In October, I finally found a way to cure my body image issues. And you'll never believe where I was when it happened.
First the back story: I was raised in a Catholic family where Mother's definition of modesty meant that I dressed in a uniquely Southern blend of Pilgrim-style muslin and old lady floral couch fabric. Even when I wore a size 6 (my currently-size-12 heart sighs at that number) and had a measurement of 36C, my breasts were no more visible than my spleen or my lungs. My butt might have been there, or it might have been the two thousand yards of fabric gathered at my back by a droopy bow. If I weren't aiming for the title of Miss Mayflower, 1623, I aspired to boy sailor - with voluminous knee-length and impossibly unflattering shorts and horizontal striped shirts.
The globular masses perched on my pectoral muscles might as well have been five-horned aliens from the planet Splort with the way I felt about them. Because I developed earlier and to a larger dimension than other girls, in gym class I would look in awe at their perky, pointy breasts and wonder what it would be like to run without feeling a constant, extra surge of gravity pulling my front down.
Once out of college, I began making the transition to 'normal people' clothes. Shirts that might be open all the way to the top of the valley between my boobs. Turtlenecks that clung rather than flopping like sails ready for a good wind to take the boat out to sea. But still, I felt like the front top half of me was some other person's. I have been married to a wonderfully loving man for 8 1/2 years. We've been together for 11. And he has been trying to convince me that I have a beautiful figure for that entire time, and that I should own it.
My perception of myself changed at a bachelor/bachelorette party weekend in Las Vegas. I decided to travel with the bachelor and his groomsmen, making me one of three ladies dining at a fabulous steakhouse and then destined for a strip club. I had never been to a strip club. They seemed like mystical places, a little dark and foreboding, where men objectified women and women made enough money to get their law degrees from that objectification. 2011, though, was a year when I never let uncertainty stop me from trying something new.
I wore a halter top that I bought that day - loose and blousy, but open in the back in a way that made me feel like I might look sexy. We walked into a place off the strip - 9 guys, 3 girls - into this dark-paneled, candle-lit place with booths discreetly masked with big swaths of velvet drape. Hubby and the guys immediately made an arrangement for our group to have the farthest booth.
And I entered a world I had never dreamed of - one where other women admired my breasts! How could this be happening! Each of the strippers that came by was paid to give me a lap dance - scandalous to this Southern girl, and amazing! When they found out my boobs were real, they would dance with me and fondle them like they were works of art. One incredibly slender, athletic and beautiful girl even reached over to randomly grab them while she was giving a lap dance to one of the guys in our party.
Perhaps you are thinking that this is a salacious tale, and I guess that there are certainly elements of that within my story. But the far bigger story, from my perspective, was how the objectification of my body, size 12 and all, by a group of beautiful women I'd never met and would never see again, made me realize that I'm beautiful, just the way I am.