Thursday, October 6, 2011

Breast Obsessed

Image: Ambro /

“Excuse me, but, how can you be so athletic with those breasts?”

Ok, I am paraphrasing, but this is essentially the question that was asked of me today while I was swimming laps at the Y.

Men have been lambasted for decades for being “breast obsessed.” Perhaps this obsession has finally infiltrated women’s own consciousness because it seems to me that, lately, women are the ones who are truly obsessed with breasts.

Flat chested gals want bigger ones, bodacious babes want smaller ones, and what everyone really wants are ones that no one has (not naturally, anyway)—the kind that are perfectly round and symmetrical and perky and stick straight out into the next zip code with nary a spaghetti strap to hold them in place, never mind that the wearer of this man-made freakishness might otherwise be 90 pounds soaking wet or approaching her sixth decade.

Susan G. Komen-obsessed? Good. Heidi Montag-obsessed? Bad.

I have been dancing around this polarizing, hot-button topic for months, even prompting discussion on Facebook to gauge people’s thoughts on the subject, and one thing seems to be clear: Women who’ve had cosmetic/plastic surgery are in favor of it while women who’ve not had it are opposed.

As someone who avoids doctor’s offices, antibiotics, and even Advil, I am firmly planted in camp “opposed.” The idea of electively going under the knife to alter my body for cosmetic purposes is appalling. I’m far more interested in how my body feels than how it looks; in other words, I’m a “health over hospital,” “fitness over fashion,” “cardio over cosmetics” kind of gal. Does that mean I’m totally satisfied with what “God gave me?” Hell no! I could compose a list as long as my arm of things I’d like to change about my appearance. But, hey, it is what it is and I’m willing to work with what I’ve got.

That’s not to say that the advancements in plastic surgery are without merit. For people who are born or have become disfigured, for women who’ve had mastectomies; this type of procedure can be positively life-altering, maybe even life-saving.

But to suck the fat off your thighs because you want to fit into size 0 jeans and still eat French Fries, or to go from a B cup to a DDD so you look better in a bikini? That’s insane! In the animal kingdom, it’s usually the male of the species that tries to attract a mate with its attention-getting behavior and flashy feathers. In our society, it seems the women have decided to try and outshine each other with unnatural shapes and sizes, though the plumage we sport comes at a much greater cost. You don’t see men running in droves to the nearest knife-wielding surgeon to get chin or bicep or pectoral or penile implants.

So, why are women doing this? Who are they doing it for? What kind of example are we setting for our daughters?

Some women have told me they’ve sought plastic surgery to make them feel better about themselves, gain confidence or enhance the features they have. In my opinion, self-confidence, self-esteem and self-respect comes from within, not from a botulinum-filled syringe or a saline pouch. And, since when is a little eyeliner or blush not enough to enhance one’s features?

I am fortunate to have been raised by a mother who always told me, and still does, that I am smart and beautiful, and a father who frequently complimented me, respected my mother and, my favorite, told me that “only a dog likes a bone.” Despite these confidence-boosting entreaties, appearance was never a priority in my childhood home. My mother and I both hate to shop. When it comes to clothes, I know what looks good on me—I don’t need a fashion magazine dictating what’s in style and what I “must” wear; comfort and functionality is my main goal. My parents would never pay extra for designer jeans or shoes when Wranglers, Levi’s and Zips would do. (And if you don’t believe you are being manipulated by the big marketing machine, check out this video: The Story of Stuff:

I’ve never worn a lot of makeup and, unlike some of my female friends, don’t have an issue with going out in public without my “face” on. I didn’t discover an eyelash curler until my late 20s and I stopped wearing lipstick, for the most part, when my babies were born so I could kiss them freely and frequently without leaving little red and pink marks all over them.

But, given the fact that I’m an athlete, having a curvy figure (one that my husband adores and I sometimes abhor) is not always a bonus and, in fact, can be quite a pain in the ass. It’s taken me years to find a sports bra that truly keeps the ta-tas in place when I run and a triathlon top that can go from swimming to sprinting. (Before this discovery, I’d given up many race minutes to my flat-chested counterparts who could simply breeze through the transition area in their one-piece tri suits.)

So, back to the woman at the Y. She thinks what I am doing (training for the Iron Man) is “mah-velous.” She said that I am “thin” and “athletic,” but then awkwardly apologized for being so personal when she wondered how I am able to do these things with “my breasts?” (It’s a bit impossible to imagine doing anything without them; it’s not as if I can unhook them and sit them on a shelf when I want to go for a run!) But, I understood what she meant and I sympathized. In fact, last year I lamented about this very topic in my blog post titled “Looking the part:”

But here is the sad thing. This woman, who is in her 60’s, is beautiful and voluptuous in a petite, Sophia Loren way. She is healthy and outgoing and athletic. Yet, she is thinking about getting a breast reduction.

I wanted to plead with her not do it. Instead, I tried to convince her that she is truly lovely and perfect the way she is. I hope she will consider the fact that a breast reduction is a major and invasive surgery. We commiserated over the challenges of being athletic women with hourglass figures. She confided in me about developing early and being teased as a kid, and about all the women she sees now who obviously have fake breasts because they “aren’t proportionate with the rest of their bodies.” My response? “The way I see it, all those women are paying for what we’ve already got!” (Minus the gravity-defying element.) She declared that I am in a good and positive place about it and I guess I am.

I hope our conversation will help her to embrace the body she has, realize there are other solutions, and not proceed with surgery, though I will not judge her if she ultimately goes through with it. Electing to alter one’s self through surgery is an intensely personal decision and I wouldn’t pass judgment on any woman who felt it was the right choice for her. As the saying goes; “To each his own.” We must each find our own path to happiness.

I just hope women realize the path does not have to be paved with scalpels.


  1. Great post, Sherri. I 100% agree with you. Being voluptuous is a curse for a runner! But we press on with what God gave us.

  2. Absolutely! Thanks for reading (and writing!) ;)

  3. . . .and keep on running and keeping it real!