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23 January, 2010

Keeping Abreast of the Subject

I'm not sure I have anything to say on this Shapely Prose guest post about experiences with fluctuating breast size that isn't kind of tangential of the subject, so I'm pulling my ruminations back here.

When I was thirteen or fourteen, I started to enter puberty.

This was, as you might be aware, a touch on the late side. (Further, I was in high school, due to getting skipped up a grade, and thus that much further out of synch with people whose physical development had started, typically, two or three years earlier.) And, as longer-term readers may recall, I was not well-positioned for good social skills development especially around sexuality, nor particularly ept at it.

I had been sexualised and objectified prior to that point; one of the driving forces behind my schooling decisions for high school was wanting to avoid any further exposure to the boys who had made an avocation of attempting to grope my undeveloped breasts or taunt me with sexually charged commentary. But the actual physical stuff didn't really start to kick in significantly until I was actually in high school.

The androgyny of childhood gave way to an androgyny of early adolescence, one too lean and light-boned to show any of the broad paintstrokes of womanhood, with bare hints of the swelling of breasts. I learned how to change shirts in the gym locker room without ever quite seeming to be topless in the selfconsciousness of knowing that I was braless, puerile, exposed. My mother harassed me to wear a bra despite the fact that I had the barest suggestions of curves, and I humored her for two or three days before discarding the thing as an uncomfortable mass of useless fabric.

Despite all this, I was bemused by notions that I should want larger breasts; the pectoral workout scenes in Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret left me laughing at the strange implausibility of adolescent females rather than reassured that I was not alone. I did not think larger breasts would make me attractive; attractiveness was such an unreachable goal that such physical transformations did not occur to me. I hardly thought about breasts at all, beyond a near-subliminal discomfort with a sense of sexualisation and exposure that came of admitting to having them - a discomfort that was eased by the fact that, compared to most female people I knew, I didn't have them.

It was strange to me to hear discussions of breasts (and bras, and similar), because I was ... not precisely dissociated from mine, but had them as tightly associated with my identity as my kneecaps. And so I missed out a lot of importance and had a rather funhouse-mirror perspective on a lot of things, a perspective that perhaps matched the lopsidedness of my actual breasts. (One of which, I have joked for years, never made it out of Tanner stage 4.) Perhaps this was rooted in or a root of my later understanding of myself as genderqueer; gods know.

I picked up a few sports bras from a friend a few years ago, not because I needed sports-bra support of the breasts, but because there were times that going shirtless for exercise was too cold and a shirt led to overheating, so half a shirt was the right scale. They ached some at certain points of my menstrual cycle. My partners found my nipples notably more interesting than I did, overall (experiments with things to do with them mostly led to me wondering when something worthwhile was going to begin). And so on.

All of which made pregnancy ... interesting.

There are stretchmarks on my breasts to go with the stretchmarks on my belly and thighs. I wear a nursing bra most days as much for support as for the protection on my nipples when they've been moderately abraded. The larger one actually folds over, which is frustrating for finding positions to lie down. There is an actual curve between them where there used to be a breastbone; it's possible to imagine corsetry giving me cleavage without me having to put one hand on the side of each boob and shove them together (which was the prior methodology for achieving 'cleavage').

It's honestly a bit confusing. My lion commented that some of the photography of me with the baby suggested a curve, and I was very much, "Yes, it's so weird." Not weird enough to be dysphoric, at least, just perplexing and faintly off-kilter.

And I'm again reminded of the person over at Renegade Evolution's who was horrified by people not wearing bras because People Can See Your Nipples, which left me in a bewildered, "Don't you wear clothes where you come from?" sort of state. Which has to be linked with my mother's insistence that there was some moral necessity to clothe my barely-adolescent chest in additional totally unnecessary layers, somewhere, in the department of socially normal things that make no sense to me.

It's a horribly fraught subject and one where my investment is minute, which is a fascinating experience.

None of this is anything I know how to talk about in a way that's relevant for Shapely Prose, honestly; I'm pretty sure I didn't quite talk about what I meant to when I started here, either. Just ... all the investment people have in breasts, I guess, and I'm limited to faint aggravation at unnecessary clothing and preferring it when I don't get kicked in them.


thene said...

...But if the primary point of bras was to prevent female nipples from being seen, I've a feeling they'd be shaped somewhat differently from what they are.

(forgive me for leaping on a tangent there.)

Erin C. said...

Ugh, bras. I hate the whole subject, because there is no non-custom bra that fits someone who's a C-cup on once side and a large D on the other with any kind of comfort. So I don't wear them, even though I gather that many consider that scandalous at my chest size. It's not that it doesn't bother me sometimes, to be honest, but for me bras are just that uncomfortable. I will admit, however, to wearing tape over my nipples (duct tape for my ducts!), just to make my lopsidedness less obvious. Unfortunately, I do show through most clothes. And I have hangups, obviously.

Anonymous said...

I was menstruating at nine and a C-cup by age eleven, and was considered some kind of freak and bullied *really badly* by my peers over it. Not even in a "I want you" kind of way, but in a "eww, large breasts are disgusting" kind of way. Which never seemed to change-- it was college before I met people who seemed to think that made me desirable, and I was so used to thinking that having large breasts was disgusting by then that I didn't know what to do with their interest.

So equally boggled as a kid by that part of "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" from the other end.

-Liz/PP @LJ

mamacrow said...

well I got fairly generous breasts (34 c/d) at puberty and was cross cos I was sporty, and saw them as getting in the way - and they did!

I don't look like the back end of the bus or anything but I'm not the face that launched a thousand ships either and I soon learnt that I'd be considered attractive by the vast majority of males around me due having boobs and cleavage (this was a happy discovery I hasten to add!)

i'm just not comfortable without a bra - in the physical sense - also now, my boobs look a heck of a lot better in a bra.

my left boob is slightly larger - this is noticable, to me at least, when they swell due to breastfeeding or pregnancy.... apparently everyone has one slightly larger than the other, the same way as feet.

オテモヤン said...
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