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Nora Ephron: On small boobs

May 10, 2013

[Credit: CC Flickr, Matt Hurst]

[Credit: CC Flickr, Matt Hurst]

Halterneck tops. Bandeau bikinis. A total inability to wear backless dresses without serious (and potentially expensive) breast harnessing. Car seatbelt dilemmas. The constant risk of looking like a shelf if you wear high-necked tops, but looking ‘vulgar’ if you wear low cut ones. The need to put a strappy top under every single V-necked item of clothing. The sheer lack of effectiveness of pretty much any bra when doing any kind of exercise. Expensive bras. Back-ache. Posture problems. Unwanted attention; harassment; men talking at your chest rather than your face. The list goes on.

Yep, if you have big boobs, it can be extremely tempting to imagine that a smaller, perter bust would be more than helpful . Indeed, a cursory search through Twitter shows larger-boobed ladies everywhere lamenting that big isn’t necessarily better.

View my Storify Twitter story: “Twitter: On small boobs”

And yet. Another search term, ‘small boobs’, shows that far from championing their smaller, more manageable, more-dressable bosoms, smaller-sized women aren’t happy either. And it’s not as if Twitter is the cause – nay, as with everything, it’s merely a new outlet for this long-felt source of frustration.

In a world where bigger boobs are often seen as far superior (witness Page 3, Wonderbra, etc), it’s little wonder that the smaller variety have been bemoaned for years. It’s certainly a difficult topic whichever side of the fence you’re on, with ‘larger’ seen as ‘glamour’, ‘kiss-me-quick’ and bordering on vulgar, and ‘smaller’ seen as somehow unfeminine, embarrassing, ‘boy-like’, child-like, or epitomising the cut-throat world of high fashion, where big boobs simply aren’t part of the equation.

But me, feel sorry for people with smaller boobs? “Sorry,” I would have said had you asked me a week ago, “I’m too busy strapping my bust down and trying to find a top that doesn’t hang like a tent to care.”

And yet, while reading some Nora Ephron the other day (the late, great, legendary writer of films such as When Harry Met Sally, and brilliant treatises on the irrational relationship women can have about their bodies, such as I Feel Bad About My Neck), I came across “A Few Words About Breasts”, an essay Ephron wrote about her teenaged struggle to accept her tiny chest as her own.

Under the poignant and almost gratingly-honest prose (about growing up boobless in the 1960s) I began to think that maybe, small-boobed women might have an argument. What is it like, I then asked my friend Antonia, having small boobs? “I’d prefer bigger ones”, she said, at length. Suddenly, I began to see where the small-boobed brigade was coming from.

Ephron on boobs

Because right from the beginning, Ephron is characteristically candid. “I have to begin with a few words about androgyny,” she says, hinting that she had, tragically, believed that her small boobs rendered her less of a woman. While this is obviously untrue, it is the heartfelt insecurities about her identity that make themselves sadly clear.

Breasts, a teenaged Ephron felt, would make her “an indisputable girl”. Their visibility made them the clearest signal of being a woman, and with that came all the attendant rubbish that teenage girls peddle about sexuality and body image (“You’ll get them after you’re married”, Ephron’s friend said. Huh?)

This, of course, sent young Ephron into a spin of insecurity about what boys might think (Which, we all know, isn’t a good road to travel.) A thoughtless, ridiculous comment from her then-boyfriend’s mother helped none.

Big boobed women: full of shit?

[Credit: CC Flickr, YourSecretAdmiral]

[Credit: CC Flickr, YourSecretAdmiral]

As an adult, a still-flat chested Ephron still struggled. “The two of us together couldn’t fill an A-cup,” said a “minor celebrity” to a random bloke at a party Ephron attended in East Hampton. “It isn’t even true, dammit!” says Ephron. “Why say that? Is she even more addled than I am on the subject?”

And while saying that her worries are “exaggerated” and “peculiar”, she is also clear that “If I had had [breasts], I would have been a completely different person”.

Complainers like me are given short shrift. Women “with nice, big breasts”, wrote Ephron, “would go on endlessly about how their lives had been far more miserable than mine. Their bra straps were snapped in class. They couldn’t sleep on their stomachs. They were stared at whenever the word “mountain” cropped up in geography.”

“They had a terrible time of it, they assure me,” she says. “I have thought about their remarks, and considered their point of view. I think,” she concludes, “that they are full of shit”.

Nora Ephron: The small-boobed woman’s salvation?! She does, eventually, admit that men didn’t seem to mind at all (well, thank GOD for that), but, more importantly, after all that, she did finally come to see that her breasts were “just right”. Which, given the extent of her insecurities detailed in the essay, is heartening.

Because while this blog may have been born from frustration over having large boobs – it seems that all women, big or small, can have ‘issues’ about their bosoms. And if anyone can show me the other side of the coin, it’s Ephron.

So here’s to boobs, whatever size they happen to be.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2013 6:09 pm

    Having had both (my big girls came with pregnancy) – I can say many days I miss my itty bitties. I had friends with large breasts, and I heard their laments. I never wanted more, though admitted it might be fun.

    That said, being larger suits my frame. What they’ve done to my wallet, closet and psyche do not suit me at all.

    Mother Nature is a bitch sometimes.

  2. Valter permalink
    July 1, 2013 1:31 am

    The real problem is, human beings would like to have it all. And they think that having what they have not, would make them happier and spare them the pain.
    Thus, everybody envy others, thinking the “grass is greener” on the other side. Forgetting that every coin has two sides.
    Of course, small boobs have pros and cons; AND big boobs have pros and cons as well. It shouldn’t be that hard to get. 🙂

    Thinking that others “are full of shit” just because they do not have MY problem (and forgetting they might have different problems), is really egotistical and childish.
    And THAT – IMHO – is being “full of shit”. 😉

    IMO, the ultimate truth is: everybody suffer, everybody has problems, and nobody is happy or content all the time. Apart from people living in advertising. ;-P

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