I've been chatting to a young friend online who, like me, is blessed with a large bosom. For her, like me, this isn't a problem. But for the people around my friend (I'm going to call her "Mary" here), it's been a big problem. Ever since "the girls" arrived just before Mary's eleventh birthday, she's had to put up with remarks, stares, being treated like a "bimbo", and pressure to have breast reduction surgery.
Mary was one of only two girls in her year four class to need a bra. There were a few "meanies" at her primary school, she says, but the real harassment didn't start until high school: in PE classes, on swimming and athletics days, at the lockers, during assemblies. "Whenever people saw an opportunity, basically."
Large breasts can cause pain in the back, neck, and shoulders. Mary has experienced some minor problems because of this, but back exercises helped, and she has no trouble now. In fact, as far as I can figure out, her bust is only at the large end of normal - she was a 16DD, and is now a 14DD. (The average Australian woman
is about a 14C. I myself am a 24DD and have no problems.)
Despite this, friends, family, and her doctor have all pressured Mary to have breast reduction surgery. She's had comments such as "You're out of proportion!" and even "Do you want to be a human Barbie?" Any kind of operation is a very serious step, not the sort of thing you want to do just for cosmetic reasons. Breast reduction can help women who are really suffering from back pain and other discomfort, but it carries a risk of scarring, loss of sensitivity in the nipples, and of not being able to breastfeed later on.
Not surprisingly, all this has affected Mary's self-esteem, making her feel self-conscious. The skimpy sports uniforms she's obliged to wear at school don't help. It's also difficult for Mary to find clothes, including swimwear and underwear, that fit her without being "sexy". "I'm worried about finding a dress for the formal that will go with my figure without giving a 'free sex at the party afterwards!' message."
The efforts of doltish Romeos don't help, either. "At McDonald's one time, I was getting this guy his Big Mac and Quarter Pounder, and he said they weren't the only hamburgers he liked, while looking at my chest. I wanted to slap him, but didn't." But boys are not the only culprits: "I don't like to be treated like an airhead, but even some girls and women do it. At the shops, the counter people seem to like explaining things over and over, as if I didn't get it the first time."
Mary wants young women to know that they should not let themselves be pressured into surgery they don't need or want. When it comes to minor discomfort, back exercises, weight loss, and a better-fitting bra can all help (most of us wear the wrong size bra
, a problem I had myself for many years). Mary suspects doctors avoid telling their patients about these less dramatic alternatives because there's "big money involved". She also points out that the pressure to conform means girls and young women might be well-advised to leave it until they're older to decide about surgery.
For many girls and women, finding a way to accept our own bodies, and to convince others to accept them, is the real answer. Mary says: "No one should feel ashamed to have big boobs and this figure - but it's not easy living with it."
Your comments are very welcome!