"She has a nice rack!" I quickly learned what guys were talking about when they said this to me. I hated it.
Clearly, some of the girls my age didn't mind. In Year 6, Kaylee Robinson used to squeeze hers together in the locker room chanting,
"We must, we must, we must increase our bust", hoping that that the rhyme may work and that if she said it enough times, whilst squeezing them together, they would increase in size overnight. In the meantime, she would fill her training bra with tissues every day before school, so it looked like the chant was working. While Kaylee was chanting and stuffing, I was discretely hiding my quickly developing pair in sports bras and baggy sweatshirts, hoping that no one would notice I had any.
As a pre-teen, I hated my breasts.
I remember Alison Campbell taping hers together to create ‘cleavage' in Grade 8. She would then wear low-cut tops to show off the pretend crevice! I, on the other hand, was trying to avoid male attention of any sort. I would never be seen near a boy in a swimsuit or anything revealing. My breasts not only became inconvenient around boys but also in PE classes. D boobs were not designed for the basketball court!
All I wanted was a normal bra. A pretty, lacy one, like all the other girls my age. Unfortunately, whenever I went bra shopping, the 70-year-old sales clerk suggested a beige-coloured supportive bra with three hooks at the back. How embarrassing!
As a teenager, I hated my breasts.
As I got older, I found shopping increasingly more difficult because nothing fit due to my larger ‘top half' and small waist. I had to get tailor-made dresses. I was complaining about my then-Jessica Rabbit figure! I wish I had that body now, but then I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted to walk into a shop, buy a dress off the rack and wear it to my school formal. I felt completely out of proportion and I blamed it all on my chest.
Then came the university nights out at the clubs. Girls would be wearing skimpy outfits and it was getting harder to hide my boobs. When I wore anything slightly tight or low-cut I was getting lots of free drink offers, basically providing an opportunity for guys to ogle at my chest.
In my 20's, I hated my breasts.
By this time, I was married and had children and I was not bothered about playing team sports or buying dresses off the rack. In my 30's I was a mother. My body had changed dramatically from the ‘curvatious' Jessica Rabbit. My boobs were no longer full of life, perky and plump. They were now small, saggy and wrinkly. I had also somehow, I lost a cup size with every child I had. Low-cut tops didn't look good on me and I missed my old breasts.
In my 30's, I hated my breasts.
For a while, I had a feeling that something was wrong with Phillipa, a friend from my daughter's school. She was a stay-at-home mum but hadn't been collecting her son from school recently. One afternoon the teacher let it slip that she just got home from the hospital. I was already worried about her, made worse by having no idea what was happening.
When I saw her the following afternoon, she just hugged me and whispered in my ear, “It's breast cancer. I have to have a double mastectomy next week."
I didn't know how to respond. She is only my age and like me has three young children. It was heartbreaking to hear such sad news happening to such a beautiful person.
I wish I could go back to the younger versions of myself and tell her to simply get over it. I would tell the 14 years me with the perfectly shaped breasts, to stop complaining. I would tell the 18-year-old me to appreciate her healthy, strong body. Who cares if her boobs jiggled a little on the basketball court? I would tell the 25-year-old me to be bigger than the stares and comments and be proud and confident of her body.
All I can do now is look at my 40-year-old breasts and love them. They nourished three healthy children and they are cancer-free. They signify not only my womanhood, motherhood but most importantly, they signify my health.
At 40, I love my breasts.