The Real Truth about Fake Breasts
Author: Becca Edwards
From “apples” to “zeppelins” and everything in between (including my favorite, “pointer-sisters”) there is no shortage of euphemisms for the word “breasts.” In five minutes of Googling “nicknames for breasts,” I found 244 examples. I attribute the colorful and extensive collection of breast-isms to the equally colorful and extensive history between mankind and breasts. Even the Paleolithic peeps with their voluptuous figurines loved themselves some “love melons.”
Breasts also come in a variety of shapes like the descriptive “handful” and the perky “teardrop.” One online medical journal defined the perfect pair of breasts as having, “the nipple pointed outwards and parallel to the ground” and “both breasts being well-toned and supple with no evidence of sagging.” (The article failed to mention you are also probably 18 years old.) Bras, which like breasts have some fun alternative names like “over the shoulder boulder holders,” used to be sized small to large; but according to Elizabeth Ewing’s book Dress and Undress, in 1935, Warner’s became the first well-known brand to introduce the alphabetical cup sizing. Now most retailers, like Victoria’s Secret, sell an assortment of styles ranging from sizes 32A to 40DDD. Some women even exceed this size chart. TLC’s reality show Strange Sex featured a woman named Annie with natural 102ZZZ breasts that weigh 85 pounds each. When asked if she ever considered a reduction, she responded, “I’ve never thought about bringing a knife to myself. Why fix something that’s not broken?”
Yet, many women do go under the knife to “fix” their breasts. Year after year, breast augmentation is the most popular plastic surgery procedure. According to the America Society of Plastic Surgeons, 286,254 patients elected to have the operation in 2014, while only 62,611 opted for a breast reduction. (Note: This number does not include the slightly more than 100,000 breast cancer patients who had reconstruction after mastectomy, often with implants.) The PBS special “Breast Implants on Trail” chronicled the history of silicone implants, reporting that in the 1940s, Japanese prostitutes had their breasts injected with substances such as paraffin, sponges and non-medical grade silicone to enlarge their breasts, believing that American servicemen favor women with large breasts. In the 1960s, the first silicone breast implants were developed by two plastic surgeons from Texas: Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin. Since 1962, when Timmie Jean Lindsey became the first woman to receive silicone implants, the health risks associated with artificial breasts has been highly debated. But one fact remains indisputable: Many women believe the risks are worth the gain.
Like most women, my relationship with my breasts began during puberty. My best friend who was supposed to “go through the change” with me, was petite yet curvy and wore a 32C. I, on the other hand, was very tall and thin. In the eighth grade, during gym class, a boy tried to snap my bra strap. He failed because I simply wasn’t wearing a bra. With the vividness truly embarrassing moments afford us, I remember him screaming in front of the entire class, “Hey Becca! Why don’t you have on a bra?” I replied with shame disguised as bravado, “Because I don’t need one, you idiot!” My maiden name was Dupps and shortly thereafter I was crowned “No Boobs Dupps” (which actually turned out to be a good thing, because it incentivized me to become an MVP basketball player; by the end of freshman year, I was “Hoops Dupps”).
As I matured through high school and then college, my chest size became increasingly problematic. Bikini tops really didn’t have anything to cover, and no matter how tight I tied the straps they would shift around like curtains on an opened window. I couldn’t wear the structured, fairytale princess-like formal dresses, because I couldn’t fill them out. Padded bras did the trick until someone hugged me and then they would either cave in or the other person would feel the padding and giggle. My freshman year in college, when most people were getting care packages with homemade cookies, my mom sent me silicone inserts that went inside the bra to fill it out. My roommate and I called them my chicken cutlets, and these things were great until I was dancing at a fraternity party and one fell out onto the floor (which was more hilarious than embarrassing, because by then what I lacked in bust I had gained in a sense of humor).
Always my cheerleader, my mom had given me the inserts, not because she felt like I needed bigger breasts. She gave them to me to help me feel more confident in my clothes. But I believed breast implants were the only way I would truly like the way I looked. So when I graduated college, I started my own “boob fund.”
When I was 24 years old, I finally could afford the breasts I had always dreamed of. I went to one of the best plastic surgeons in Charleston who gave me saline implants under the muscle. I went from a size 32A to a 34C. The operation was done by cutting off my nipples, inserting the implants, and then sewing my nipples back on, leaving no visible scar. My boyfriend then, now husband, thought I was crazy for undergoing surgery, but I didn’t do it for him. I did it for myself.
He is simply not a “breast man,” and as it turns out, he is not alone. In a 2013 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers found most men desired “medium sized breasts,” with one quarter preferring large breasts and one quarter preferring small breasts. Other polls report men preferring other female attributes like waist size, legs or rear ends over breasts. But again, my decision to get implants wasn’t about pleasing anyone but myself. I simply wanted to have curves and cleavage, and at first I really enjoyed my new figure. I finally felt feminine.
I often joke that I didn’t finish puberty until age 25. It was then that I started to fill out. I went from a size 2 to a size 6 and my breast size went up to a 36D. I began to feel too big. And then my right breast started to harden and the implant became incapsulated. It was like a living “righty tighty, lefty loosy.” I would have to hug people with just my left side so I wouldn’t knock the wind out of them. At 28 years old, I gave birth to my first child and fifteen months later my second. I was now a 36DD. (FYI: I could breastfeed all my children.) Of course, I was too embarrassed to buy a size that big, so I would stuff “the girls” into my old 36Ds. After my third child, I decided to have my implants removed, and I set up an appointment with one of the best reconstructive surgeons in the East Coast. He didn’t have good news. I had a great deal of scar tissue that needed to be removed, and my skin had stretched so much that he said it would take an extensive surgery just to make me “look like a 60-year-old woman with saggy breasts” (his words, not mine). I would have very visible incision marks in multiple places. I was 32 years old.
It was time for plan B. He recommended an implant exchange and he would fill the implants with the bare minimum of CCs so that my breasts were not be wrinkled or too droopy. I also opted for the ones with the 20-year warranty because—and many people do not realize this—most artificial breasts need to be replaced every 10-15 years, and I did not want to commit myself to being sedated and cut into every decade. This time I had silicone breasts put in over the muscle with a mesh-like buffer to prevent scar tissue growth. This doctor did not want to go through my nipples again in case I lost sensation, so he cut a smiley face looking incision underneath each breast and inserted the implants. “Righty” became infected, and it took me three months, one extra surgery, and a scar correction procedure to heal properly and look “normal.”
I’m 37 years old now. In 15 years, a.k.a. the remaining lifespan of my implants, I will finally have them removed for good. I’m actually looking forward to that day. As a health advocate, coach and writer, I feel disharmonious with something artificial in my body. As a mother, I worry about setting a good example for my daughters. And as a woman, I think about my relationship with my breasts over the past quarter of a century, and I am reminded of the TLC reality character Annie. “Why fix something that’s not broken.” I realize now there was nothing I needed to fix.
Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).
Complications Associated with Breast Implants (FDA)
• Breast Pain
• Breast Tissue Atrophy
• Capsular Constriction (tightening of the tissue capsule around an implant, resulting in firmness or hardening of the breast and squeezing of the implant if severe)
• Chest Wall Deformity
• Delayed Wound Healing
• Extrusion (skin breaks down and the implant appears through the skin)
• Latrogenic Injury/Damage
• Infection (including toxic shock syndrome)
• Lymphedema or Lymphadenopathy
• Necrosis (dead skin or tissue around the breast)
• Nipple/Breast Sensation Changes
• Palpability (the implant can be felt through the skin)
• Ptosis (breast sagging)
• Seroma (collection of fluid around the implant)
• Skin Rash
• Unsatisfactory Style/Size
• Visibility (the implant can be seen through the skin)
Age Breakdown of Breast Augmentation Patients in 2014 (America Society of Plastic Surgeons)
8,040 (3%) ages 13-19
82,494 (29%) ages 20-29
104,442 (36%) ages 30-39
84,346 (29%) ages 40-54
6,932 (2%) ages 55 and over