“I think I have breast cancer.”
10 year old me, sitting on the concrete canteen floor at recess, speaking to my best friend. I was deeply concerned.
“Seriously. I have lumps,” I said, resisting the urge to gently place her hand on my chest.
I’d noticed them three nights previous, lying there with two hands on my chest. Frozen in fear. You notice these things when you’ve been the physical equivalent of a plank of wood for the first 10 years of your life. What were these lumps growing out of my chest and why was no one else as worried as I was?
My journey with breasts started long before I knew what a breast was. I’d been suckling on those things from day nought, leeching off my mum before the oxytocin had a chance to wash out of her bloodstream. I’d stared at many delving cleavages as an unreserved toddler and since hitting TV watching age, many a tit has bounced across my screen.
However, my own journey with breast development was a delayed one. When everyone else was wearing crop tops and their first bras, I was being convinced by my mum that I really didn’t need one. It’s true. I didn’t need one. But I wanted one. Desperately. Maybe more than I wanted actual breasts.
She finally bought me one when I was 12 years old, the average age of a cavewoman onto her fifth child. It was the equivalent of a chastity belt (perhaps my mother’s very intentions), resembling that of an 80 year old woman whose breasts have lost the will to live. Nonetheless, it was a bra and I was finally a woman. Or marginally closer to being one.
But did I look more womanly and mature in my new bra? No, I didn’t. Instead, it looked like three more pubescent breasts could fit into each cup. I was bereft. I was a girl, not yet a woman. I was straddling an anatomical No Man’s Land. I would continue to not need a bra for the next two years.
I admired the burgeoning chests of my friends at school. C cups at 14 when I was a negative B, their lack of appreciation being a direct insult to my tender adolescent psyche. They only complained about annoying bra straps and how much periods sucked. Meanwhile, both my ovaries and breasts lay dormant in my body.
Finally, my breasts made their debut in my 15th year of existence. I started the year without much to speak of and ended with the first line of a very brief conversation. Sadly, it wasn’t the soul quenching experience I had hoped for. Instead, I developed a mild case of kyphosis trying to hide them from relatives.
Now many years have passed. Bras have come and gone but I think the breasts are still there. Like any human being with a mouth and two hands, I can appreciate a good breast (or any breast for that matter). There are few things to dislike about an organ that can provide nourishment for a baby, a makeshift pillow when you’re low on manchester and be a source and recipient of sexual pleasure.
But sadly, breasts have lost much of their appeal to me. I would go as far to describe my feelings towards them as ambivalence. It’s possible I exhausted all of my breast-based love during the years I lacked them. My gaze now roves over my chest without a second glance. Where is the happiness such a versatile body part should be providing?
It’s unfortunate but now I see them for what they are. A source of food for my future parasitic offspring. An extra part of my body I have to clothe. A cause of wind resistance when I’m trying to run a half marathon. They’re a necessity and an excess at the same time. They’re breasts.