[Image: a diagram of organs and anatomy.]
Note: On August 4, 2015 I underwent a breast reduction. Nine days after that I celebrated my 3 year anniversary of my gastric surgery. In the last 3 years I have lost over 100 pounds and had my breasts reduced from a G cup to around a D cup (I won’t know my actual size for several months). It’s been a wonderful, but strange time and I’m still shifting through my thoughts on the changes that have happened to my body. Here are just a few of them.
Being able to walk into a brick and mortar store and find clothing that fits you is a privilege. Sounds ridiculous? It is. But not for the reasons you’re thinking. When I started fitting into clothes in regular stores, I felt so happy and so validated. I was able to do something that I hadn’t before and it felt good. But the truth is that my validation is part of privilege. I am now the size of the average woman and, as a result, I can fit into more clothes.
After my breast reduction, I became acutely aware that I could now wear things that I had never been able to before because of the size and shape of my breasts. My previous breasts were severely asymmetrical and omega shaped. Camis, halter tops, bandeaus, and other forms of clothing didn’t fit my breasts. Now that my breasts are the standard (albeit on the larger side of said standard), I can wear all of the above and more. In fact, I’m wearing a halter dress right now and it looks amazing on me. But it looks amazing because I now have average-shaped breasts and I’m examining my appearance through society’s lens of socially-acceptable beauty standards.
In a sense I feel like my body journey has led me to a point where I’ve reached an incredible amount of privilege and I only realize this because I’ve never had this privilege before. And really, the way I got here, two surgeries, is privileged in and of itself. Not everyone is able to do what I did in order to achieve what I have and I recognize my body has undergone some extreme modifications.
At the same time, I didn’t do any of this to be more socially acceptable. Before I got my gastric surgery I was battling an eating disorder and losing the war. I was out of control and out of ideas and at that point, losing weight was secondary to regaining control of my life and my eating. I had lived with my asymmetric breasts with nipples that pointed towards the floor for years. I hated how they looked, and did consider maybe one day I would get surgery to make them symmetrical and change the shape. But it was just a thought.
What made me get the breast reduction was the sheer amount of daily pain I faced all because of my breasts. I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t be as active as I wanted, I couldn’t go a day at the tea shop without ending up in severe pain all night. I knew my over-sized breasts were the culprit and, sure enough, once I had the surgery, the pain stopped. But with the reduction came the lift and now my breasts are “standard” shaped and symmetrical.
Sometimes I feel guilty. Not just for my former self, who would probably want to slap me for posting endless selfies in backless dresses, but for all of those who don’t have this privilege. Everyone deserves to have clothes that fit them and feel comfortable and happy with what they’re wearing. But clothing manufacturers make clothes for one body type, again and again, leaving everyone who isn’t that one body type to sort through the leftovers to see what doesn’t look terrible on them.
I recently read a post written but a self-identified fat woman who could rarely, if ever, shop clearance. Larger sizes were never stocked well, so by the time garments hit the clearance rack, they were usually all gone. She pointed out how being able to find your size on clearance is a privilege. Days before I read the post I had raided Torrid and Khol’s for their deep discounts and had come away with plenty of new outfits.
Torrid was business as usual. They carry sizes 12 through 28 sizes and I love their style, so I had been buying from them since before my surgery. But Khol’s was different. That was a straight-sized store. I wasn’t even sure what size I was when I walked in. Between my new breasts and the fact that I had been wearing clothes several sizes too big for years now, I didn’t actually know what fit. I wear a large in Misses. I found so many clothes that all looked amazing on me and I bought it all without a second thought to just how privileged I was to be able to do this.
I’ve been hesitant to say this, even to myself, but sometimes a more conventionally attractive body is easier to love. When you’ve been told your entire life that women look one way and this is the one way, and then clothing fits that one body type, and then friends and family validate you for looking one way, and men find you more sexually attractive when you look one way, and all of the other things that happen when you look this one way, it’s easy to fall in love with your reflection. This makes me wonder just how much of it is what I love and what part of it is what beauty culture’s influence.
It would be naive of me to say that society holds no sway over how I view my body and myself. I live in society, I work there, I go to school there, I am a part of this society and whether I like it or not, it will have an influence over me. On the other hand, it would be completely unfair to myself to say that I only accept my body because it looks more conventionally attractive now. When I was 21 I used to be a size 10 (I’m a 14 now), had fewer stretch marks and no surgery scars. I was more attractive and more socially acceptable, but I was completely filled with self-hatred and unhappiness. I feel happy with myself now and it’s not because of what society told me.
When I used to try on clothes it just made me feel sad and annoyed. No matter how I dressed up or found clothing that flattered me, I didn’t feel pretty or satisfied with my appearance. I would hyper focus on my flaws and ignore all of my good points. I would compare myself unfavorably to models and pop singers. My thoughts told me that if I couldn’t look like Britney Spears, I couldn’t be attractive. The misery would compound on itself as my lack of confidence and determination to find fault in myself made me a less socially appealing person.
Today I’m wearing a blue halter dress with my Tardis blue shoes and nylons. I never would have been able to wear this size 14 dress before my gastric surgery or before my breast reduction. As I’m walking around in it, I started to feel self-conscious about my height. I’m 5’7 with my shoes off and with an extra three inches, I feel almost gangly. I also keep checking my breasts. Before, if I wore anything that was low cut I would have to constantly adjust it and reposition my breasts to keep them in position. Now my boobs are on point and they’re staying exactly where they’re supposed to be. Although my body is different, I’m still the same person and I still worry about my body maintaining its appearance. Although there are no easy answers, I do realize that there are questions and I will continue to ask them.