Writing by Imogen Woods // Photograph by Emilie Bjork
I have asymmetrical breasts; one breast is bigger than the other, and while most women have this to some degree, my asymmetry is around 4-5 cup sizes difference. I’ve tried to write about it several times, but somehow have never found the right words for it. It’s such an important part of my life in the sense that it’s shaped a lot of my attitudes and given me a lot of ways to cope in other areas of my life. I have so many stories to tell about my breasts that it’s hard to condense them into the definitive moments. It’s hard for me to create the right tone; should I make it humorous, inspiring, story like, a reflection on society?
But really, I want it to be all those things at once, and it’s hard to achieve in words. My relationship with my body and my breasts is probably an unusual one, a story that’s not often told. It’s not a story of how much I hate it; how I got a boob job and it changed my life; how having asymmetrical breasts meant I was bullied and ridiculed; that it caused me to have low self esteem. It’s a story of how it helped me accept myself, love myself, find humor in life, and was one of the reasons I found solace in feminism. I’m going to start by saying I love my breasts– they’re the one thing on my body I wouldn’t change. But it’s taken a few twists and turns to get to this point. Not once have I seriously contemplated getting a breast augmentation, it’s just been merely a floating thought in the back of my head that I’ve quickly disregarded.
When I was around 15/16 years old and the size difference was noticeable, I developed a defense mechanism in dealing with it. I’d take the piss out of it, cause hell. My mentality was: don’t try and mock me for my weird tits, cause I can be 10 times funnier about it. My self-deprecating humor allowed me to have a barrier against any judgement from others, because underneath it all, I was judging myself. It wasn’t a typical self-loathing kind of attitude, it was more passive than that. I never cried over it, or felt upset over it. It was an announcement to the world saying “I’m so awesome, because i can handle having assymetrical breasts and actually laugh about it.” So yeah, I did passively self-loathe, but at the same time, it never damaged me; the coping mechanism worked when I was going through general teenage angsty stuff and got me through to the other end. It made sure others didn’t mock me about it, because why would they if I was allegedly not bothered by it? It did stop me from doing certain things at that age– I didn’t feel like I could go swimming or ever be able to go topless in front of a sexual partner– but as an issue in itself, it was very insignificant on my mental health. But it enabled me to use it as a stepping stone to true self-love when it came to my breasts.
It all changed when I took a bid to become healthier and lose weight. Before my breasts had developed, I adored swimming; it was one of the only forms of exercise I actively enjoyed. So I overcame my fear of publicly displaying my breast asymmetry and went swimming in a costume that, in my head, made my “deformity” very visible. REVELATION. No one stared, no one commented, nothing terrible happened. So I started swimming three times a week and lost over 3 stone. I had never been more confident and happy in myself. Soon after I got my first boyfriend and before we slept together, I just said, “yep, by the way, kinda got weird sized boobs” and he didn’t even blink an eyelid. (If anything, he was a bit of a hipster, so he probably thought it was all artsy and avant garde).
The more comfortable I became with my body, the more I realized it made others uncomfortable. My mum sent me to a therapist specifically to talk about my breasts, despite my reassuring her I was fine, because she was certain there must be an underlying issue. I’ve had several people say, “well, you obviously do have a problem with it,” People can’t accept the fact a teenage girl is comfortable with her body, especially when there’s something specifically conventionally unattractive about her. Which in itself is subtly implying there is something wrong with me.
But there’s not. I have asymmetric breasts. So what? Now I’m 19, and I can honestly say I am comfortable with my breasts. Not just comfortable, I’ve learnt to love them. They’re part of me, they’re part of who I am, and people that can’t deal with that don’t have a place in my life.[share]