I recently read an interview with Miranda Hart, actress and comedian, in which she bemoaned what a nuisance her large breasts were and how mortified she was when on one occasion they actually made a clapping sound as she rolled over in bed. “That’s no biggie sister ” I thought to myself “it happens to all of us who couldn’t fall flat on our faces if we tried…” Usually when dashing across the bedroom floor from the en suite and trying to hop into a pair of knickers at the same time. Slap, clap. Not very dignified but hey ho – any pretensions I ever had of being dignified, elegant and sophisticated went the way of the dodo after experiencing childbirth anyway.
No-one really spends much time talking about noses or belly buttons but opinions about breasts proliferate. I’m sure that no other part of the human body is written about or photographed more whether from the perspective of gender politics, health, sexuality or child development. I won’t rehash any of that here because it’s all been said and done (and frankly I can’t be bothered) but I will share a few of my personal experiences and observations.
I have always had a somewhat complicated, love-hate relationship with my breasts but I suspect that many women do. Certainly I have had many a conversation with my girl friends in which we sound like sheep of the “grass is always greener” variety. There is a mutual envy between those with small chests and those more well endowed. I’m not sure that I know many women who claim to be in their own personal “goldilocks zone”…
Anyway, a short history of my own breasts goes as follows:
- Early teens – when the time comes to purchase my first 30AA a chorus of angels sings “Hallelujah!” and I know that I’m on the path to womanhood. It was a rite of passage and I clearly remember my first pack of two bras from BHS, white and embroidered with pale blue and pink flowers.
- Mid teens – they develop at a slightly alarming rate and begin to attract more attention from greasy, spotty oiks than make me comfortable so I employ disguising strategies. Baggie T-shirts and jumpers etc.
- Late teens – they continue to develop but now I begin to appreciate the awesome power they provide me – I can make grown men (well slightly less spotty-and-greasy-nearly-grown men) weak at the knees with a well timed stretch of the arms or by leaning over wearing the right blouse.
- Early twenties – still growing (!) and back to the self-conscious “these are attracting too much attention and therefore I must hide them in all manner of shapeless sacks”. On one occasion a complete stranger walks up to me as I’m minding my own business whilst mooching around in HMV, reaches out and squeezes both tits before marching off grinning, leaving me speechless and horrified. If that happened to me today I’d probably attempt to land a sharp right hook or a knee to the groin but at 21 (ish) I was too shocked and embarrassed to respond quickly…
- Late twenties – still growing (good grief!!!) and tailoring becomes a pain in the ass. Shirts, blouses and dresses which fit perfectly under my arms and around my waist, gape or pull across my chest. Buying a larger size doesn’t help because though they then fit across the chest, I’m left with huge flaps of excess material under the armpit, across the shoulders and around the waist. More seriously, I hear of women in my network affected by breast cancer. One of whom died leaving two small boys and another who chose to have a double mastectomy rather than risk the disease which killed a number of close female relatives.
- Early thirties – A period of relative stability (hurrah!). Well fitting clothing is still a problem and underwear is either beautiful or comfortable but never both. The prettiest/sexiest bras tend to provide insufficient support and look awful under clothes. They also feel like instruments of torture after a couple of hours. Whereas the bras which provide the firmest and most comfortable support are engineered like a Sherman tank, making it impossible to wear anything with a lower cut front. I may be comfortable but I look like my Nanna rather than a sex goddess… Oh and I have a mammogram after finding a lump, which mercifully turns out to be a cyst nothing more sinister.
- Mid thirties – pregnancy and breastfeeding make my already ample bosom look like comedy breasts, ballooned to Les Dawson in drag proportions. But for the first time in my life I don’t give a monkey’s. I love the feeling that they have a purpose in life and the time I spend bonding with my baby son at my breast is precious to me. It wasn’t always easy, with sore nipples, mastitis (twice), leaky boobs and another lump scare (and mammogram) caused by a blocked milk duct, but breast feeding is an experience that I’m glad I went through.
- Late thirties and onwards – they shrink back to almost, but not quite, pre-pregnancy proportions and sadly begin to make a gravitational move southward…
Now, as I approach 49, and whilst they don’t quite resemble “spaniel’s ears” just yet, they definitely need a bit more lift than they did. With age I have finally learned to love my boobs irrespective of their size and shape and these days I can even buy clothing designed to fit over them properly (courtesy of Bravissimo). I do still get irritated when trying to talk to a man whose eyes are firmly fixed at my chest rather than my face but I’m not embarrassed or flustered anymore. Let him stare – they are worth looking at. And I give the best cuddles because, in the immortal words of Cornershop (Brimful of Asha) “everybody needs a bosom for a pillow”. Remember that and rejoice in your big breasts Miranda.