Dear Victoria: Thoughts From The Itty-Bitty Titty Committee

Smath.
Smath.

Today I went to Victoria’s Secret. My bras were ratty and falling apart and I realized I couldn’t put off buying a new one any longer. I went to Toronto’s Eaton Centre and paced anxiously before a giant poster of the svelte and sultry Candice Swanepoel before finally forcing myself to walk past the pink striped walls and into the perfume-laden air.

Immediately I felt transported to some sort of strange lingerie jungle. Like Jumanji, except with a backdrop of lingerie and lotion instead of a shoe factory. Girls shrieked and hollered from opposite sides of the store, comparing prices and giggling wildly over black lace garter straps and robes trimmed with faux fur. Mothers coached their daughters on bra styles and the best underwear deals; reluctant husbands trailed after wide-eyed wives, holding purses and sweaters and VS-emblazoned black mesh bags overflowing with undies and tank tops. Young boyfriends tried to be subtle as they gazed at women other than their girlfriends handling erotic bustiers and sampling clouds of perfume. Heavily made-up sales assistants with ample cleavage and sculpted faces greeted me enthusiastically, a moment of warmth that burnt out like an old lightbulb, evaporating as their glassy, unfocused eyes slid past me to the next customer. I threaded quietly through the groups of more confident customers, jostled around like a mosh pit as I tried to get my bearings, occasionally reaching out and running my fingers over blue silks, black lace, fresh white cotton.

There was a sale on the front table that I circled like a shark. I peered between heads and shoulders to decipher exactly what it was, and saw that there was a 50%-off sale on bras. The bras were separated into bins brightly labeled A, B, C, and D, and there was a crowd around all of the bins except the A-cup bin. The A-cup bin was barely touched, the rows of bras in perfect formation, quivering with quiet shame and palpable embarrassment.

Or maybe that was me.

The A-cup bin would be my bin. I am an A-cup, and only a full A-cup when my breasts grow before my period. I am an A-cup, and constantly aware of it. I am an A-cup every time I put on a bikini and shrivel at how exposed I am to the rest of the world, my flat chest and lack of cleavage undeniable, with no push-up bra to help me create illusions and contours. I am an A-cup every time I see a cute dress only to realize that the cut is meant for women with larger breasts. I am an A-cup every time I see those body-image debates about how men like their women with curves – not sticks and bones with no meat on them – “Bones are for dogs!” They chorus. “Real men like meat!”. I am an A-cup every time I see Kim and Jennifer and Bey in the media and hear them praised for voluptuous, full figures. I am an A-cup every time I hear about a young woman going under the knife because she was too ashamed of her “mosquito bites.” I am an A-cup when my cousin makes an offhand remark about a girl at his high school, who was “cute, but then her boobs finally grew in and all the guys were so happy.” I am an A-cup every time I’m seeing a new boy and he reaches up for the first time; I freeze and wonder if he’s disappointed, if he’s thinking of the C’s and D’s of his past, if he thought there would be more to grab because of my trusty padded push-up bras. I am an A-cup all the time.

In grade school, kids were merciless. Boys would yell ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE, THIS WAY! and girls with big breasts would giggle and smirk. Boys would ask when my tits were going to arrive, or if I had begun saving for implants. Girls were never as upfront, but remarks would eventually make their way back to me. Remarks like, “Why is she wearing a real bra? Doesn’t she know she doesn’t need it?” I waited in vain for my breasts, but to no avail. I went through different phases, at one point wearing push up bras a size too small and tight tank tops to at the very least give the illusion of cleavage and perkiness. When that was mocked I turned to baggy shirts and long sleeved dresses that didn’t attempt to reveal what wasn’t there.

As I grew older, I began to love fashion, and I found solace in the very models the world likes to criticize. Not the Victoria’s Secret models and Sports Illustrated covergirls in all their perfect body glory, but the skinny high-fashion models. They were pale and thin like me, without big breasts and thighs and bums. They had slouchy, rounded backs and concave chests. They weren’t like the full-bodied women declared “real women.” They didn’t wear the cleave-baring bustiers and short, tight, wrap dresses that reduced me to tears when I tried them on; they wore shift dresses and t-shirt dresses with chunky combat boots. Black leather pants and off-the-shoulder shirts that draped lovingly off A-cup chests. A-cups! A-cups everywhere! I saw Kate Moss and I saw her breasts and I reveled in our sisterhood and I fell in love, taping magazine cutouts of her all over my bedroom walls.

As I evolved from an insecure teenager to a beginning-to-get-it-together-20-something, the taunts morphed from schoolyard brutality to surprisingly cheerful comments from older women. My boyfriend’s mother has double-Ds and wanted me to borrow a dress. She held it up in front of his entire family, watching television in the living room, and she looked me up and down and laughed. “I think it’ll look nice on you, but it certainly won’t fit you up top!” she said, swatting my flat chest for extra emphasis. Salesladies are similar, commenting matter-of-factly on my lack of size. “Here’s your size, but I think you’re too small for it in the chest.” “Hi, fitting room six? I brought you the 32A – you won’t need a B!” My girlfriends make a joke of my small chest, offering to give me some of theirs for my birthday. When I hear these comments, I think of going home to research breast augmentation prices and percentages of deaths on the cold metal table. But now, I stem the flood of shame and embarrassment by thinking of Kate and Cara and all the models with their A-cup breasts, and I feel stronger in my body.

There are benefits, too. There are many benefits to small breasts that I never would have recognized as a teenager. I can run track and play sports that my big-breasted sisters can’t. My girlfriends with Cs and Ds often complain of sore breasts when they work out, when they sleep, when they run. My boyfriend’s mother complains all the time about the back pain her big breasts have given her; I won’t have that particular problem, and I’m grateful for that. My little breasts can rock clothes that big breasts can’t, allowing plunging necklines and fitted ballerina tops to look elegant rather than risqué. But the best thing my itty-bitty titties do is act as a barometer for the kind of men I attract. Breasts are not a secret. Any man can take one look at me and determine that I am not a girl endowed with large breasts. That means the men who approach me and are interested in me don’t care that I don’t have big breasts. I don’t have to worry that a man came up to me only because he saw my cleavage. I don’t have to worry that he’ll be too busy staring at my breasts to hear my voice. I don’t have to worry that in the bedroom, when my shirt comes off, he’ll be repulsed by my small breasts. I’m not afraid anymore, and I’m not ashamed. My boyfriend cups my itty-bitty titties lovingly, and I am not scared to walk around our apartment braless and topless and naked. I have learned to love my A-cups.

So, Victoria, I am not afraid of you anymore. I am not embarrassed to march over to the untouched A-cup section, while the girls perusing the Bs and Cs and Ds give me pitying glances and mental donations to a surgical fund. I will not scurry out of the store just because I am demarcated as less of a woman than my fuller-bodied sisters. No saleslady or mother-in-law or friend would be so insensitive to an overweight woman, but small breasts are not seen in the same way. And at least losing weight is something a woman can control, at least to an extent. Breasts are different: I had no control over what size breasts I’d have, but I am made to feel inadequate for them regardless. No one argues that the Dove Real Beauty campaigns and the music videos and the magazines and the film and music industries marginalize small-breasted women. But they do, in images everywhere, all the time. We are marginalized every time culture critics heatedly argue against women deemed too skinny, claiming that stick-thin women are not “real women.” We are marginalized every time a Kate Upton comes along with her big breasts and is applauded for her “real body.” Real women have curves, everyone says enthusiastically. Real women have hourglass figures and full bodies. Luscious thighs and curvy butts and big, ample breasts. Men want meat! Real women have meat!

But I don’t. I have small little A-cup breasts, and you know what? I will not feel ashamed, and I will not succumb to the knife. I will not talk about my A-cups with self-mockery or resentment. I will not be made to feel like less of a woman by men, by the media, or by my fellow women, simply because I belong to the Itty-Bitty Titty Committee. I am an A-cup, but I am still as real a woman as anybody else. TC mark

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  • http://beayoooutifull.wordpress.com mararaaahhh

    Growing up, I was the opposite – I grew outward before upward.
    (Honestly, I hated the attention and would have given ANYTHING to reverse puberty.)
    I often envied women like you growing up because I thought it was easier for you, you’d always find clothes in the smaller sizes but not the larger ones especially the sale bins.
    Thanks for sharing your story, it really gave me something to think about!

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