My left breast is approximately 25 percent bigger than the right one, and until yesterday, I thought I was the only one who knew. Yesterday I wore a tight, V-necked T-shirt so a friend could take a "bod" shot of me for a dating site. That's when I realized it's no secret. The iPhone camera doesn't lie.
How did I delude myself for so long?
A surgeon actually noticed the differential a few years ago. He's the one who put the 25 percent figure on it, adding that most women have some variance, but mine was well beyond normal. He found it both amusing and clinically fascinating, and noted it in my chart.
He looked at them, smiling as if they'd just told a joke. He wasn't a plastic surgeon, so there was no talk of re-balancing. As it happens, "we" were there because the smaller one had developed a golf-ball sized growth, though it still lacked the relative heft of its big sister. The growth turned out to be a benign cyst (a cry for attention?), and was pierced and drained with a long needle the same day. The poor thing's silent scream of betrayal haunted me for days.
The little one, the surgeon observed, looked as if it had not changed since the three of us were teenagers. It was perfect. He deemed the larger one age-appropriate. Cougar-esque, perhaps? He wondered if the smaller breast had been traumatized, stunting its growth. Was it bumped, slammed or in any way injured early in life?
The only trauma I could recall was psychological. I was about 15 when Mom, scrutinizing me as I approached, said I walked too hard. Hard walking made them bounce. Bouncing was not ladylike.
Before that day, Mom had said I was a late bloomer (on several fronts), and she was glad about it. I wouldn't peak too early. Fine, but I still wanted a bra. My first one, more like a stretchy sash with straps and hooks, allowed me to feel like a contender among the more developed eighth-graders. It had no cups; I had no differential.
Things had shifted by the time I got to college. Women were liberating themselves from foundations, and bras were considered optional in these pre-Victoria's-Secret times.
I participated in the freedom trend when the mood struck, motivated more by convenience than politics. Working for a concert promoter during my early 20s, I sometimes wore a beloved old Van Morrison T-shirt to the office. On "casual" days. My boss would say, "Oh look, Peggy's wearing her Van Morrison shirt," using vocal infections and head tilts to indicate how the letters rose and fell along the terrain of my uneven bust. I laughed with everyone else, figuring they just coveted the shirt (I was a late bloomer).
I now own a lovely collection of bras, and enjoy wearing them. Cheap, absurdly expensive, red, white, black, nude, brown, pink, underwire, wireless, padded, push-up, plain. Only the so-called T-shirt bra seems to address my issue, though. This softly contoured body armour, designed to hide any hint of chill in air-conditioned rooms, evens out my shape to the naked eye.
But I'm not always mindful enough to seek its help. Some days I forget how I'm built, the same way I forget to look at the back of my hair. I'm in a good mood or in a hurry and don't take my flaws into account. So I wear a lace one, or an unlined satin, and parade around, way out of balance -- and sometimes bouncing (sorry, Mom!). That's what happened when I wore that tight V-neck T-shirt for the "bod" shot. The initial images immediately revealed that the big one was grabbing the spotlight -- a runaway boob. I adjusted posture and differential accordingly, newly aware of reality and gravity.*
I'm waiting for someone to market a bra called "The Libra" (maybe in zebra?), to help smaller breasts co-exist in comfort and harmony with their big sisters. Wacoal, DKNY, Natori, how about it? I'll be your customer, and your fit model.
Meanwhile, I've never asked myself if my right cup is half full or half empty, but I can say that it does not runneth over. Nor has it been run over. It's just the smaller one, and every time I have a mammogram, and face the idea of either one being in peril, I realize that I love my teenager and my cougar equally. And dearly. As individuals. And as parts of me.
*Got some great shots, but so far no soulmate
For more by Peggy Mulloy, click here.
For more on body image, click here.