My seventeen-year-old daughter takes after me and my sisters, in that she has a large chest. In junior high, I was a D cup and soon blossomed into an E cup. I hated my chest when I was young and wanted better for her, so I’ve tried to do things for her that weren’t available to me.
When she was thirteen, I took her for a bra fitting. When the sweet lady who measured her wrote down her size so she could keep it in her purse. My daughter’s eyes widened as she looked at the paper, “I can’t believe it,” she said. She’d gone from wearing a training bra to the largest size most stores carried in less than a year. She was small or size zero everywhere else but her chest.
I wore minimizer bras when I was her age because they’d smash me down and made me look smaller. She picked out pretty lace bras, push-up bras, and low-cut sports bras. She liked the size of her breasts; she loved herself, and she felt zero need to hide them. I was so happy she felt this way but she was in for a rude awakening. Lots of people have had something to say about the size of her chest. There were days it felt as if everyone was conspiring to make her feel like crap over a body part she had no control over.
When she was in the 8th grade, I regularly got calls from school. I heard it all: she was wearing something too tight, too low cut or something that showed a bra strap. She got pulled into the office a few times for wearing the exact same top as one of her friends, who had a smaller chest. She would come home feeling ashamed of herself.
I told the school she wasn’t breaking any dress code rules and to stop bringing her into a private room to tell her what she was wearing wasn’t appropriate. Eventually, the calls stopped. I also encouraged her to continue to wear what she liked and what made her comfortable. Tight-fitting tank tops and T-shirts were in. Why shouldn’t my daughter be able to wear that? Why should she have to wear something the rest of her body swims in?
When my ex-husband called me one morning after school drop-off to tell me he wasn’t sure “what we should do with her because she likes to wear tight shirts,” it didn’t go over well with me.
“So, she’s supposed to wear a tent to hide her chest even though she’s tiny and doesn’t feel good in something like that because you are worried about what people will think of her?” I wanted him to see that she was dressing like everyone else and there was only one difference — she had a bigger chest. All he was doing was shaming her for a body part she couldn’t control.
He paused and said he did see my point admitting it was hard to see her looking so grown up and worried people were going to sexualize her. “You mean like you just did?” I asked. That was the last time he brought it up.
Growing up, I got the biggest shirts I could find, trying to hide my chest. All my friends had these tiny budding breasts and didn’t even have to wear a bra with certain things. Then there was me wearing a compression bra that was so uncomfortable and made me sweat, and clothes that were too big for me to hide my body. I was self-conscious and uncomfortable and I had low self-esteem.
Not my child, she is confident in her body. But she doesn’t understand why her friends are not reprimanded for wearing the same shirts she likes to wear. Instead of letting it bring her down, she speaks up about it. I never could have done that. The last thing I want for her to feel the same way I did as a teen.
When she went to the homecoming dance her freshman year, I lost it when my friend’s mother asked me about her dress. It was short, red, low cut, and looked fantastic on her. But it wasn’t as low cut or as short as her friend’s dresses. As they all stood next to each other to have their pictures taken my friend’s mom (who had come along to get pictures of her granddaughter) whispered to me, “Oh my goodness, what are you going to do about your daughter? Should we pin that dress?”
I tried to be polite, but I firmly told her absolutely not, that she looked great and she better not breathe a word about pinning anything around her.
I’m freaking over people making comments about the clothes she wears and making her feel like she doesn’t have the right to certain outfits because she has big breasts. Everyone seems to be worried about what people will think about her but really, they should be worried about what people will think of them for sounding like a judgy idiot.
She is good with herself and I will continue to encourage her to wear whatever she wants. Everyone else needs to be good with it, too — and find something else to comment on.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.