breast reduction

Graphic by Joaquin Kunkel

I need to get this off my chest

Is it about living a practical life or is it about wanting to fit into the beauty standards that we are all bombarded with?

I have big boobs. They have been big for a while now and I still can’t decide whether that fact has been fortunate or not. On the one hand, they have become the best pillow for all those who travel with me. On the other hand, there is the constant back pain, the never-ending quest for bras that actually fit, the fact that guys seem to forget that they should look me in the eyes when they talk to me, the fact that I will always look a bit bigger or fatter than I actually am, the nightmare of finding a dress that makes me look like neither a nun nor a prostitute and last and perhaps worst, being constantly referred to as the girl with big boobs, as if it were my most defining feature. I like to think that there is much more to me than the size of my breasts.
In one of my many rants about my breasts, my mother asked me whether I had thought about having breast reduction surgery. I brushed it off at first, but then I started imagining my world with breasts that were a little more in proportion to my tiny body. I started to love the idea of a world where I did not have to hold my chest whenever I ran, a world where I did not have to be constantly checking my cleavage, a world where I could go braless. And most important of all, a world without back pain. I started doing some research into the the surgery and it made me freak out. Would I be in bed for a whole month? If I ever have kids, would I be able to breastfeed them? Would my breasts be replaced by silicone? Would I have enormous scars all around my chest? Would I lose sensitivity? How would I find the money to pay for it? Would my nipples be weird? The internet can, at times, be your worst enemy.
This summer I went to a plastic surgeon to get some real answers. I wanted an educated opinion on whether the surgery was medically necessary for my back or if I was just getting too attached to the idea of my world without large breasts. As I took the robe off in front of the doctor, his first comment was, “Your breasts really are too big for your back.” He examined the unnatural curvature in my shoulders from the bra straps, and he measured and measured and measured. He told me my back was too small for my breasts. He told me where the scars would be and what exactly he would do; I would not have silicone breasts. Fully clothed and back in his office, the doctor proudly said, “I would be able to give you beautiful boobs, it’s up to you.” Wait a minute. Why aren’t they beautiful now?
Ever since my appointment with the plastic surgeon, I continue to ask myself why I want this surgery or why I don’t want it. I play the thought over and over again in my head: You need this surgery, your back needs it, it is medically necessary. But is it? Am I trying to convince myself that I need this surgery when in reality I just want to make my life easier while going for a run? Is it about living a practical life or is it about wanting to fit into the beauty standards that we are all bombarded with?
I am not going to deny it — I would love to fit into those low-cut dresses without looking seriously provocative. I have wanted it to the extent that in freshman year I went through a crazy fitness phase which ended in me weighing 49 kilos and still not feeling comfortable in my own skin. I remember looking at myself in the mirror, wishing my breasts would be tiny because maybe then I would have the body I was striving for. With time I noticed that in reality, that wasn't the body I truly wanted — it was the body I thought I was supposed to want. I realized that my fitness phase was all about trying to fit into a beauty standard that my chest size would never conform to.
The idea of going through such a dramatic change just to have people look me in the eyes or to fit into an arbitrary standard of beauty is disturbing in many ways. Why do I have to change something about my body just to change how people perceive me? Why would I have to change my body just to make navigating this world easier? Why the hell would a doctor say my breasts are not beautiful?
To be honest, it’s not only about beauty, it’s about comfort as well. Why can’t I be comfortable with my breasts just as they are? Clearly, it’s not just a matter of physical discomfort — it goes beyond that. It is being looked at in a certain matter that creates the biggest discomfort. I question whether I would be considering the surgery at all if I hadn’t been constantly singled out because of the size of my chest. Chances are that I wouldn’t. The issue at play here is the people around me. If it were only about me, my guess is that I would have solved this issue of having big breasts a long time ago.
This issue I’ve had with my body is that every guy decides to look straight at my chest instead of my eyes, people think it is okay to refer to me as the girl with big boobs and the media tells us the way in which we should be beautiful. In my case, I have big breasts, but body image issues can also be about having a large nose, curvy hips, short legs, chubby cheeks — the list goes on and on. Do we ever reflect on how our actions affect how people feel about their bodies, bodies that they never chose to have? I say it is time to do so.
Part of me still wants to have that body that will fit into those low-cut dresses. Another part of me wants to have this surgery only if it will lead me to a healthier life. But the greater part of me wishes that this weren’t an issue at all, and that I wouldn’t feel the urge to write an article about it. That part of me wishes that I were completely comfortable in my own skin, big breasts and all. Maybe the surgery is a good idea. Maybe it’s not completely medically necessary but still a good idea. One thing I know for sure: if I do it, I hope it will be for myself, not because of how this world makes me feel about my body.
Natalia Cruz Monjaraz is a contributing writer. Email her at
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