Oh Tits!

12 February 2017

So, the dreaded V Day approaches, and my email inbox is struggling to cope with the deluge of emails advertising the latest fashions in sexy lingerie. I use both the terms ‘fashion’ and ‘sexy’ with trepidation, as they seem to be appealing mainly to those who think ‘Fifty Shades’ is the definitive manual for a healthy romantic relationship. I may just be bitter, as the idea of that much complicated scratchy lace and frilly bits leaves me rather more terrified than turned on – but then, I’m also the woman who managed to punch herself in the face trying to pull a pair of Spanx back up in a particularly narrow public toilet cubicle, so I can’t really be trusted with anything more complicated than an M&S cotton knicker.

Of course, boobs seem to be the order of the day when it comes to about 95% of advertising, so their use as a marketing opportunity in this instance is not that strange, but my relationship with my own has been less straightforward. And, I’m guessing I’m not alone in this…

I remember buying my first bra with my mother at Woolworths (the equivalent of M&S in South Africa, not the place where English children used to buy their pick ‘n’ mix, just to be clear). It was the typical starter number – two triangles of cotton and a bit of elastic that provided about as much support as Marilyn Manson at a Beyoncé concert. I wasn’t worried though, surely it wouldn’t be long before I’d be needing something altogether more impressive…would it?

Turns out, while I managed to speed through 22 centimetres of vertical growth at age 13, my chest lagged behind. Small boobs can be positively chic on many frames, but rocketing towards six foot, with a back and shoulders like a rugby forward, it felt a little unfair that I seemed doomed to writing ‘FRONT’ on my chest for the rest of my teens. Of course, it really really helped living in a hot country, where I could be surrounded almost every weekend by my tanned, tiny and perky school friends at endless pool parties. Truly, such fun. Going to school socials, where I towered above most of the boys, and wasn’t even able to provide something impressive at their eye level, was an equally joyous form of teenage torture.

Things didn’t improve much at university, but luckily the horror of bra fittings with shop assistants, who gamely joined in the charade of such things even being necessary in my case, provided fodder for some of my biggest laughs on the stand-up comedy stage. I’d also like to take a moment to thank the combined efforts of Wonderbra and SAB Miller for the fact that this absence of bosom did not affect my university dating game in any measurable way. I invested in truly ridiculous shoes to detract from any chest deficit (a girl can try!), and I knew for sure I was being dull beyond all description if a man’s gaze ever wandered south of my eyes.

Of course, there is one, quite magical, and non-surgical, way of enhancing any and all previously-disadvantaged chest areas – pregnancy. I discovered early on in my first pregnancy that, while I may have felt like throwing up everything I had ever eaten, and could be found positively inhaling great quantities of lemonade and pork scratchings (my only morning sickness cure) on the 8am bus to work, my ability to generate whistles from passing white vans had taken a serious leap. The Nork Fairy had finally arrived, at the grand old age of 28, and I was bloody delighted. I positively strutted into Mothercare to be fitted for a breastfeeding bra, safe in the knowledge that the assistant wouldn’t have to stifle a giggle in determining my cup size. And a Grand Canyon cleavage no longer required two hands shoved in on either side in front of the bathroom mirror, it was simply a side effect of trying to wrestle Right Said Fred into daily brassiere submission. Happy days!

In the rosy glow of new baby bliss, it took a while for me to realise, that what the pregnancy Nork Fairy giveth, breastfeeding taketh away. Yes, breastfeeding gives you the most stupendous melons (I mean, terrifyingly so at times), but for many of us (except my best friend, who is a size zero and ended up looking like a Victoria’s Secret model – remarkably she’s still my best friend), it turns out this is rarely BOTH boobs at the same time. You see, if you’re feeding on one side at a time, there’s always going to be one Pamela Anderson to contend with, alongside one deflated Snoopy’s nose.

This somewhat alarming situation manifested most memorably on a night out with my younger, far cooler sister when Skellies was about nine months. A recent bout of food poisoning had allowed me back into my pre-pregnancy skinny jeans (silver linings, people), and I was happily reliving my youth on the dancefloor of a hipster nightclub at 2am. Glancing down, I suddenly realised that one knocker was much where it should have been, but the other was torpedoing its way in the direction of the DJ. Seriously, we’re talking about a five cup discrepancy here. Taxi!

Now that my youngest son has been independent on the beverage front for over 18 months, I am a happily retired cow, and my brief glimpse into the feet-obscuring world of the Playboy Bunny is firmly over. When I went in to Victoria’s Secret to be fitted for yet another new set of bras, the athleisure-clad foetus in charge of the tape measure stared at me in total confusion when I tried to explain the journey my now rather defeated-looking headlights had been through with the carrying and breastfeeding of two babies. That’s okay, one day either pregnancy, or simply gravity, will explain it for her better than I ever could.

And besides, I can now save an absolute fortune on this whole complicated business of cleavage support – I just roll up my boobs and tuck them into my socks.

C x