I think my own body image problems started when I was little. First, I went to school as the runt. I was younger than my classmates as they had changed the birthday for entering school that year. So children who had missed the year before were in the same class as I was and were a full year or more older. They were six and I still hadn’t turned five. I was tiny and skinny. Then something happened and I grew. Actually I grew in spurts my entire childhood. In one year, I went from the shortest child in my class to the tallest. I was, according to my dad, all eyeballs and kneecaps. Then I packed on some weight, and suddenly everything began to shift. I had hips, a waist, and little breasts.
Those darn little breasts hurt! Hit them on something and stars appeared as my breath went away. No one prepared me for this. To make matters worse. I was a tomboy and they really were in the way.
By age nine, my mom handed me some bras, probably leftover from my sister. They didn’t fit. She took me to a specialty store. It was a hush-hush thing. I had to go to that store for undergarments. I was pinched and poked (measured and squashed with a cold tape measure) and in general, it was not a nice experience. The dressing room was dark and old. I hated the place. They didn’t have anything that would actually fit me. It was decided that I needed to have the part that wrapped my back taken in so the woman folded and tucked and poked me with straight pins. I wanted to cry, I wanted to go home, and I didn’t want breasts. The darn bra was made of all cotton, it didn’t give very much, and it was scratchy.
The other problem was that breasts were supposed to be pointy things and mine were rounded. Every actress had pointy breasts, my big sis had pointed ones, even my teachers in school had pointy breasts. I think the body image problems began right there. Not only did I have these stupid bulges, but they were also shaped wrong!
Then I discovered something very important. My sister had these little foam things that she stuck in her bras. Oh, padding! Something to protect them! I wanted that protection. No, I wasn’t allowed to have them because my breasts were big enough that I didn’t need them. Huh? I didn’t want these painful lumps and if something would cushion them…well, why not? No!
At least my mom had enough sense to take in my bras under my arms where this thick seam didn’t show, except I could feel that seam. The straps wouldn’t stay up. The boys at school discovered I was wearing a bra. They loved to grab it and snap it against my back. Ouch! The girls accused me of wearing falsies and I didn’t even know what a falsie was.
I shaved my legs and tore the skin off my ankles and shins. Razors back then were not what they are now! I shaved under my arms and got a rash. Then the unthinkable happened I got my….shh!…period. My big sis handed me a pad and a belt. Yes, we wore belts. Pads had tails and you had to hook the tail through the metal triangle with teeth inside it and hoped that it held. Oh what fun! Not! Sit wrong and that point on the triangle poked you in behind or lower tummy. Ouch! I was given a pamphlet on growing up and liking it. To me it, was growing up and hating it.
Remember when I said I’m a tomboy? It was nothing for me to flip the pad completely over which mean that non-drip through lining made of plastic was now against my private parts and well, you can image what happened. Then one day I discovered that they made lacy panties with elastic that held the pad. I could tie the tail to the elastic strap. The problem was the elastic would get messy. So I washed a pair and wore a pair, and often I was pulling on slightly damp panties as I dressed for school. This female stuff was for the birds.
Then I discovered tampons. Except my mom thought they were only for swimming and that I’d ruin myself if I wore them all the time. I didn’t care. Virgin-schmirgin, let me wear something that I actually liked!
Finally when I was just shy of my twelfth birthday, I went back to that horrible undergarment place. I could wear a real bra. I was also brazen enough to speak up and have a fit if the bra didn’t feel right. The darn things looked like they were made for Attila the Hun. Finally, the woman brought me a pretty bra. It had underwire so the girls sat up and they didn’t move around. But for the very first time in my life, it fit. I still remember it was a Bali. It was pretty. It was a 32DD. Mom brought me two of them.
My mom groaned over the cost. My mom was an A cup and so was my sister. I had no idea that smaller cups meant cheaper price. I had enough for every female in the family, and if I could have given away two thirds of what I had, I would have been most willing. I tore into the house, ran to my room, locked the door, and tried on my new bras. I looked pretty. My whole shape changed with my new bras. This was good.
Just when I had accepted my feminine body, suddenly the in thing was to be super skinny with a flat chest. Not me! I had six-pack and my own personal floatation devices!
Here we go again. Looking back, it’s kinda funny, but it wasn’t at the time. My mom was so proud that I had big breasts, that she was constantly making comments to friends and family. I felt humiliated. It’s not as though I could control their size. They happened. And there was no reason for anyone to talk about them.
I also discovered that boys were extremely interested in them. I wasn’t asked out because they were interested in me as a person, no way, they wanted to get their hands on my breasts. Grr! What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had a body that Hugh Hefner would have loved. Instead I hid it, thinking it was all-wrong. I looked for some sort of perfection that didn’t exist. Fortunately I had a husband who loved me for me and appreciated my figure. He wouldn’t have cared if I had double A’s, but he was thrilled that I didn’t.
When I got pregnant, my concave tummy went away and my waist grew four inches. I looked like a fat pig! Well, I thought I did. I wanted to be pretty. We wore outfits that looked like tents. My breasts grew. I had two watermelons over a pumpkin. I got stretch marks over an inch wide. I spent most of my pregnancies hugging the toilet. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for the baby bump afterwards! They’d weighed me when I went into the hospital to have the child and again, when I left. Each time I weighed ten pounds more as I left. It was my breasts! Did you know that breasts can get stretch marks? No one warned me that could happen.
I never did return to my pre-baby weight (105 lbs). Never could get my waist below 26 inches. I thought I was a blimp when I wasn’t. I’d dissolve into tears and wonder how my hubby could love me when I was such a whale. (117 lbs) My husband tried to placate me. He swore I was still beautiful and those stretch marks were proud battle scars that proved my womanhood. I look back now at those photos when my children were young and wish I still looked that great. But that will never happen and I doubt it would be healthy for me to be that thin.
But with the years, comes change. I’m far from skinny but not obese. I’m happy with looking decent. I’m content with being healthy, and being on this side of the grass. I probably should lose another ten pounds. I’ll get there one day. If I never fit into a size twelve again, I’m content with fourteens. I’m almost five foot nine, and I’ve got skinny bones, which means I can hide my weight better than most folks. Besides there’s no one around to see me naked!
As for body image? I am what I am, and I don’t care if I don’t match what is in style. It’s a shame it took me all these years to get to the point of not worrying about body image. Yet there are times I think I’d kill for a dozen Dunkin Donuts, but I don’t eat that stuff anymore. For me a square of super dark chocolate is divine and I’ll spend my money on a pretty new color of nail polish or a new pair of earrings. (Yes, I do my own nails.)
My local department store had a sale the other day on undergarments. I bought bras. I’m still a double D and the straps never want to stay up on my narrow shoulders, but these bras are so silky soft and comfy. No underwires to poke me, just squishy softness. Guess what? They were Bali’s. Wish they had these when I was first wearing bras!