“He told me to get back into my bunk and that if I’m out after curfew again he was gonna tell Rabbi Johan.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him I liked big boobs!”
Avishai and Josh laughed next to me. I was 17 and working in a Jewish upstate bungalow day camp. My friends and fellow coworkers two favorite past times were making fun of Laizer, the overweight and long suffering head counselor who had to reinforce the rules for a bunch of obnoxious teenagers who took huge amounts of pleasure in teasing him for his weight.
Avishai looked my way. We were in the same class in high school and I considered us to be pretty close friends.
“If you like big boobs you must LOVE Aviva,” He started laughing hysterically.
Josh awkwardly looked away from me. Avishai glanced around for approval and I couldn’t stand the silence so I started laughing too. I didn’t understand why he was dragging me and my large breasts into this story that I already felt uncomfortable with but I knew that if I didn’t laugh, I would be seen as uptight and maybe not as “one of the boys” as I had crafted my high school persona to be.
I spent the rest of the summer in loose T-shirts. I never went swimming.
I’m 21 and sitting in the college guidance office. Mark, the counselor assigned to me, was explaining my course options for the upcoming semester. He will not take his eyes off my large chest. He is literally talking to them. I shift in my seat. He doesn’t meet my eyes.
Later, I’m telling this story to my roommate.
“What were you wearing?” She asks.
I take out the dress I had picked up from Rugged, a cheap Ross-like clothing store off campus, one of the only clothing stores within walking distance that didn’t have TERPS emblazoned on it. It was a sleeveless dress with a high neckline and peter pan collar. I laughed when I told her the story. I made a funny Facebook status about the “classes my breasts were taking in the fall semester” that got a lot of likes.
I didn’t wear the dress again.
These are only two stories because to write every instance where my breasts have created awkward situations or difficulty for me would take a while. I’m a size 30H. I’ve been the same size since 10th grade. I hate running. I go to a specialty store to buy bathing suits. Even though the national bra size is DD, larger sizes than that have to pay 60, 70 80 dollars a bra.
It’s a pain in the neck – literally. My posture is horrible, my shoulders always slumped forward from the weight of my 6 -7 lb boobs hanging on me.
Every few years I would look into reductions. I would mention it to my mom who would counter with a gym offer instead. Seeing as she signed me up for a gym membership when I was 12, that was her solution for a lot of things. I would drop the subject and focus on things about my body I could change; the color of my hair, the size of my belly, the amount of piercings on my face. My breasts never changed size. Not when I worked out all summer with a weight-lifting trainer. Not when I went down to 129 lbs on my 5’7 frame after beginning a regiment of anti-depressant pills in 2013.
This month however, I finally snapped. I decided that I was an adult now, I didn’t need anyone’s validation to get a surgery I wanted.
I wasn’t an extreme case – I knew that from my exhaustive research into the world of plastic surgery. There were women with sizes in the alphabet I didn’t know were possible, J, N, M. Women who couldn’t wear seatbelts. I made an appointment with a doctor in my network and a few days later, I got a phone call.
“Hello, is this Aviva Woolf?”
“Yes it is.”
“Oh my God, your boobs are gonna be so beautiful. You’re gonna be the most gorgeous girl on the beach!”
The gravelly voiced woman calling was the office manager for the plastic surgeon I had picked. She was also her mother (and a character I would use as a basis in improv practice later that week.) She assured me that her daughter, the doctor, did reductions all the time – they were very popular! She asked questions about my weight, my height, my size. When I told her my cup size she said:
“Too big. I understand. They give off the wrong message.”
The wrong message? My boobs were annoying. Large and unsexy (in my own opinion). I couldn’t wear certain dresses. Men stared at me in the subway. Once at trivia I told patrons they could draw a picture of me for extra points (I did that sometimes as a joke but with mermaids eating pizza, dragons on a skateboards) and one was returned with a obscenely large chest. I didn’t like that but felt I deserved it because hey, I had asked. They took up a lot of room but never did I think they were “sending a message.”
What was that message?
I assumed the only message my breasts were sending was “We exist.”
I debated doing to the surgery for days – reading everything I could online. I spoke to friends who had had it. I didn’t find one piece of evidence that anyone who had gotten it had regretted it.
I went to the appointment and met the very nice surgeon. She took pictures and asked me questions. She showed me a portfolio of her work, faceless women with anchor scars.
She explained that a breast reduction would possibly affect my ability to breastfeed. I thought about the fertility issues my husband and I were having for the past year since I went off birth control. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to conceive at all due to my diagnosis of PCOS, let alone breastfeed. Who knew how long is would take to even get a baby, let alone worry about breastfeeding one.
I went to her partner, an orthopedist who would examine my spine to see if there were any other factors that were contributing to my neck and back pain besides my breasts.
He took 2 hours to come into the waiting room. He was a cold, unsmiling, older man.
“I would tell one of the girls (!) to bring you a gown and to get undressed but you’re basically undressed now anyways.”
I was wearing shorts and tank top.
What message were my breasts sending then?
Currently, I’m waiting to here back from insurance now. They are notoriously finicky about approving surgeries. I don’t know what Ill choose to do if it’s rejected. I’m not sure what I’ll do if it’s accepted. At times I feel vain and stupid for choosing to alter my body to improve my quality of life. Other times I can’t wait to have it done already – to be able to jump and swim without being stared at.
Seeing as I’m currently between jobs at the moment – or day jobs, now is the perfect time to schedule the surgery. I don’t know if it’ll happen but I hope it does. I want to get it for me. Not for the Avishais or college guidance counselors of the world or subway drunks.
Like Hailee Steinfeld says in her song Most Girls:
You know some days you feel so good in your own skin
But it’s okay if you wanna change the body that you came in
‘Cause you look greatest when you feel like a damn queen
Either way, I’ll keep you updated.