A friend recently sent me the following excerpt from the Los Angeles Times’ obituary for author and screenwriter Nora Ephron who died this week: In a 1972 essay called “A Few Words About Breasts,” Ephron wrote, “If I had them, I would have been a completely different person.”
I am quick to champion the underdogs of the beauty world: freckles (clumped together they make you look tan), thin hair (it takes half the time to dry), and small breasts included (you can wear deep v-necks without looking vulgar). My optimism no doubt comes from the fact that each of these attributes can be found on my own body. Make the best of what you’ve got, right?
A recent trip to the mall to buy a new bra tested the limits of my body positivity. I walked into a pre-teen store that sells underwear, along with rompers and sundresses and neon short-shorts. Moving around what felt like the inside of a boombox, I fingered the scalloped edges and squishy insides of bra cups. Too much frill. Too much padding.
There had been a time in high school when I wanted to be overtly sexy. I bought a water bra made to feel like real breasts and give them real cleavage. Anyone who touched my chest would have known that what felt like two doll-house water beds above my ribs was the stuff of make believe. The possibility of such embarrassment was enough to keep me chaste.
“Can I help you find something?” a voice interrupted the pulse of pop music. She looked like Madonna with a head-set wrapped around her ear and breasts pointing straight at me.
“Yes. You can.” I said, hopeful that her pointers could lead me out of the maze more quickly. “I love my flat chest. And I want to keep it that way.”
She started at me blankly and so I elaborated louder. “No padding. No push-ups. No fake stuff. Just me, flat as can be.”
She must have thought I was joking because the only two bras in the store she took me to were like air bags for boobs. I walked away with a highlighter-colored bra from the sale rack that gave me shape without a show.
If I had breasts, or larger ones to be precise, I might have been a different person. I certainly would have been more conventionally sexy. But I’ve never been one for conventions; they lack the resourcefulness required of underdogs who chew at the corners of custom.
Small breasts made me learn to love myself; beauty standards be damned. Small breasts made me learn to love feminism; looks aren’t everything. And small breasts made me love my husband who learned to love them, too; turns out men love a good underdog, too.
They say when life gives you lemons…