Maria Stuart

Maria Stuart
Location
Howell, Michigan, USA
Birthday
February 17
Bio
Maria Stuart is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer. She lives in Michigan with her husband, their teenage son, and Ted, the hyper labradoodle who keeps her from sitting at the computer too long. You can check out her website at mariastuart.com or TheLivingstonPost.com. Follow @mariastuart on Twitter.

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
JUNE 25, 2009 9:58AM

My breast friends — I'm sticking with them

Rate: 21 Flag

images One night I went to sleep a fifth-grader with tiny bumps on my chest and woke up the next morning with breasts rivaling those of tennis star Simona Halep. I exaggerate just a bit, of course, but it’s more truth than fiction.

Simona Halep has folks talking because of her plans for breast reduction surgery; her large (reportedly 34DD) breasts get in the way of her tennis game. Everyone, it seems, has some sort of opinion on the young athlete’s decision.

I feel her discomfort, and no one should judge her decision without first walking a mile (or an entire day) with her breasts.

While breasts carry deep, primal meaning — they nourish; they inspire; they comfort; they arouse; they attract great and sometimes weird attention — they also hold physical implications, limitations and complications for their owners.

The words we use to describe breasts are so telling: When you talk about bosoms, you conjure up images of comfort and intimacy and love. You cradle a child to your bosom, the place from which America and apple pie also spring. Boobs are what Girls Gone Wild flash carelessly in a misguided effort to achieve some sort of star status while appealing to the most prurient interests of testosterone-raging males; boobs also describe testosterone-raging men who can’t get their eyes off a woman’s breasts. No one goes to Hooters to ponder democracy, and tits go hand-in-hand with ass.

The world is simply dysfunctional about breasts. Much like the approach the three bears took to their porridge, breasts are either too big, too small, or just right. And what’s just right for one person isn’t right for someone else.

Discomfort is the reality of big breasts: the backaches; the sore shoulders from bras that lift and separate and minimize and support; and, of course, dealing with some men (but that’s a post for another day).

On top of backaches and other challenges, it’s also a struggle to find properly fitting clothes. I can’t think of a fashion designer who creates stylish clothing that flatters super-endowed women.

I live this truth. But don’t just take my word for it – ask any woman who is at least a DD. They’ll tell you how difficult it is to shop for clothing — especially professional wear — that fits just so. Necklines are too low, the drape is usually wrong, bra straps show, and jackets never button properly. After a severe safety-pin malfunction in my teenage years, I learned to sew closed shirts that button up the front and then slip them on and off over my head.

I’ve worn an off-the-shoulder dress just once in my life, when I was a bridesmaid. It was a frighteningly Mother Nature-esque, white, billowing gown with elastic around the neckline and waist. Going bra-less wasn’t an option for this girl in that dress, so I hunted desperately for a strapless bra. I ended up at a high-end department store. The saleswoman raised an eyebrow when I asked whether they carried strapless bras in my size.

“We’ve got some specialty bras in the back,” she said. “Let me take a look for you.”

She emerged with a big, strapless bra that was not only underwired, but “boned,” which meant it had wide wires running up the sides, presumably to keep it in place.

That bra looked big and stiff and scary, like some sort of medieval torture device. On top of that, I couldn’t grasp the physics of it; it seemed impossible to contain my breasts by supporting them only from the bottom. But the saleswoman was confident in her product. “If this boned bra won’t do it, nothing will,” she said.

So I bought it.

While the bra was excrutiatingly uncomfortable — I felt like I couldn’t breathe deeply — it seemed at first to do its job quite nicely. Then, as I began my march down the aisle, I felt the bra shift in such a way that I knew my breasts had begun fighting for independence from the cruel undergarment. I worried they would win.

I was almost down the aisle when the bra surrendered and flopped, not over, but straight forward; it was like that damn bra was presenting my breasts for inspection. I spent the ceremony keeping everything in place by holding my bridesmaid’s flowers tightly to my chest.

While that was the first and last “boned” and strapless bra I’ll ever purchase, I regularly wore bras with underwire for support, and wide shoulder straps for a modicum of comfort. There were many a time, by the end of the day, that my shoulders were grooved from the straps and the area under my breasts sore from the stiffness of the underwire. As most people kick off their shoes the minute they get home from work, I am expert at unhooking and snaking off my bra without disturbing any other clothing.

But even the dependable underwire can malfunction.

I was in the midst of a raucous evening in a bar during the annual convention of the professional association for which I worked at the time. It was one of those magical evenings that stay in the mind long after they’re done, a party resplendent with great energy and perfect karma.

I took a break from dancing to chat with an association acquaintance, a lovely gentleman who had always treated me professionally and with great respect. As I sat down, I noticed he was staring at my chest. This man had never done anything like that before. Never.

I felt confused and uncomfortable. I hoped he’d break his gaze away from my chest and look at my face, but no doing.

Finally, I glanced down.

There, rising out from my sweater was the underwire from my bra, emerging from my clothing like a radio antenna in search of better reception, or a periscope desperate for a better view. Frankly, I was surprised it hadn’t stabbed me in the chin and drawn blood. That wire must have worked its way loose and tried to make a run for it while I was dancing.

The man saw me look down and notice the obvious wire protruding from my sweater. There wasn’t much more to do but laugh. Or was there?

Fueled by alcohol and the weirdness of the sight, I seized the wire and pulled it the rest of the way out. I marveled at its size and curve, both testament to its power. I had never seen an underwire from a bra before; it resembled an ancient, thin, sharp, hand-held weapon fully capable of decapitating a man in a single slice.

“No sense anyone getting hurt,” I joked.

So, my breasts have been uncomfortable for me throughout my life, but I soldiered though, confident in the hope that nature gave them to me for a reason.

When I gave birth to my only child, I thought I’d finally realize why I’ve carried these breasts around all my life. I imagined a flow of milk to rival Niagara Falls. Heck, I figured I’d be able to nurse my child and provide power to my town.

But that wasn’t meant to be.

My big breasts produced but a miniscule amount of milk.

I was dumbfounded, let-down. My doctor recommended drinking beer to relax me and stimulate milk production; it didn’t help.

Then, she recommended an electric breast pump. “Maybe you just need to get in the habit of producing milk regularly,” she said, so I rented a machine from the hospital supply store.

I hooked up to that noisy machine and pumped every two hours, ’round the clock, for a month. The only thing that increased was my frustration, so I supplemented my baby’s diet with formula. And he’s growing up just fine, thank you.

These days, I seek comfort rather than perkiness, eschewing underwire for “soft-cup” bras that do the trick nearly as well without the level of discomfort and occasional element of surprise.

While I’m going through with my original equipment, I have several similarly endowed friends who’ve opted for breast reduction surgery. I do not judge. In all honesty, I understand their decision, even though I’ve never considered reduction surgery for myself. They’re my breasts, after all, and I’m sticking with them.

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Two recent OS posts got me to thinking about breasts. Travis D’Arby writes about Simona Haleps’ breast reduction plans (http://open.salon.com/blog/travis_darby/2009/06/02/should_tennis_star_simona_haleps_have_34dd_breasts_reduced); and OEsheepdog wonders why there’s so much cleavage on parade: (http://open.salon.com/blog/oesheepdog/2009/06/24/whats_with_all_the_cleavage_lately).
This paragraph was priceless and belongs in a scene of a movie:

"There, rising out from my sweater was the underwire from my bra, emerging from my clothing like a radio antenna in search of better reception, or a periscope desperate for a better view. Frankly, I was surprised it hadn’t stabbed me in the chin and drawn blood. That wire must have worked its way loose and tried to make a run for it while I was dancing."

On the other hand, I have an equally difficult time finding tops that fit because there is an assumption by designers that most of us are running around with ample C cups, and I am not. As for the surgery, I have an easier time understanding breast reduction than augmentation, but that's a whole other issue.

Very well written and with many laughs, too!
I've lived that underwire thing more than once. Damn does hurt when it stabs all day.

The older I get, the more I have a crush on my breasts. I did not feel that way when I was younger and they were at their finest. I guess I grew into them.

I totally support any woman who goes for a reduction, because you're right, we don't know how it feels.

Good writing, thanks.

PS. When a garment is described as 'boned'? Run.
I feel your pain, but, oh, did this make me laugh!

How I have always longed to be one of those "champagne glass" breasted girls.
Love this! Even though I've never suffered with the largesse you describe, I have great sympathy for those that do. A friend was working as a waitress when she experienced a similar underwire protrusion, and the customer's stare was what made her see it - thinking quickly, she repeated his order into the tip of it, as though it were a mike, then made her escape.

Wonderful writing, as always.

BTW - I think Verbal Remedy wrote a piece on bras that might interest you, if you haven't caught it already!
Fascinating reading!

Based on what I have seen and from having been with a babe with this problem a few years back, it seems best to not wear a bra and go with layers. Even when leaning over it is difficult for us guys to see all the way to nipple.


I hope the man in your life appreciates them.
Thanks for sharing your side of the story. It's always good to carry around a sense of humor about the things that weigh down our lives!
Wonderful post, beautifully written -- by another laid-off journalist (I feel your pain in that area as well). I agree with WakingUpSlowly about that crush on yourself that comes with age. I feel gratitude for my ample bosom now that I never felt when I was younger. Particularly as one beloved friend after another goes under the knife for reasons that have nothing to do with comfort -- the big "C." Every time another friend gets it, I hug myself and thank the universe for my healthy bosom.
I can only laugh and laugh. Your life sounds a whole lot like mine. Bra-shopping, wires, men staring. And safety-pin malfunctions! I am a professional at pinning my blouses. Thank you for sharing this side of the story. Loved it!
Well constructed post. Good job.
I know a woman who underwent breast reduction surgery in her early twenties. She lived with her quite large size all through high school and got to a point a few years later where she was experiencing back pain. She told me she wanted them smaller but her doctor recommended against it saying she would be better off "being in proportion" whatever that means. She is happy with them now and, in my humble opinion, looks just fine. My sympathies to women of any size that have to deal with the decision making involved in bra shopping.
Well, I can't share any comparable, or contradictory, experiences, but I quite enjoyed this!
I laughed, I cried, I sympathized. At least a little. My D's are plenty large enough for me, thanks.
Maria -- Thanks for the shout out. I empathize with what you been through.
Maria, if you're happy, I'm happy.
My personal doctor for many years was also a renowned plastic surgeon. One day we were chatting over lunch and talking about all the breasts that he had enhanced and other procedures he had done, when I asked him what was the procedure that had the highest rate of "customer satisfaction" if you will, he answered without hesitation, breast reduction. He often performed it for free for young women whose lives were miserable because of their oversized breasts.

Well written post Maria. It is ironic that finall,y when the opportunity comes to use those breasts for the purpose for which they were intended they fail you. It's not unusual either. Big is not always better. You certainly tried and I'm sure your child will turn out just fine.
I just have to say to Ablonde, your doctor is a saint!

And Smithery, the surgeons never want to make you as small as you want to be. They're guys. They impose their aesthetics. Ah, well, take what you can get.

I loved this post. I never could were wires until I got mine trimmed. The pain of wires was just too much. When you're smaller, the wires don't hurt. Who knew?
Oh, I hear ya. I learned much too late to treat my breast like feet. I don't buy cheap shoes, or cheap bras. It's the one clothing I really invest money in and it makes a huge difference to my well being. No matter how much money I spend on good French made bras, I'm sure it's not as much as surgery would cost. And I'm not even sure surgery would make a difference to women suffering from crappy North American bras.
From a fellow DD, I feel your pain! My breasts started becoming noticeable when I was 8, and quickly became a source of playground distress. Man, there is nothing like a taunting 5th grade boy to set the tone for a lifetime of ambivalent breast feelings. I can totally understand a tennis pro wanting to not have them in her way. Weren't the Amazons reported to all cut off their left breast, because it got in the way of their archery?
"No one goes to Hooters to ponder democracy."
"...emerging from my clothing like a radio antenna in search of better reception."
"I figured I'd be able to nurse my child and provide power to my town."
My oh my, the economic woes in Michigan have certainly produced a silver lining for the readers of OS. You are one great writer!
Thanks for the comments, everyone. I suppose there are worse things in this world to be cranking about today in light of all that's happened.

Hey, Juliet, do you have a web site for your French bras? I am intrigued (and desperate for some comfort).
last week i had a very vivid dream that i had undergone an elective mastectomy on my 42dd breasts. in my dream i was thrilled to simply wear camisoles or men's white shirts over jeans - when i woke up i was sharply disappointed for just a second. great post, rated.
The lily is a herb with a white flower.
And the leaves of the flower are white
yet within shines the likeness of gold.
Barthomaeus Angelicus, 13th century.

I forgot why I wrote that. I shut the computer off. sometimes that 'light blue' coloring and the window on the contraption goes wacky. I can't prove what I'd say ...
My Mamma & Pappy say:`...
If you can't remember who,
why, what, where, I, you, she,
he, shit, dang, say ... go pew?
go sit at clapboard potty pout.
pout chair to stew and shit up?
No. 'um say:`Pawn the junk 2!
So, I went to tim buck too! No!
Shut! Off gadget! ay pot lucks!
Parties are lil' 'cottage' groups.
Mennonites shuck peas. 'um do.
They sings, eat, and fellowships.
`
(therapy i)
I am being taught the cross stitch on an even weave fabric. I love my little lines piece of territory, its threads and pattern with regarded boundaries.
It rest my mind from all intrusions--
the grab, snap, rip -
the unraveling at the borders.
No one wants my cloth -

my simple yellow flowers. Susan Hahn
So, good morning. This was where I quit.
I forgot what I was originally going to say.
The computer goes wacky and I heehaw it.
-
Oh? I thought this was gonna be Women Only?
The doctor at John Hopkins wrote in # Rx notes:`
This gentleman has mild fatty breast. I'm Serious.
What's that mean? Never mind. Mine seem normal?
I saw Owl_Says_Who was here & that when I scrammed.
The computer was as goofy as a hoot. So sorry I was cranky.
I slept like a fed baby. You can delete if this is not appropriate.
this is so well written. Casual, sly, informative, and your Voice is accessible, neighborly w/o being cloying, authoritative.

And droll. I love droll.

You bring humanity to an area, er, subject, that we men tend to consider reductively, about women overall and individuals. Ah hell. You know what I mean. Thanks for this.
Greg -- thank you. And I do know what you mean!
Wonderful piece. You bring humanity to what we men consider eye candy. Yes, I realize lugging around DDs is a pain, but they're just so beautiful to look at. It seems like a shame to have them reduced. Guess that's just the guy in me. :)
Rated for putting so much, so well, into words experiences that I (38DD) have felt (minus breastfeeding since I never had kids). The underwire incident alone was worth the price of admission ;-)

Your writing style reminds me of Dave Barry, which is, in my mind, a Very Good Thing.
bahHMMblog – I’ve had a similar dream. Hey, that was a wild post on your Target shoes!
Arthur – Certainly appropriate.
Travis – Thanks for the comment, and the inspiration.
Montanarose – Wow! Thanks for the big compliment.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it?

"My doctor recommended drinking beer " Man! Sounds like my kinda doctor.

My wwife often complains about the back issue. I imagine this would be a tough world to live in

I feel your pain breast lady, just not for the same reasons.:-)