The body you have when you’re 13 is often the only one you’ll remember. You’ll spend your life taking Zumba, attempting diets involving shocking amounts of raw ginger and otherwise fighting against your genes, only to be forever followed by whatever shape you had in the seventh grade.
Nearly every part of my womanhood came fast and ruthlessly. I got my period at 10, my birthing hips at 11 and my full brush of pubic hair at 12. The only part of me that never seemed fully formed was my breasts. At the time, my appreciation of adult boobs came from either my mother (C to Ds that were perfectly symmetrical and engulfed my face when we hugged) or hardcore Internet pornography (gravity-defying tits with pink nipples stretched to the limit of human elasticity). This was womanhood!
Maybe I could have accepted my own B cups, were my other parts not so big in comparison: my wide hips, my gapless thighs, my heavy arms. Men liked me fine enough, but more than one has seemed confused by my pear shape. (Another good reason to never listen to any man, ever.)
At dinner with a friend a few months ago, I made a passing comment about how I had neglected to inherit my mother’s spectacular cans. It was a repetitive and premature defence I’d present whenever conversation among female friends would (inevitably, for some reason) turn to busts. “You’re not a B,” she said, scanning me from collarbone to belly button. I get this reaction often and it frequently ends with me forcing the other party to feel the extra chicken cutlets in my bra. “No,” she said again, running her fingers along my underwire. “You’re wearing the wrong size. You’re literally falling out of your bra right now.”
She recommended a nearby lingerie shop where I could be properly measured, so I went to find the “right” size a few weeks later. The saleswoman followed me into the change room and, while wrapping a measuring tape around my ribs, asked what size I had been wearing. When I said 38 B, she laughed her way back out onto the floor, returning with a handful of bras, still laughing. “No, you’re not,” she said, holding a black bra with massive cups. I stopped her before she could unhook it. “Look, maybe I’m wearing the wrong size, but that seems big enough to plug a broken levee.” She waved me off, handed me the bra and waited outside for me to present myself, clad in this unwieldy chest plate.
The bra fit, of course. It was also a 34 D.
It’s possible that my boobs have grown and my rib cage has shrunk over the past few years without me noticing. What’s more likely is that I’ve been stuffing my body into the wrong size because of some idiot I dated when I was 17. In high school and early university, boyfriend after boyfriend told me that my boobs were small and unworthy of their grubby hands. Instead of actually figuring out my size, I believed them, and bought the most aggressive of aggressive padded push-ups to make my boobs feel bigger (to me, at least).
At the lingerie shop, I bought three 34 Ds on the spot and seriously considered burning every bra that came before. Properly supported, my breasts were now always in my way. Instead of strapping them down to my body with too-small cups and ill-fitting wires, they sat comfortably on my chest. I could breathe, literally.
But were they always this big? Did they always block my access to desks and other people? I called my mom to make sense of the change. “I got big around your age,” she said. “But what does it matter what the bra size says?”
It mattered to me. Just knowing that the letter I belonged to was a D (sometimes a DD—can you even believe that?!) reassured me of my womanhood. My body finally made sense. “Look!” I told my boyfriend, showing him my new bras. “Can you believe this fits?” He shrugged, cupped one of my jugs—the weird one that hangs funny, always has—and said, “Feels the same to me.” Nothing had actually changed, except my appreciation for these fat bags that make golfing impossible. All that time I invested in worrying about my chest, about how insignificant it felt, was erased as soon as some label hanging on some black lace said, “Nope, actually, you’re fine.” All this time wasted that could have been better spent worrying about the other naturally unchangeable parts of my body.
The only thing that differed, in fact, was my perception: I don’t necessarily love my body more, but I do, at the very least, hate it less. I’m not any more worthy, any less flawed, any better or worse. And while my 13-year-old self is thrilled that my body and brain have finally aligned on the topic of my mammary glands, the adult me is just happy that talking about my cup size doesn’t end in inscrutable laughter and directed groping.
Finally, a victory for us both.
More From Scaachi Koul:
If Movies Got It Right: The Reality of Dating Older Men
4 Male-Centric Ways to Offset the Tampon Tax