Well, at least the T.

Some of you are probably wondering why I don’t call it TMI Tuesday anymore. Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is because I discovered there is an actual TMI Tuesday blog somewhere with weekly memes for people to post on their own blogs. A bigger reason is because, as I work on upgrading my website and blog, I’m trying to make the transition from blogging for my friends to blogging for a wider readership. But mostly it’s because I seem to be falling into a weekly blog pattern, and if I’m only blogging one day a week, I don’t want my whole blog to be TMI!

But just to prove I haven’t lost my heart for it all, today I’m blogging about breasts.

Last week, I told you a bit about Isabel, the heroine of A Lady of Persuasion, and I mentioned that she’s self-conscious about her body. Well, a lot of her self-conscious stems from her breasts, which she thinks are too large and indecent and just magnets for unwelcome attention. She’s a very modest, moral person, and she feels trapped in a figure that embodies sensuality and excess.

I took a lot of inspiration for this part of her character from my own adolescence – and now those of you who’ve met me are going to be saying to yourselves, “Um, Tessa, hate to break it to you – but they’re not that big. Nothing special, sweetie.” I know, I know. I’m certainly not as endowed as I imagine Isabel to be, but when I was a teenager, I was extremely self-conscious about my figure. Because most of those kinds of emotions aren’t particularly rational or rooted in fact. All it took was one skeevy guy on the street muttering “nice rack” to make me hide under baggy clothes for months. Now, of course, after giving birth twice and nursing two kids, I’d probably chase after that guy and thank him…but it was a difficult thing for me to learn to handle, this notion that men would look at my body and occasionally comment on it. Because I knew it meant even more guys were looking at my body and thinking things they weren’t rude enough to say aloud. And although I know this now to be just typically male behavior, when I was younger it somehow felt like a judgment on me as a person. Why didn’t some skeevy guy on the street mutter “nice personality”?

I don’t know, there were a lot of intense emotions stuffed in my bra throughout my teenage and young adult years. I think that’s why I was so determined to nurse my babies–I was bound and determined to get some use out of these things, after carrying them around half my life! And conveniently enough, that was the experience that finally cured me of any self-consciousness about them.

And I’m sure I was not alone, right? Breasts seem to be one of those “grass-is-always-greener” things. Women wish theirs were bigger, or smaller, or perkier, or whathaveyou. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (look, I even did research!) there were almost 350,000 breast augmentations done in 2007, up 6% from the year before, and breast reductions, while less frequent, are also growing in popularity. I don’t have any positions, pro or con, on the surgery – just that, if given the chance to change something about our bodies, a lot of women seem to opt for breasts.

Why are they such a big deal?

I have my own theories. I guess in my own experience, I’m inclined to think it’s because of this constant “sizing up” that goes on–perfect strangers looking you in the chest and giving the mental (or sometimes verbal) thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Becoming aware of it was really shocking for me, and then it took me years to just get over it and stop letting other people make me feel uncomfortable about my body. Also, breasts are a very sexualized body part and their function is tied to motherhood, so sex + mothering = lots of strong emotions.

But I’m sure there are as many answers to that question as there are women.

What do you think? Not just about breasts, necessarily, but body image in general. Is your relationship with your body love, hate, or some combination thereof? Has it changed through different phases of your life? Are you going to identify with Isabel?


In other news, my friend Maria Zannini has her first book releasing today, with Samhain Publishing! It’s a futuristic fantasy romance called Touch of Fire – I’ve read it, and I can tell you it’s sexy, funny, exciting, and awesome. Maria is a wonderful storyteller. And look at the fabulous cover! You can read more about it and an excerpt here.

I’ll pick one commenter at random to send a Samhain gift certificate for Touch of Fire. Enter by midnight Wednesday.

21 comments to “Putting the TMI back in Tuesday”

  1. MsHellion
    · May 20th, 2008 at 9:48 am · Link

    I have a love hate with my breasts. I love them because they finally SHOWED UP! Everyone had them when I was a teenager, and I had NADA. It was so demoralizing. All those teenage boys dismissing me because I didn’t have breasts. Or a personality.

    Now granted, they’re not that great now…but I’m happy for them. They’re nice. I still wish I didn’t have the belly below…or…well, we won’t go into the Body Bashing on this blog.

    The only thing I hated about them is that they showed up overnight, practically and I got stretchmarks. So I get running commentary for men, who you’d think would be a bit more grateful to be even be looking at breasts, like: “Why do you have stretchmarks? You don’t have kids. They’re kinda of ugly, aren’t they?” Yes, and your package is so attractive…

    It sometimes amazes me that some men get laid at all, you know?

  2. Tessa Dare
    · May 20th, 2008 at 9:59 am · Link

    Hellion, you’re cracking me up. I have the stretchmarks, too, although they’re pretty faint. But then I got new ones during pregnancy. But I’m with you – what guy is thankless enough to criticize breasts that have been bared for him? Sheesh.

    I think everyone in jr. high/high school was either feeling conspicuous because theirs had come in, or left out because theirs hadn’t. They’re just so darn front-and-center, you know? There’s no escaping them. 🙂

  3. Sara Lindsey
    · May 20th, 2008 at 10:03 am · Link

    Tessa, if you haven’t done so yet, read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. It’s a bit outdated and some of the statistics are, I believe, exaggerated, but it’s one of the most enlightening books I’ve read. It was one of the core texts in my women’s studies course, and I think every woman should read it.

    In one chapter, Wolf points out that many 19th century female novelists continue society’s dictate of brains OR beauty, such as Jane Eyre versus the beautiful Blanche Ingram. Wolf points out that “the hero’s capacity to see the true beauty of the heroine is his central test” (60). I think this is still very much a part of today’s romance novels – we like our heroines to be somewhat flawed since, let’s face it, perfection is boring – but I think the role of the hero has expanded to helping the heroine feel beautiful and recognize her own inner and outer beauty.

    In this age of airbrushing and size zero models, what woman doesn’t have insecurities about her body? I’ll own up to my fair share, though big boobs aren’t among them. I think breasts are like hair – everyone with straight hair wants curls and vice versa – you always want what you don’t have.

    In another disturbing statistic, I believe breast implants were the number one college graduation gift for women last year. But this season saw the first full-figured model win America’s Next Top Model – maybe there’s hope for us yet!

    P.S. Stretchmarks suck!

  4. irisheyes
    · May 20th, 2008 at 10:18 am · Link

    I think I was pretty typical. What teenage girl doesn’t want a “nice rack”. The obvious answer is the one that has one! Nothing is easy when you’re a teen. Unfortunately, at that age how you look is everything.

    I’m more comfortable with my body now than I was as a teen (big surprise there!). I think a lot of it has to do with my DH, though. He is and always has been very complimentary of my body – all aspects of it. I wish I could say I was very self assured and had a great self image, but the truth is it’s pretty easy to feel good about something when you have constant positive reinforcement.

    My worries now are passing along good body image messages to my pre-teen daughter. She’s, unfortunately, built like her mommy and will probably look like she’s in 4th grade until she’s a junior in HS.

    Not to judge, but I can’t help but feel sad about Sara’s statistic about breast implants being a top college graduation gift.

  5. Maria Zannini
    · May 20th, 2008 at 10:52 am · Link

    Sara said:…I believe breast implants were the number one college graduation gift for women last year.

    Holy cow! That is sad.

    I bloomed early, which made me terribly self-conscious when I was a teenager.

    Now that I’m an old lady…meh…if I don’t trip over those suckers, I’m grateful. LOL!

    Thanks for the mention and the giveaway, Tessa! You are the best!


  6. Maggie Robinson
    · May 20th, 2008 at 11:31 am · Link

    I was (and am) extremely curvy. As a young woman I had to remember to straighten my spine and walk tall. Now I’m hunched over for a different reason, LOL, shrinking with a curved spine. There used to be a pencil test to see if you could go braless—if you could keep one under, you needed the bra. I could have held several plus a pocket calculator. But the breasts did the job nursing four kids, so for that I love them.

    Congratulations, Maria!

  7. terrio
    · May 20th, 2008 at 11:51 am · Link

    I love my breasteses. Other than my eyes, they’re pretty much all I’ve got. I bloomed early too and I didn’t mind having them as much as having to wear a bra. It was uncomfortable and you know every dang idiot had to snap the thing.

    I had mine reduced when I was 20. I was DD and still going (and one was way larger than the other – think watermelon and a grapefruit) and went down to a C. But, they grew back. *sigh* I’m back to a D. But I don’t mind, the girls and I get along well.

    Now the stretchmarks and scars I could do without. And the fact they aren’t *lined up* correctly is weird. But no one has ever complained.

    In the book Sweet Memories by LaVyrle Spencer, the heroine is well endowed and hates it. She actually has a reduction done. It was handled very well and very accurately from what I remember. Of both the book and my own experience.

  8. Tessa Dare
    · May 20th, 2008 at 12:39 pm · Link

    Sara L – No, I haven’t read that book. Sounds like I should! I think your curly/straight hair analogy is perfect – there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides (sizes?), and somehow you’re always most aware of the disadvantages of whatever you’ve got. All I can say about the grad gift is – those are some deep pockets. Plastic surgery is expensive!

    Irisheyes, I love your comments about your DH’s positive reinforcement! I agree, a lot of loving one’s body comes with growing out of adolecsence, but being loved by someone helps a lot – even if that person’s not a husband. Just being loved makes a huge difference, and that’s part of Isabel’s journey.

    More later…

  9. Sasha Allgood
    · May 20th, 2008 at 1:09 pm · Link

    Mine came early on, and overnight, so I got the stretchmark bonus, too. They’re not what I would have picked if I’d had a choice. I would have picked a much smaller and perkier pair. 🙂 But, for better or worse, they’re mine, and I’ve had them way longer than not, so I think I’ll just be glad for what I’ve got, and be glad that they’re healthy and that I am too.

  10. Tessa Dare
    · May 20th, 2008 at 1:52 pm · Link

    Maria, thanks for stopping by! And congratulations again on the release of ToF. It’s a great book, and I hope a lot of my friends will check it out. Leda is one of my favorite heroines, and I have a definite weakness for men named Grey/Gray.:)

    Bwa, Maggie – I’ve never tried to figure out what I can hold under my breasts. And too bad – that could have come in handy! You know, I always need a place for that pocket calculator.

    Terrio – You know, at this point in my life, I love my breasteses, too. But if I were much bigger than I am, I would totally see the benefit in a reduction. It’s hard on your back! And are anyone’s really symmetrical? I doubt it.

    You know, Sasha – your comment almost makes me wonder if the allure of a breast augmentation isn’t so much “fixing” something that feels wrong, but the power and fun of “picking” the pair you actually want. The fact that we’re stuck with what we’ve got is probably what leads to a lot of dissatisfaction – the feeling of choice probably is a self-esteem boost in many ways.

    All this is making me think about the issue of power, and how it affects body image. I think when I was younger, I was so self-conscious because it felt like my curves were one more way guys had power over me – they could tease me, make me feel ashamed, drive me to wear baggy clothes, etc. Now that I’m older and more confident, I sort of see it the other way around – they’re something that gives me a subtle measure of power. Hmmm. I think that’s going into a scene…

  11. Anonymous
    · May 20th, 2008 at 4:35 pm · Link

    Well, first, congrats to Maria! How exciting!

    Interesting topic, Tessa. I have large breasts. And I actually like the attention I get from men. I used to have what I would consider a far better (read thinner) figure, but I didn’t get as many “looks” from men as i do now…provided I wear a v-neck. So sometimes I do, and its fun to get a little extra attention.

    But now, I’m working on downsizing all over via diet and exercise and find myself with a bit of volume loss and some sag. I look fine with a good support bra, but naked is another story. So I’m possibly going to do something to fix this. At least I’m considering my options. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. I haven’t made a firm (ha ha) decision yet.

    Yes, I do identify with Bel in many ways, including this. She is my favorite of your heroines to date. But of course, they are ALL incredible.

    BTW. If anyone has guessed who I am, please keep it to yourself! I want to pretend I’m anonymous!

  12. skirbo
    · May 20th, 2008 at 5:00 pm · Link

    Poor body image is something that I have let control my life for far too long. The fat kid. Sure, I got breasts early, but I can’t remember if I had stretch marks there even without them. I’m struggling to take control of that even now, in my late 30s, while I look back and see that poor self esteem factored into every major life decision I have made as an adult. We know it dominated my life as a teenager.

    On the other hand, I once rode MARTA to a court building in downtown Atlanta to file something for my father. I was, er, complimented by a rather inebriated African American man who said, and I do quote, “Man, you sure got big pretty titties for a white woman.” It was the last time I ever rode MARTA.


  13. CM
    · May 20th, 2008 at 6:00 pm · Link

    I have small breasts. Back before I gained way too much weight last year, I was at a small B cup/large A cup. Right now, I’m at a regular size B cup.

    Oddly enough, I have never really felt self-conscious about this, mostly because HA HA HA I have the largest breasts of all my sisters. Sorry, I shouldn’t laugh at them. But even my sister with four kids, who breast fed them until they were 2 each–her breasts are smaller than mine are.

    It makes me feel quite normal.

    Now, start talking about my thighs…. Urk.

  14. Alice Audrey
    · May 20th, 2008 at 10:18 pm · Link

    At 13 I wore a B cup. By mid-20’s I was in the Cs. I spent a lot of time trying to talk to men who couldn’t seem to find my face for their desperate need to communicate with my tits.

  15. Santa
    · May 20th, 2008 at 10:23 pm · Link

    My bosom and I have been together for more years than I care to count. They’re not quite as perky as they used to be, nor are they the conventional size. And that’s just fine. As someone near and dear to me says ‘Variety is the spice of life.’

    Works for me, friends. Works for me.

    Congrats on the debut, Maria.

    Can’t wait to see your new digs, Tessa!

  16. La Belle Americaine
    · May 21st, 2008 at 4:13 am · Link

    I have small breasts. Oddly enough, I was never really comfortable with them or the rest of my body until I read romance novels where heroes rhapsodized over all varieties of body types. Yes, they are written by women, but my teenage self was just so convinced that I my body was unattractive to men (despite evidence to the contrary, I might add–I was a mess of contradictions growing up), but reading that men were not attracted to one standard body shape was quite liberating.

  17. Kelly
    · May 21st, 2008 at 6:52 am · Link

    I bloomed late, and bloomed small. At first it didn’t bother me that I was nearly flat-chested, since I was pretty seriously into ballet, and they wouldn’t have been an asset. But I was still really self-conscious about my little As/barely Bs.

    But one summer during high school, my older cousin who is really well-endowed said something that kind of changed my perception about my breasts. She said I was lucky to be small, because I could wear the cute little tank tops she couldn’t even try on – and not have to wear a bra! Woohoo!

    It didn’t make the self-consciousness go away, but it did put things into perspective. Now I’m relatively happy with my size (although I wish it hadn’t taken a full-body weight gain to get me there!), and just relieved that they’re healthy.

    Now if I could just do something about my thunder thighs …

  18. Alyssa Goodnight
    · May 21st, 2008 at 12:11 pm · Link

    The imagined possibility that some guy on the street might mutter ‘nice personality’ made me giggle. 😉

  19. Janga
    · May 22nd, 2008 at 1:39 pm · Link

    Marilyn Yalom’s book A History of the Breast is an interesting book, scholarly but accessible. She traces the transformation of female breasts from sacred to erotic objects, arguing that the turn began in Western culture in the Renaissance. One great sentence that seems relevant to this discussion: “Babies see food. Men see sex. Doctors see disease. Businesspeople see dollar signs.”

  20. Tessa Dare
    · May 23rd, 2008 at 2:21 pm · Link

    Ooh, Janga – what a fascinating quote. But then, that raises the question – what is it that women see?
    Interesting that she argues they were “sacred objects” until the renaissance.

    Alyssa – it could happen! I hold out hope.

    Kelly, you are not kidding about those camis. Anything with “built-in bra” is an automatic “no-can-do” for me. 🙁

    AA – Bwa. Yes, I know that, “hello, I’m up here!” feeling.

    LBA – thank you so much for getting around to the point I *should* have been making! Which is the point I’m always trying to make – that romance novels can be so important, in terms of validating ourselves and our experiences. I agree, I love reading books where the heroine is uncomfortable with one aspect of her body, and the hero just loves it. Um, that might be why I’m writing one!

    CM – it’s all relative. Ha. Ha.
    No seriously, when any two woman start comparing, one’s always bigger and the other’s smaller. But does that make one big and the other small? Not really. I don’t now that I have a point with that, I’m just rambling. It’s Friday.

    Skirbo, your MARTA story cracked me up. But you’re so right, that these body issues can have serious affects on the decisions we make – waaayyy beyond “to cami or not to cami”. I know my own self-image issues, (not necessarily body-focused, but definite issues) influenced a lot of my decisions.

    Anon – who are you, and how do you know my heroine? j/k. I just want to clarify that I make no judgments on anyone who has plastic surgery on their breasts or any other part. It just interested me that breasts are the most frequently altered body part. I’m saving up for the ear surgery, myself. And I agree, now that I’m grown up (uh, in theory), I sometimes enjoy that attention, too. In the appropriate settings, of course.

    And Terri – you win the prize! Email me!

  21. terrio
    · May 26th, 2008 at 1:27 pm · Link

    Thanks for the gift card, Tessa. I’ll be picking up Maria’s book!