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Why I Love My Boobs

As a feminist, I believe breasts shouldn't matter. So why do I care so much how mine look, and whether I lose them?

“Are you upset about losing your breast?” I asked Mary, my grandmother, while my grandfather brought the car around. This was June 2000, and she had accepted the news from the doctor calmly, with one hand in mine, the other in my grandfather’s. A mastectomy was called for; she had declined reconstructive plastic surgery, dismissing it out of hand. “You know you can always change your mind and get the plastic surgery later,” I continued. She laughed. “I don’t care about that, honey,” she said. “I just hope the cancer hasn’t spread.” And that was that. We set a date for the surgery and went home.

She was 76, I was 32. I had recently started dating the man I would soon marry. When I told Andy that if I had breast cancer, I would feel the way Mary did — that I would be fine with having a mastectomy, I just wouldn’t want to die — he replied “But I like your breasts. You’d try to keep them for me, right?”

The night after my grandmother’s mastectomy, Andy took my nipples into his mouth before we made love in a grand, unusual gesture. “I shouldn’t ignore your breasts,” he whispered. As if he were nervous that they might be gone someday.

What if they were gone someday, I asked myself. Would I really be OK? I slouched thorough much of my adolescence, hoping that my bad posture would hide my breasts, particularly from my classmates in my all girls’ school. In front of boys it was different — I knew boys liked breasts. With girls you could never seem to get it right: If your breasts were too big you were a freak, if they were too little they teased you. But I became another person altogether when my boyfriend kneaded my breasts. With his hands under my bra I felt like a woman, not a girl. He introduced me to silky bras edged in dreamy lace that showed off my 36 D lovelies to perfection.

A lifelong obsession was born. I work at home, sometimes fail to shower for days at a time, and often dress like a homeless person, but man, are my bras incredible. I have over 300, in sizes ranging from 34 C to 40 DD (reflecting weight fluctuations over the years) and in every style you can imagine. Slutty shelf bras that I love, no-bounce running bras, slinky pink numbers from London shops and cheap but cute bras from Victoria’s Secret. My tits have always allowed me to feel feminine, pretty and sexually viable; even with my unwashed hair and casual clothes, men (and sometimes women) stare at my tits. Sometimes I flaunt them with tight sweaters or plunging cleavage, and I revel in feelings of attractiveness, though I am ashamed at the same time. I’m a feminist, damn it — I shouldn’t care about this stuff. I want to be flat-chested, my tits ignored, but oh how I love that I’m not, and they’re not.

Would I really be at peace with the loss of one or both breasts? I celebrate my breasts; wouldn’t it make sense that I would deeply mourn their loss, too?

Meanwhile, a couple of weeks later, Andy went back to ignoring my breasts in bed, right around the time my grandparents cried tears of relief as the doctor told them the cancer was contained to Mary’s breast. They got it all. She was going to live. “I’m so glad you are OK,” my grandfather said to her, over and over again. “I’m so glad you are OK.”

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