Like anybody, I have my insecurities. Neurotically speaking, out of the top ten things that I worry about or that annoy me, about 7 or 8 out of ten are related to my body. (The exceptions are failing my degree or family problems). From sweating too much, to the point where I am the only person who I know with clammy fingertips, or having a little too much hair everywhere (emphasis on ev-er-y-where) and worrying about the fact if I were to go get my first professional wax, I’d be laughed out of the room. Include into this my anxiety that I’m not skinny enough and the general angst-y rubbish which clouds my thinking as I head out of my teens and into my twenties. But mainly, I have enough good humour to accept them as just an unfortunate combination and that most people have much worse.
I’m still a virgin. Partly through choice and partly through utter fear. Since being at university, I’ve had two relationships. Both of which were short-lived and riddled with doubt about the best way to act or what new sexual experience I’m about to have, and, partly, a lack of confidence in my body. The reason is as follows:
I have to make a decision in the coming months about my body and it will be with me for the rest of my life, as the ‘problem’ has been since I started puberty. As much as I can cope with bleaching my top lip and occasionally using stronger deodorant (even on my fingertips) and home waxes – until I become eventually brave enough to finally take a visit – the size and asymmetry of my breasts is number one on my angst list. (Sometimes replaced by the shade of my slight lady-lip moustache that I’m currently rocking and whether it’s noticeable to people who aren’t as aware of it as myself).
Since the age of 13, I have been seeing a specialist about the asymmetry of my breasts in their development. The memory of medical photographs at the age of 14, one of which carefully captures a bead of nervous sweat running from my armpit down and around the curve of my non-existent breasts, still stings. Although my breasts have developed seven years on from this, my breasts themselves haven’t grown much. As a size 12 to 14, I wear a 36A-B bra, where one of the cups is amply filled and the other is more of an AA-cup and disguised by my choice of slightly padded bra.
I’ve chosen to wait until my early 20s to ensure that my breasts are properly developed and that one is not just a ‘slow grower’. Unfortunately, it seems not to be the case. And in three months’ time I have potentially my final discussion with the NHS consultant plastic surgeon. I am not normally at a loss for words to say, but when it comes to this decision I am. My breasts are small but well-formed; I have very good nipples; however, as my breasts are so small the half a size cup difference is quite noticeable. If my breasts were to be slightly larger then the difference would not bother me so much and the thought of wearing a thin non-padded bra and occasionally allowing a cheeky hint of nipple to rise underneath my top is something that I would like to do – though it wouldn’t be a regular occurrence but is something that I would currently never dream of doing. It would leave me too vulnerable.
The options available to me are the following: an implant in the smaller breast, two implants to ensure that the shaping of both breasts is similar as my body ages over time, a breast reduction on the slightly larger breast (either in the traditional form or potentially by using a liposuction technique) or to not have surgery at all. I do not want miniscule breasts but more than that, I do not want something alien inside my body. I feel as though I want the next sentence to begin with “Unfortunately, both of my breasts will be smaller as I have a reduction on the slightly larger one…” but the honest truth is that, after feeling so uncomfortable, I’m not too sure whether it will be unfortunate. I have concerns that I will be left feeling un-womanly but the far greater chance is that I will just be left with smaller breasts, still wearing a padded bra and (hopefully) much more confidence. And always the potential to finally let my permanent nip-on be welcomed to the world via a non-padded bra.
The chances are that as I’ve been in the NHS system for so long and have considered my decision for so long that there would be follow-up care and any ‘damaging’ psychological effects could potentially be solved by another breast operation; an enlargement. Though I really think it won’t be necessary. Strangely, writing this has shown me that the confidence I lack can be solved by a bit of effort to keep in shape, do my hair and a wee bit of make-up. The fear of taking my bra off and having sex (I considered writing “intimate relations” then, apologies) is not from my breasts alone, but they remain a contributory factor. I was not brought up in a prudish family and was taught to respect myself and my body. The idea is that so long as I am comfortable with my decisions and how I act (and I don’t cause harm to others), then it’s fine. Partly, the longer I wait, the more that I want it to be with someone that I trust and feel comfortable with. It isn’t a decision which is rooted in romantic ideals of being in love but it still means something to me. Frankly, the ‘issue’ with my breasts has been something that I hide behind and occasionally excuse laziness or gluttony by. The “well, it won’t change things anyway” attitude which really has not helped me so far. With a summer ahead of me (and after just emailing my consultant as I am finishing this piece), it’s made me realise that the time is now. I’ll still wait a year until I’ve finished university until I have the operation by which time I will be 22. But the decision has been finally made and the plans can finally be set in motion. Just the fact that I have made my decision makes me more confident and really, that’s all that matters when anyone has to very personally think about their insecurities and their bodies.
– by an anonymous woman in her early twenties