A Brief Life History of My Breasts

You heard me. They wouldn’t be so much on my mind if they hadn’t come under terrorist attack on the flight home from Tampa last night. (This falls under the heading of "yet ANOTHER embarrassing little interlude on an airplane.")

UnderwireDo you know what this is? Yes, that’s right. It is. This is a relatively new addition to my wardrobe and only comes now because I’m trying to grow old gracefully and Oprah said a woman of my age needs support. So I was certain I had been shot in the middle of my chest by a terrorist dart gun as I was sitting calmly, smashed between Rich and Fats Waller, with no arm rest left for me, minding my own business and reading 102 Minutes. The subject matter, the final hour and a half of the World Trade Center, may have influenced that initial assumption.

But no. I had been stabbed by my own bra. With one slight realignment in my cramped seat, this projectile shot out from under my breast and stabbed me. Hard. Piercingly, I would say. I bled. I’m going to sue Calvin Klein for both pain AND suffering.

The suffering came when I tried to extract it, as discreetly as possible given that it was lodged half into my breastbone and half still tightly stitched in place, and that Rich, not so discreetly, said, "What the heck are you doing?" loud enough for the entire aircraft to turn their attention to seat 11D. This maneuver was requiring both hands up to my elbows and quite a bit of wrestling about under my untucked, hiked up shirt and as I was already biting the inside of my cheek to keep from squealing like the proverbial pig the best retort I could come up with was, "What the heck does it look like I’m doing?"  I guess that meant it was open season for Fats Waller, the air marshall, the flight attendants and every other passenger to concentrate hard on what the heck I was doing. Under there. As one tear of agony rolled down my very red cheek.

And that got me to thinking. Although in recent years we’ve reconciled our differences, my breasts have not always been my best friends. From puberty until I was 30, they weren’t even around to be my friends. Was I lonely? Yes, I was. I had a brother 2 years older and all he and his friends could talk about were sports and breasts. Mostly breasts. Did I want some? Yes, I did.

When I was 13 we lived for one brief year in the inner city of Detroit while my (recently single) mother finished her teaching degree. I had spent all of my earlier years in Wonder Bread Cleaverville and now I was the exception, not the rule. Three times a week, all the girls in my 7th grade got on the bus and rode to the Y for swimming class (the school had no pool). Every other girl in the class was between 15-17 and big. Big mamas. Really, really big. They could barely stuff themselves into the almost transparent and tattered tank suits from the giant barrel in the locker room. Me? That first day I had a choice between being exposed right down to my belly button or doubling the stretched out shoulder straps all the way around my neck twice, which I did. I looked like a scrawny, paste-y white, genderless contortionist as I slouched towards the pool. After that I took a big safety pin with me, which still looked bizarre and made swimming difficult. One time that popped open and stabbed me!

I worked my way through college by taking electrocardiograms evenings and weekends. So I saw a lot of breasts. Handled them, too. On Sundays I would do all the women who were being pre-admitted for surgeries and every five minutes there was a new set of breasts. All shapes, sizes, ages and a number of those early implants that stood as hard and upright as Mt. McKinley no matter what position a woman was in. I noticed then that women with very large breasts didn’t age as well as women with small breasts and one tiny part of my brain considered that I might be fortunate, that I should be grateful for the hand I was dealt. That usually was a fleeting thought because away from work I still lived in the world of coeds wandering around like geese, considering, and being considered for, possible mates.

At thirty, I became pregnant with my first child and yes! YES! I had breasts! Sort of. It was all relative and no one could touch them anyway, but I did finally fit into a 32B. And I loved my body when I was pregnant. And I realized that it had diverse functions, not the least of which was making a home for a new person. Which was incredibly cool and dropped the importance of big melons, big magumbos, big loblollies to near zero. These baby pillows were going to be just fine.

And, by and small, they were. They worked. Fine. They fed a strapping 9# 8oz. baby boy for almost a year and kept him in the 90th percentile all the while. But before I settled down into ‘fine’ with my nursing breasts I endured the worst trauma ever. I went to Mueligs for a nursing bra.

Mueligs was an old fashioned millinery department store- Ann Arbor’s last. They closed the doors in 1981 but not before I went there, one week postpartum for a nursing bra. Mueligs had three floors of silk stockings, hats, pillowcases, purses and brassieres. And they had those old fashioned money holders that shot through a tube- sort of like the drive-up at the bank and went down three floors to the cashier’s office. Anyway, while John circled the block with baby Daniel in his car seat, I took my sore and weary body, post C-section, into Mueligs to find a nursing bra. (1980 was the tail end of communes and hippies and nursing was the penultimate experience for new mothers. Even if you didn’t join LeLeche and nurse your baby until he was 6, you still needed the wardrobe.)

Up on the second floor it was quiet so the three octogenarians who worked in lingerie were completely focused on "fitting" me for a nursing bra. This entailed two IN the dressing room with me and one at the counter scouting out likely candidates. And the conversation went like this:

Mabel: Esther! (out at the counter and mostly deaf; there was a lot of yelling) Do we have model 4583 in a smaller size?

Esther: SMALLER?? It doesn’t come in anything smaller than a 34 C! Wait, let me look at model 8321- no, that’s a 34 C, well try it anyway, it looks smaller.

Phyllis: (tugging and pushing and hooking) Huh. Well, it’s a little large, dear…Esther! Check that new Playtex nursing bra in the bottom drawer! I think it’s smaller!

Mabel to Phyllis: That doesn’t look right. It’s way too big…

Esther: (who has now joined us in the dressing room). Hmm. It’s the very smallest they have. They don’t make them any smaller…

(I have now begun to tremble and weep. I’m thinking that John and Daniel have been in a major car accident and they are both dead.)

Mabel: (patting me gently on the top of my head, even though she is 6 inches shorter, at 4’10") There, there, dearie. Don’t worry. After you have the baby and your milk comes in, they’ll get bigger.

Me: (full blown wailing) I HAD the baby! My milk is in!

That was the first day of a serious post partum depression that lasted a month. But I nursed right through it and by the time Dan was 6 weeks old I was madly in love with him AND my breasts.

And so it goes. They worked for Abby, too and for the most part, I’m very fond of them. As is the other person who matters and so rudely called attention to them on the flight home from Tampa last night. But it’s now become clear to me that I don’t need an underwire bra any more than I needed a nursing bra.

These bodacious ta-tas are just fine.

 

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18 responses to “A Brief Life History of My Breasts

  1. What a giggle this gave me! I know the feeling of gettin’ speared by one of those wires at the worst possible time…and I have to have them because if I don’t my ta tas are down to my waist.

  2. I probably need them but cannot endure them. So I find other ways. At least yours worked. Mine didn’t and I knew what to do. Poor Nyssa nursed and nursed and about day three at home, I just had to give it up and give her a bottle. She drank 8oz in five minutes and then slept for 8 hours. She was exhausted. So, bigger is not necessarily better. I have often thought about having them removed, already had the big hysto done, now just need the gallbladder and appendix out. My theory, if it’s in there and it can go really, really bad wrong, just get rid of it. I’ve had to deal with the horrible implications of breast cancer on a daily basis at work. So, the bilateral subcutaneous mastectomy is still on my to do list.

    Boy, when one of those things breaks through the casing, it REALLY hurts! Bless your heart, maybe you should stay off planes for a while.

    Rhett asks most respectfully if you could give Sophie his most loving regards. (He’s gone into his southern gentleman drawl again.)

  3. Laugh out loud, roll on the floor funny to me, Vicki. I too, have been the victim of underwire terrorism (at the least opportune moment). I also didn’t have boobs until I quit smoking (age 38) and put on 40 pounds in 2 years. I got them so late in life that they didn’t sag until I was 60. See? There’s a silver lining to every cloud!

  4. Very funny, although I’m sorry you were injured.That’s not funny.
    They do get a lot of attention in our society …um…not from me of course…
    Gotta go, the Victoria Secrets catalog just arrived!

  5. Very funny, although I’m sorry you were injured.That’s not funny.
    They do get a lot of attention in our society …um…not from me of course…
    Gotta go, the Victoria Secrets catalog just arrived!

  6. Well, that’s not exactly the photo we were looking for, but what the hey.

    This is really funny (at your expense), Al. Nicely told.

  7. Ouch! I’ve never been attacked by my underwire, but I do take off that bra as soon as I get home. Of course, my son likes to take off a few things when he gets home (or when he enters someone else’s home!), too. I guess we’re just like that. ;^) Those women in the bra department who fitted you with a nursing bra sound a little batty, but what I wouldn’t give for a good fitting these days! (Long overdue. Shh. Don’t tell Oprah.)

  8. I had to come over to see just what FC was being brave in commenting about… Too funny!

    It probably won’t make you feel any better, but I read that in Brazil the #1 elective plastic surgery is breast reduction. They think that large breasts are terribly gauche!

  9. That’s hysterically funny. I needed a good laugh. I remember Meuligs! That was the first time I realized a whole floor could be dedicated to SLIPS!! I never knew. I wouldn’t have dared ask for a BRA. I was too chicken. Oh well, at least those times have passed!

  10. That’s hysterically funny. I needed a good laugh. I remember Meuligs! That was the first time I realized a whole floor could be dedicated to SLIPS!! I never knew. I wouldn’t have dared ask for a BRA. I was too chicken. Oh well, at least those times have passed!

  11. “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”
    ~William Congreve 1670-1729

    Power yoga =
    Perky you-know-whats!

  12. Oh my! I don’t I’ve giggled like that for a long time! But, I feel a pang of jealousy too. After #2, they didn’t have a size LARGE enough for me in the maternity section (36 F), and suggested that I check in the plus-sized section (where there were no nursing bras!). I was devestated. I found solace in nursing tank-tops, which do not discriminate against any sized breast, large or small!

  13. My small-breasted soul mate! I, too, spent many years pining for the breasts that never materialized. I never found a nursing bra that fit. Now, in my late 40’s, I’m rather fond of these rare, exquisite miniatures. (ok, that line is stolen from a stand-up comic, but it works well.)

  14. Wonderful story, Vicki. Gosh, nursing bras have come a long way haven’t they? I feel so lucky…particularly since I live in a hippie mountain town and nursed my babies FOREVER and everywhere.

    BTW, the quickest way for a cute guy to get me into bed? Tell me that he loves small breasts and more than a mouthful is too much. Mmmmmmmm.

  15. Wonderful story, Vicki. Gosh, nursing bras have come a long way haven’t they? I feel so lucky…particularly since I live in a hippie mountain town and nursed my babies FOREVER and everywhere.

    BTW, the quickest way for a cute guy to get me into bed? Tell me that he loves small breasts and more than a mouthful is too much. Mmmmmmmm.

  16. probably should, but still haven’t convinced myself to go the underwire route yet. ( i actually have one in the house, in the bag) i’m paranoid about getting stabbed like that- have endured being pierced by one of D2’s errant wires while schlepping the laundry. glad you survived!

  17. I was going to try to say something witty, but I’m stuck o Bonnie’s “perky breasts” comment. I could use some of those.

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