How The Project Got Started...
The history of The Breast Archives begins when I am eleven. I was one of those early bloomers who had gotten my period before I really even knew what a period was, and whose once-flat chest bloomed overnight into an enormous, glorious bosom, the kind I had marveled at in grown up women just a year before. It was embarrassing and stressful. Boys and girls looked at me sideways, and I noticed the gaze of older men suddenly below my eye level. As a woman, I can look back at this with tenderness for my young self. But back then I was a kid, and no one had talked to me about my breasts—how they might get me more attention, how they might hurt, how boys would want to touch them. Nothing. So, I did what most kids do, I swallowed my feelings and tried as best as I could to conform.
For me, conforming meant lessening their size, so I began a meticulous swaddling routine everyday before school, wrapping my breasts tightly in layers of clothing to control and minimize their outward appearance. I remember this ritual vividly. It began with a teeny, undersized bra, which I then covered with a turtle neck, a button up shirt and a sweater. Presto, I was flattened.
"Not only did I now have bigger breasts than any girl I knew, I was also deformed! It was devastating...
This minimization process worked very well. However, it had the unintended consequence of causing my nipples to invert. So, not only did I now have bigger breasts than any girl I knew, I was also deformed! It was devastating to be reminded daily that I had brought this upon myself…
As I grew older, it was the inverted nipples that caused me my greatest dismay. I worried my lovers would think I was misshapen and wouldn’t find me attractive. I worried that if I had children, I wouldn’t be able to feed them. In my mind, I had a major defect and was, at some rudimentary level, unlovable.
Over time, of course, I grew wiser. I was told by gracious lovers and good friends that my breasts were natural and fine, but it never sunk in. The ideas we have about ourselves in childhood are hard to reason away. So, even as a successful woman with a bright career and lots to look forward to, there was this lingering, omnipresent belief that my body was strange and abnormal and therefore I was never going to be loved the way I needed to be loved. If I’m honest, I carry this weight with me even today.
"There was this lingering, omnipresent belief that my body was strange and abnormal and therefore I was never going to be loved the way I needed to be loved."
Curious, and indignant, and full of love, the next step for me is to use The Breast Archives as a launching pad for change. I don’t want any young girl to go through what I did or what most women go through regarding their breasts (far more women than we realize). I want our daughters to feel proud of their bodies, to love themselves fully, and to march into life with confidence and grace. I want boys and men to understand how women’s breasts are self-defining and how they can help to build us up. I want mothers and daughters to talk. I want doctors to understand a woman’s body story is deeply connected to her health.
In the next few years, I am going to lead this change and talk about this a lot. Please contact me if you’d like me to visit your school, radio show, conference, or film festival.