Minnesota Women's Press | St. Paul, MN



MELSA.TopBanner.1-2016

home : readerswrite : onyourmind April 28, 2016

My breasts
"My breasts are mine. Not for doctors, pervy photographers,
lechers, deranged in-laws, surgeons or assertions from a shopkeep."
-Elizabeth Burns


by Elizabeth Burns

I explained to the saleswoman that I didn't want to try on a shirt in her (overpriced) boutique because, "I'm wearing the wrong bra to try on any clothes today."

She nodded, smirked and said: "Breast reduction surgery."

"Really?" I said.

Where was the grown-up 52-year-old woman in me, who at age 12 had been shyly fitted with a 36C and is now proudly gathered in the lace and satin of a 44E?

This woman, ostensibly there to please and accommodate customers, considered anatomical advising as part of her retail hospitality.

"It's the best surgery I ever did," she said. "And my husband loved it."

"Really?" I said.

"I can give you the name of my surgeon. I think I have his card."

Was my face registering nothing? Was I overcompensating with politesse because of years of good manners, or years of shame instilled by nasty boys, jealous girls and abusive relatives?

I related the exchange to my dear friend, who is well endowed-with rich, lustrous, auburn curls. She is often a subject of envy, but she endures slighting comments, too. We recognized that a parallel to my situation would be someone saying to her, "I know a great way for you to straighten your hair."

Altering a woman's size and shape has been this culture's Russian roulette: anorexia, bulimia, hair relaxers, rhinoplasty, implants, Botox, waxing, lye and dye treatments ...

I don't mind that breasts are admired. A lover recently expressed satisfaction at encountering a pair of "real" breasts (highlighting an age difference that caught me off guard), and I felt both admired and shocked.

The story of my breasts can be encapsulated by the saleswoman and the lover, but the 40 years since that 12-year-old in the 36C include waking to a brother-in-law's hands on my breasts while he masturbated in the darkness (I was 15), a doctor "arranging" my naked breasts against a cold X-ray screen (I was 16-in a different country-and didn't discover that this was not typical practice until another student had the same exam), stalkings, grabs, yanks, pokes, and numerous nicknames at school-from students and teachers.



Nacel.InContentBanner.5-2016

This is an era crowded with breast references, iconography and obsession: Internet porn, implants, pink ribbons lighting up entire skyscrapers, "I love boobies" bracelets, radio lyrics shouting out "titties" and an overabundance of hormones in the milk linked to earlier onset of puberty.

My breasts have been useful: They have nursed and nourished two astounding babies, and they provided aesthetic inspiration when I was an artist's model.

But today, right this minute, I am going to affirm that my breasts are mine. Not for doctors, pervy photographers, lechers, deranged in-laws, surgeons or assertions from a shopkeep.

Breasts are, of course, natural. And these ones are naturally mine.

Elizabeth Burns is a poet and the author of "TILT: Every Family Spins on Its Own Axis." She lives in St. Louis Park.

Editor's note: This essay was published previously online at thefeministwire.com




What's on your mind?
For writers' guidelines, go to www.womenspress.com. Choose "WritersGuidelines" from the AboutUs menu. Email your 450-word personal essay to editor@womenspress.com.






Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Required
Last Name:
Required
Telephone:
Required
Email:
Required
Comment:
Required
Passcode:
Required
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.
   



Advanced Search
search sponsored by







<April>
SMTWTFS
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

UpRootFarm.ROSbanner.12-2014

Home | Features | Commentary | ReadersWrite | e-Edition | Get A Copy | Calendar | Classifieds | Advertise | Women's Directory | BookWomen | Extras | Life
Minnesota Women's Press, Inc., 651-646-3968
Site Design and Content
Copyright 2016
1up!

Software © 1998-2016 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved