The other day, I was in therapy, discussing this issue of the body. (Side note, every time I say the term "the body" I think of this art history professor I had in college, who in discussions would always say it like this: the bauuuuddddeee. At least five syllables.)
I was talking about the different things I was planning to do (almost none of which have I actually done yet, btw). And then just expressed my frustration at the fact that at 28, I had finally worked out a lot of the adolescent body issues.
"It was the best I felt about my body since I was like 11," I said.
"What happened when you were 11?" she asked.
And I smiled, and said, "I got boobs."
Perhaps this was obvious to everyone except me, but I had issues with this, let's call it a region, for a while. I developed early, and noticeably, and I wasn't really into it. In 5th grade I was still collecting proofs of purchase from my horse figurines to send in for a limited edition Grand Champion.
I had crushes and stuff, too, but I was happy to keep them firmly planted outside of reality. When, the next year, the boys in my class ranked all the girls by breast size, assigning each one a corresponding fruit (mine were apples) I felt pretty strange. I was stuck in this weird world, of still trying to be a kid and occasionally wearing the matchy kiddish outfits my mom would buy, and just trying to hide what was happening -- usually by wearing my brother's old tshirts and jeans. (Retreating to the arms of menswear -- sound familiar?)
By 14, I was more ready for things, but still not totally. I was tall and wearing a d cup by then, and I guess I looked a lot older than I was. But even still, far too young for the older men who would chat me up while I was reading Seventeen magazine. I felt scared and ashamed.
But then I guess I learned the other side of it, or I learned that it was what boys liked. (My middle school boyfriend was mostly interested in pawing at my chest in movie theaters.)
So looking good meant showing a bit of tit, though I was never comfortable with very much.
(When I was trying on wedding dresses, I struggled with the several inches of cleavage that seemed unavoidable. When I balked, the saleswoman suggested something called "a modesty panel." Oy.)
So scared and ashamed. But also trying to understand the power of that body part in some what.
Anyway, after about 15 years I sorted most of it out for myself. At least to the point where the comfort outweighed the shame. I still hated that I couldn't sleep on my stomach, and the multiple sports bras I had to wear when I went jogging, and that I couldn't rely on a button down oxford to keep shit PG. But it was okay.
Then cancer. And damn.
When I posted before about the struggles I was having with body image, I was sad to get several comments from other women, commiserating, and sharing their own feelings. (There's a weird sad/glad feeling, when you meet someone dealing with the same thing as you. Relieved that I'm not alone, but sad that there are others dealing with the bullshit.)
It also made me angry. I am beginning to realize that the problem is incredibly common -- yet very little discussed. "Problems with body image" usually ends of far down on a bulleted list of emotional side effects of breast cancer, with no further explanation or resources offered.
I feel like we're just left to fend for ourselves here. Post-treatment support is fairly scant across the board, I guess, but still.
In a word, blerg.