This is my mother. She is half-Japanese and was raised in a very conservative Catholic household. It seems like the obviously place to start, because so much of how we see our bodies is a direct reflection of how our mothers see their bodies as well as our own. My mother’s main relationship with her breasts was always in terms of breastfeeding. She is a small breasted woman, but like the article points out, this did not stop her from being a lactating success! She breastfed all of us for years. I think the most peculiar thing about her breastfeeding, though, was how she was mortified by women who did not breastfeed. My aunt had extreme pain while breastfeeding and when it became too much and she had to stop, my mother made rude comments to her face and behind her back. (As she did with strangers on the street who were bottle-feeding.) For my mother, it goes beyond giving your child proper nutrition, she sees a direct correlation between failing to breastfeed and failing as a woman.
This is my aunt. She lived with me during my “formative” years. She was probably 17 or 18, drove a black Tiburon, and only played music that when repeated at school would get me in a lot of trouble. She was my idol. At that age, she hated her boobs. She hated everything about them: the size, the color, the perkiness, and things I didn’t even know mattered. She was always talking about getting a breast augmentation. If she just saved enough money from her job, she would buy herself a new pair. No one in my family protested. No one seemed to mind the idea. I looked down at my boobs, much smaller than hers, and wondered if I, too, would need to save money for a second set.
This is my aunt. She is a hairdresser and all around beauty connoisseur. My mother always “jokes” that for being hapa (half-Japanese) none of the kids got any of the skinny genes. This aunt is incredibly slender; she also has the largest breasts of anyone in my family. I remember being a child and staring at them for hours. My mother didn’t look like that. None of the women around me looked like that.
This is my maternal grandmother. She married a Japanese man and became the ideal Japanese wife, albeit a practicing Catholic. She always called my vagina, “my body.” It became the turn of phrase in my home. In the bath I would always remind my parents to “wash my body.” After bath time I would ask if “I could let my body breath.” It gave me a comfortability and a normalcy when speaking about my vagina. But no one gave me the right set of words to speak about my breasts.
This is my paternal grandmother. This picture was her Senior portrait, but I don’t think she has aged a day since. Her hair is always styled like the photo above. I have never seen her without makeup on. Even at 60something years old, I have seen men look at her “good boobs” in a way that made me uncomfortable. When I was younger and stayed up too late at the party, the drunken men would be all over my grandmother, and always interested in the same region. Her breasts were, are, and always will be seen as “good.” (I have to mention here, that I have heard a few women in my family say, “her boobs still look that good because she never gave birth to her children.”)
This is another aunt. She is constantly complaining about how large her breasts are. Her back is always in pain. Clothes never fit. Bras her size are hard to find and really expensive. Sometimes, I wish my boobs were a little bigger.
This is me. The one on the far left in the oversized sweater, a wardrobe staple. I like my boobs. Not always, not everyday, not even all day long; but of the things I hate about my body, my breasts are pretty far down the list. They are small. I never wear bras. Not because I don’t need to – I don’t – but because I don’t want to. I think they are constricting. I think they are unnecessary. I think that bras are more for men than women. My boobs don’t need to be lifted, there’s nowhere for them to go. I hate the fat right above my breasts; I hate the fat right below my breasts. I hate thinking about my breasts in twenty years. I hate that there may or may not be this great expectation surrounding bigger boobs. I love that a friend of mine said if she could have anyone’s boobs except for hers, it would be mine. I hate that Will B. in Elementary School called me the President of the IBTC. (Itty Bitty Titty Club.) I love that I have them, that they are always there, that they are only mine.
This is my little sister, the one in the middle. The most beautiful woman in the world. She loves her body. I want her to feel that way for the rest of her life.