Breast Buds and Growing Pains
By Bo Bi
Growing breasts can be awkward.
When I first started developing I was nervous about other people seeing my “breast buds” and thinking they were weird. And I felt embarrassed because my nipples kind of showed beneath my undershirt in those early days before I got permission to buy a bra.
The solution? Develop terrible posture. When I hung out with boys I slumped my shoulders, hoping they wouldn’t notice.
No one clued me in!
No one — not my parents, my teachers or my peers — really talked about how girls should deal with the physical and psychological changes caused by puberty. I wish my mother had told me to celebrate my physical growth and embrace whatever puberty brought to me.
It all shaped my body image, and not in a good way. I have always felt self-conscious and worried about my figure instead of embracing it.
My experience has been very different from “Annie’s” of Jamaica Kincaid’s fictional memoir, Annie John.
Annie had a lot more fun. Her breasts were “treasured shrubs, needing only the proper combination of water and sunlight to make them flourish.” She and a friend even “moonbathed” to get them to grow.
If I’d had experiences like that, I probably wouldn’t have seen my bodily change as something to hide or to go into denial about.
I can finally accept my breasts. I don’t freak out anymore when I discover that my breast size is not “average.” And I no longer get discouraged when my mother comments on my small size. I can even confidently walk into a Victoria’s Secret fitting room now.
But I’ve struggled with this for years, and as an adult woman I sometimes still feel insecure. I wear the most fashionable bras to feel more confident. But when I ask myself whether I see my breasts as a worthy and loved part of my body, unfortunately, the answer is still no.
Recognize your body’s perfections
Luckily for me, perceptions may be shifting. Bra boutique owner, Ellen Shing, says that most of her A-cup customers are happy with their bodies.
Retailers and lingerie designers like Ms. Shing are trying to stop the culture of “how to stuff your bra” and encourage women to recognize their body’s perfections, instead.
Even the title of the New York Times piece reporting this news is hopeful: “For the A-Cup Crowd, Minimal Assets Are a Plus.”
Societies change their aesthetic ideals all the time. Maybe it’s time to give all of us — small- and big-chested alike — more freedom to be ourselves.
And to love ourselves.
Bo Bi a student who gave permission to post this piece, which was inspired by Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s “Breast Buds and the ‘Training’ Bra”