Posts Tagged ‘body image’

I used to think that bikini shopping was the worst kind of shopping of all. But now I realise at least bikinis are optional. Brassieres, however, are not – especially when, like me, your breasts have become a potential tripping hazard.

I will put bra shopping off for as long as I possibly can. It’s no matter to me if the underwire is threatening to give me a lumbar puncture at any given moment or has gone MIA all together. It’s no matter if my “flesh-coloured” bras have taken on the hue of a four day old corpse or they’ve got so many holes in them that they look like a fishnet bra. I don’t care. I’ll do anything to avoid bra shopping.

But then recently, my dear friend KT bought a fantastic bra with a fancy French name and became some kind of bra born-again.

“My breasts feel fantastic in this bra!” she told me, with bras in her eyes. And indeed, when she gave me a quick flash, they looked fantastic, too.

“All you need is a good bra!” she said, suddenly looking at me with a corsetiere’s eye. “We’re going bra shopping this week. I won’t take no for an answer.”

So next thing I knew, I found myself staring at my semi-naked reflection in the change rooms of a department store lingerie department. The light was so harsh, I could practically see the cracks in my self-esteem widening with every breath I took.

KT brought in the first round of bras for me to try on. Turns out that these days my breasts are a lot like sleeping bags –  there’s a fine art to rolling them up the right way to fit them back neatly in their covers. But the problem was finding the right cover. Of course the whole notion of ‘sizing’ didn’t help – in one bra, a 16D made me look like the Michelin man with water retention, while a 14C in another bra made my breasts looked like a 3 year old’s feet her mother’s shoes. And all the while, I kept seeing those little pictures of the 10B models on the sales tags. Why put a 10B model on a 16D tag, or even on a 10A one for that matter? Most certainly, most women do not look like that and the suggestion that we should all want to look like that is just plain insulting.

As KT went off to try and find some better styles, I found myself really looking at my body. That flabby tummy had nurtured three new lives. And those saggy-baggy breasts had given sustenance for a total of fifty-seven months. My body rocked, goddammit! It was a magical marvellous mystical place and I should be wearing those stretch-marks proudly like sergeant’s stripes.

Still, when I tried on the next bra and it cut into my breasts, dividing them neatly into four like some kind of cow, I had one last stab at self-loathing.

“My breasts are stupid!” I moaned.

“These are shit bras,” KT said. “They’re all gapey and baggy and bulgy and badly made. They’re all wrong. That is all. Your breasts are just right.”

And we walked out of the department store, our heads held high – although admittedly, one set of breasts wasn’t held quite as high as the other.

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The morning after I’d gone tit-watching with her husband, my friend KT made me “dance my way thin” with a “Afro-Latin” routine on DVD. 

Admittedly the first incident didn’t actually cause the second – it just made for a good opening sentence, don’t you think?

You see, KT had actually arranged for Uncle B and I to go tit-watching together. And if she really had resented me for it, I expect she would have put on the “Fat Burning Dance Party!” DVD instead, where the instructor shouts instructions at you like you’re at some kind of Fat Girl Boot Camp. Personally speaking, I don’t think I could stand for somebody speaking to me like that in my own home. KT agrees – she usually turns the volume off and puts Justin Timberlake on instead, which should pretty much indicate how scary that FBDP instructor must be. 

Anyway, the “Dance Your Way Thin” instructor was cute and full’o’pep and led us through the dance routine by calling out things like “Salsa to the left! Salsa to the right!” “Shimmy back!” and – somewhat confusingly – “Africa Arms! Africa Arms!”. What struck me most was how confident she was at the end of the routine when she congratulated us all for completing the Afro-Latin workout, like we’d actually done it and weren’t just sitting looking on from the couch with a drink in one hand and a family block of Cadbury’s chocolate in the other. Which we weren’t, of course, but only because it was 9:30 in the morning.

Now, I’m sure I lost some of you back at the first tit-watching reference. Okay, okay, so it wasn’t bird watching as some of my more ornithologically-inclined readers might have been hoping. You see, Uncle B and I went to see a show called “Busting Out” which is a bit like “Puppetry of the Penis”. Except with breasts. But I think you probably might have guessed that already.  

And what a show it was. There’s something very empowering about seeing a grown woman turn her postpartum tummy into a wide-mouthed frog. Or to have an auditorium full of women all laugh together about loss of bladder control. Or just to see two ladies letting it all hang out as if to say “This is who I am. You got a problem with that?” It was like everything I’ve ever try to achieve with my blog except just bolder, brassier and semi-naked. 

And you know what? I walked out of that show feeling shit hot about my saggy baggy body. Yes: shit hot.  And the next day, after I’d been bustin’ an Afro-Latin move, I found myself pausing for thought  – and not just to wonder what the hell “Africa Arms” were. I realised that I didn’t necessarily want to be “dancing myself thin” but rather just “dancing my way healthy” – except, perhaps, with better grammar. Whatever. I wanted to just feel good in my own skin, whatever my size or shape. 

I remembered how Cate Blanchett once said in a TV interview:

I see someone’s face, someone’s body who has had children, and I think they’re the songlines of your experience.

This rang true with me because I always felt that my caesar scars are like songlines: they are my other secret smile. My deflated balloon of a stomach is a sacred place that once harboured new life and now just stores excess fluid and gas. My breasts… well, let’s just say that when I stretch down to touch my toes, my breasts get there well before my hands do and yet, for a combined total of 59 whole months, they nourished and comforted small beings most precious. This is my body: it tells my story. And it’s a story I should be proud of and not be hiding away as if it never happened. 

And so I may go on to lose my “baby fat” or I might just lose all bladder control instead. Whatever happens, I want to like those Busting Out Ladies. I want to be able to stand in all my postpartum glory and be able to shout “This is who I am. Have you got a problem with that?” and know that I, personally, don’t have a problem with it at all.

The Not Drowning Mother wishes it to be known she’s not planning to make any semi-nude public appearances any time soon. But if she does end up making one, she’ll definitely blog about it.

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