Words || Laura Neil
I sat in the plastic surgeon’s clinic, stripped to the waist while the surgeon studied my giant F-cup breasts. He frowned at them, measured them and lifted each one with his hands. Then he took some photographs to submit for medical insurance, first the front, then in profile. These were the only photographs I’d ever let anyone take of my monstrous mammaries. As he worked, he stung me with his feedback: my breasts were pendulous, he said, disproportionately large for my size. The nipples were oversized too, and one was much bigger than the other. See those divets in my shoulders? That’s from years of carrying the weight. Also, did I know I had scoliosis of the spine?
The surgeon had a penchant for wearing loud suspenders. That day, he was wearing a pair that were printed with a little motif of knives and forks. The whole time I was topless, I kept my eyes on those suspenders, fighting every urge to clamp my arms around my naked chest.
From a very young age, I’d been cursed with breasts of gargantuan proportions. By the age of sixteen, every bra I owned had about six clips at the back and straps as thick as rulers, and I’d double down with two sports bras for even the mildest aerobic activity. As I continued through high school, I went from a DD (nice tits, love!) to an F (fark yearh get ‘em out!!) and soon, my wardrobe consisted of loose cotton shirts, dresses that hung like sacks and not a string bikini or spaghetti strap in sight. Despite what my waifish friends thought, big boobs were not something to be flaunted. Big boobs got you stared at, yelled at when waiting by traffic lights. My mother, whose generous curves I inherited, often joked that our breasts entered the room before we did and there was some truth in it – from The Birth of Venus, to the nursing Madonna, to Anna Nicole Smith – society is breast-obsessed, and a stacked rack gets you noticed, whether you like it or not.
I’d finally had enough. That very afternoon in Dr McGovern’s office, I signed on the dotted line for breast reduction surgery. Soon, I would join the ranks of moderately proportioned women everywhere, and I was ecstatic.
What followed was a tumultuous nine-week wait for my surgery. Those weeks were spent fantasising about the bras and bikinis and strappy summer dresses and half-marathons I planned to run. But when I wasn’t planning, I was worrying. Worrying about subjecting my otherwise perfectly healthy body to the carnage of plastic surgery. I was also terrified of losing a part of my identity and appeal. Boobs are important, powerful and intoxicating. After all, it was Helen of Troy’s ‘apples’ that saved her from being executed by Menelaus after the Trojan war. As much as I hated mine, I was scared I would miss them, and worried about what I would be without them.
In hospital nine weeks later, I counted down from 100 to 98 and woke up hours after the procedure, feeling as though someone had set a blow-torch on my chest. To downsize me, Dr McGovern had performed the standard ‘lollipop’ procedure, which involves an incision around the areola, down from the base of the nipple and along the underneath of the breast curve. Although I knew all this going in, I’d never had a surgical procedure before, a broken bone, or even a filling, and nothing could have prepared me for the pain.
The recovery took about a week, and it was a lesson in just how regularly breasts featured in any kind of movement. I couldn’t drive, reach above shoulder height or sit down without clutching my chest and if I dropped anything on the floor, even a double-coat Tim Tam, it was sure as hell gonna stay there. Even jiggling a tea bag was painful. By the time I returned to work, I’d mastered the art of extremely low-impact walking – tiptoeing around the office like it was full of sleeping bears. When I finally removed the bandages and saw the crusted and angry crimson lines under the suture tape, the small amount of sorrow I felt for inflicting this on my body couldn’t dull the excitement – even when swollen, they looked comparatively tiny.
When the swelling finally subsided, and the sutures were removed, I was left with the breasts I’d always fantasized about having. Problem was, they just didn’t feel like they belonged to me. My new boobs were so symmetrical, the nipples so perky and they felt about as private as a new set of acrylic nails. I was keen to share my elation with the world and in the early days, I’d have my top over my face faster than you could say ‘Bio Oil’. This lasted around six to eight months and finally subsided, probably due to the fact that I’d just run out of people to show.
The legacy of my breast reduction is a small, silvery scar that runs from the base of my nipple underneath my breast. It’s hardly noticeable, but when men notice and ask, my explanation is usually met with a familiar look of bafflement. The eyes squint as they try to comprehend, and the conversation that follows normally goes like this:
“You got them smaller? But why?”
(I explain why).
“But…isn’t that slapping God in the face?”
At first, I’d re-explain and rationalise. I’d laugh it off, joking about coming home from a run with two black eyes. But I’ve realized now that explaining is useless. The world is full of men and women who love big breasts, who encouraged me to flaunt mine, and who professed their jealousy and desire for my burdensome F-cups. Some of these people would later go under the knife for procedures of their own. We are all breast-obsessed – breast augmentation is still by far the most popular cosmetic procedure worldwide, with over 1.5 million breast implants performed in 2016. 16,000 of these implants were performed in Australia (dwarfing the 7500 breast reductions). Without a doubt, big jugs still have massive appeal, both for men and women, and that just isn’t going anywhere.
But the elation of having moderately-sized breasts has never left me. In the years that followed my surgery, I felt as though I’d been set free. The back pain is gone, as are the ill-fitting bras and double-breast t-shirt lines. I’m no longer ‘Tits McGee’, or ‘the tall one with the boobs’. I’ve completed half-marathons. My breasts are a part of me, not a burden or something I have to deal with. The feeling of being in control of my body, of standing with my shoulders back, is something I’ll never take for granted.
(If you are considering breast reduction surgery, discuss your options with a GP)