I think I had the biggest boobs at the wedding. I certainly had more than the entire wedding party, combined. And my niece happily told me about it every chance she could.
Let me introduce you to Little Sophie, my brutally honest and equally charming niece. I just met her this year but she has been around a few years. Soph is equal parts sass and brilliance, with some humor thrown in to make the other bits bearable. While we were wave diving and bobbing around in the Caribbean Sea last month, she told me my boobs were like giant buoys.
Well, I think that is what she said. She was about 15 feet away from me and choking on ocean water and laughing hysterically. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had my boob compared to a buoy before. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had my appearance so heartily critiqued before. It was a fun-filled four days packed with Sophie’s opinion about boobs and butts and bodies. To be fair, she also made sure I knew what she thought about my haircut (apparently ‘layers’ haven’t hit her world yet so they’re weird) and she genuinely celebrated when I “finally” brushed my hair the day of the wedding.
Anybody met a darling little Sophie before? Anyone have a family member who makes you question your worth every 47 seconds? Yep, you’ve got a Sophie. She is an absolute gem and I hope to work for her one day. Undoubtedly, she has some very tough lessons in humility coming her way but I have no doubt she will slay those dragons and come out winning. She’s going to run the world.
So… boobs. One of the most celebrated and worshiped body parts on a woman. (Men, don’t get excited. Your moobs, aka man boobs, are not okay. Nobody loves them. We love YOU so we tolerate the moob, but secretly we are hoping you get your act together and build those pecs back up. We need to be the only one with boobs, k? Let us have that, please.)
Little ones or big ones, high or low, full or flat, the boob is awesome. A friend of mine once asked me how you can make an extra 5lbs of fat look attractive. The answer was something I can never un-hear. “Put a nipple on it,” he said. OMG. Now you cannot un-read that. You’re welcome.
I got to thinking about body image. I use Sophie the unfiltered truth teller as a medium to get my point across because she is responsible for a few thought provoking moments… but she is not the focus of this post. Body Image –that’s where I am heading. First, I want to share with you another delightful comment from the Sophinator… I was strapped into my dress, ribbons pulled tightly, Spanx doing their absolute best, and she says to me, “You’re wearing THAT?!?”
Her mum and nana raced into the convo to prevent it from going any further (I guess they had discussed commenting on other people’s bodies prior to my arrival), but the words were out. They stung. They didn’t sting because Sophie was being mean. They didn’t sting because an 8 year old gets to decide what looks good or doesn’t… remember layered hair is weird to her. They stung because I already had a problem with my body. I was already struggling with my appearance. I had already thought every ugly, critical, abusive thought about myself. I’m much meaner to myself than anyone else could ever be. Can you relate?
Surrounded by smaller people. Weighted down by the heaviness of insecurity and perceived failure and poor body image. And ‘out of the mouths of babes…’ comes our greatest fear, our ugliest truth, our deepest shame.
Truth’s light is blinding. It’s inescapable. It’s penetrating and exposing and unyielding. To stand in that kind of light, one must be brave. Secure. Equipped. Enough.
And folks, I am not all of those things. I have my moments, yes. I am incredible some days. Unflinching. But on that day, in that damned dress, with those enormous boobs. Oh my gosh. I was deeply humiliated.
I texted with a dear friend for a few minutes to help regain my composure and salvage my quickly dissipating self-esteem. It wasn’t Sophie – god, I love that girl. We had some crazy laughter between us. Her giggle can charm the crustiest of souls. She hadn’t even made a comment; she simply asked a question. A question, with the right emphasis, mixed with my already teetering self confidence… yikes. I had to decide very quickly what I was going to think and feel, what significance I was going to assign to that moment, what hidden criticism I was going to empower.
I quickly pulled myself together. I stood with my sister, Bec, and we watched our lovely little sis, Sarah, marry the man of her wildest dreams.
In comparison to every single family member, I am ginormous. If size is the true measure of worth, I fail every time. For women, it is deeply embedded in our psyche from an early age that the more space we take up, the less we are worth. The louder we are, the less we are heard. For men, it is the opposite. Small man = small value. Small is the antithesis of what a man wants to be. Soft spoken equals unimportant. Bigger is better, in every single sense (except for the moob).
Our heads know this simply isn’t true. Our hearts still carry the scars of a lifetime of reinforcement. Unfair, immaterial standards relevant only to this moment in time. If I was in one of those paintings from a hundred years ago, I’d be the epitome of beauty. How unfair to the skinny girls. Sigh.
A funny thing happened as we were doing the pre-wedding photo shoot. Sarah, the bride, discovered that her dress was completely transparent and she wasn’t wearing a bra. Yep, the bride was wearing white but she was about to show every single person in attendance her fabulous nips! She was horrified. We were desperate to find a solution. We considered napkins and bandaids, both of which were in scarce supply! Then, I voiced the only logical solution. I pretty much saved the day.
I offered her my bra.
Yep, you can read that twice. These boobs do NOT get untethered, ever. These puppies stay on the leash. These BUOYS need support and straps and wires and at least 4 hooks. But I love my sister and I am a problem solver and she needed nipple shields. So I offered my brassiere.
And the world was silent for a moment. Everything stopped. They all looked at me in shock. Possibly horror, who can tell?
Then Bec interrupted the silence with a quick, “Here! Take mine!”
She whipped off her own bra, Sarah put it on (a perfect fit), and off we went to walk our sis down the aisle and witness her incredibly special day, sans nips. This is where we enter the hashtag #DaySaved. Bec went braless the whole night and my buoys remained fully supported. What a relief! We are generous sisters. We are selfless. We are completely different sizes, but our hearts are equally huge.
I am so thankful for the impetus to write about body image. Like many women, I think about my body every day. I find flaws and fall short of expectations. I spend time undoing the conditioning of my childhood and my American culture and my Vegas upbringing. I make deliberate and gracious choices to create a new narrative, all the while trying to build a healthier physique. I’m not alone in this daily effort. I know every single one of my girlfriends is doing the same, in their own way.
I used to joke that I live on the wrong side of town to be considered beautiful. If I crossed town, I could be pregnant by noon. Standards are different everywhere. Beauty isn’t one look, one size, one color. We know this, yet we continue to be influenced by a barrage of criticisms that have us changing the very person we were created to be.
We wax part of our bodies, literally ripping hair out by its root in some of the most tender and private places. Then we pay top dollar for hair extensions, lash extensions, and fake nails!
We starve ourselves, follow fads and restrict calories or carbs, always longing for that smaller size. Then we pay (again) to paralyze our faces and plump our lips. Some women have skin cut away and body mass sucked out. Others have artificial pieces added (yes, implants) to create curves and softer edges. Some women do both. Wax, extend, inject, plump, implant, lift, cut. We are doing it all for what? To meet some standard that was set by people we don’t even know? To increase our worth by looking a certain way instead of investing in the content of our character?
Friends, we have lost our ever loving minds.
I wanted to write this as a source of encouragement, not a criticism. I’m a huge fan of Botox, do not misunderstand me. I just want to remind anyone reading this that your WORTH is not determined by the opinions of other people. Your value is not tied to your looks or your youth or your size. We will have moments that threaten to reveal our deepest insecurities. Moments that will challenge us to dig really deep to muster up some steely confidence. Moments that hopefully remind us that our worth is intrinsic; it doesn’t increase with injections, surgery, or extensions and it doesn’t decrease with wider waistlines, bigger bra sizes, or louder voices.
We can redefine beauty, together. Come on, girls. Enough is enough. We know better.
Thanks for reading. If you can relate, please comment. Your voice is welcome here. Be a part of the conversation. Holly is Regional Sales Director for a global pharmaceutical company and Founder of The aMasongrace Project, a suicide prevention organization. She is an advocate, speaker, and blogger. Her widely-read blog, “It’s Just Me”chronicled her journey of surviving suicide loss. Holly’s latest endeavor, “Totally Enough,” is focused on empowering women of all ages to recognize their unique value, to walk in abundance, and to rest in the knowledge that they are enough.