uncomfortable around food as she was?

The jump in cup sizes seemed to correlate with my growing gluttony. Food didn’t seem to satiate me anymore, and I turned to sneaking “fattening” treats to gorge on while my parents weren’t looking for excitement. They scolded me when they saw, but never stopped buying the problem foods. It became like a dance, the way I’d skip quietly down the stairs and pirouette around the kitchen island before carefully creaking the refrigerator door open. There was a thrill in knowing that I could indulge in my sweets without the added side eye and saltiness. Soon the rest of me began to grow along with my breasts. I jumped significant sizes from 8th to 10th grade and the reaction to it was palpable. I had never found myself ugly, but it was clear from the way others were treating me that I had to start. 

Any self confidence I had was berated out of me and twisted into delusion. Mirrors became a gateway into what felt like undeserved vanity. I would constantly check myself to make sure that nothing more was ‘out of place’; that I at least looked okay, and didn’t invite any more attention. I hid myself away in public and exploded with creativity and unbridled desire when I was alone. I was trapped in the notion that who I was then was who I was going to be forever. Slowly, much like the ill-fitting bras I was forced into as a pre-teen, my genuine self was spilling out of the edges of an ill-fitting identity. 

At nineteen, it finally hit me that I didn’t have to settle for a sense of self that felt so antithetical to who I actually was. I had held the control all along. I took advantage of it by changing what I wanted and highlighting what was already there. During that year I lost a significant amount of weight, but held on to my cup size and all the insecurities previously attached to it. I felt lighter physically, though emotionally I still lug around the weight of who I was perceived to have been for all of those years. I had accepted this forced identity as absolute, and the undoing is a work in progress.

Today, my bra fits. The indentations left on my skin by previous bras too small and too tight may have faded, yet those embedded into my psyche will always be there. The feeling of too much comfort will forever gnaw at me, saying “this isn’t right”, because contentment was never something to be too proud of. Growing up, contentment with yourself, with your body, was unnerving to those who didn’t have it. To those around me, it was an attack, and they felt the need to fight back. I imagine battle scars trailing along my ribs and around my back. I have learnt that elevating my beauty, and allowing my body to exist publicly is nothing I should be ashamed of.