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I have very few qualms about my breasts. I like the way they rest coquettishly in a white men’s dress shirt, or stand proudly in one of my vintage t-shirts. They stay afloat quite well if I go braless in a structured dress. They’re not too big, not too small, but just right. I am, perhaps, the Goldilocks of boobs.
I am a B-Cup, a 38B to be exact. I was blessed with the (questionable) gift of a wider back from my mother’s side of the family. Thankfully I developed the hips to match but maintained a smaller waistline, and now have what is a rather sinewy hourglass figure, if I do say so myself. When I rock a tube dress or a wrap dress and heels, I hear the 30s burlesque music playing in my ears as I walk down the street. Dangerous curves ahead.
Even so, feeling good about my body is a new thing for me. Now, for the most part, I usually like the way I look in clothes but it definitely wasn’t always that way. When I was little I was always chubby. I always had a little belly I would try to cover over with shirts and chubby little thighs my mother called “pulkies,” a Yiddish term for chicken drumsticks. I was even more of a disaster when I began to develop breasts in fifth grade, because I was fat and had weird little bumps coming out of my chest.
I didn’t want these bumps. I didn’t want to turn into some scary teenager who yelled at their parents and was only interested in boys and doing things in the back of cars like Rizzo in Grease. If I had breasts, that meant I was growing up, and I just wanted to stay a kid for as long as possible—I didn’t want my life to be complicated by wearing makeup and shaving my legs and, horror of horrors, wearing a bra.
I absolutely refused to wear a bra until sixth grade, though I certainly needed one before then. I thought nobody would notice, but everybody did. “Do you wear a bra?” some girls would snidely ask me, knowing full well that the answer was no. “Sometimes,” I’d say, lying so they didn’t think I was a freak. Of course the logical option now would be to just wear the stupid bra, but I didn’t want to be like all the other girls—I didn’t want to sit and talk about the boys I knew weren’t interested in me because I was fat. I wanted to play on the playground, climb the jungle gym, and for the hundredth time try to swing from the monkey bars even though I would always fail. I tried defending myself from puberty and all of the sadness I knew would come with it by trying to stay a kid.
Eventually, though, I put on a bra. It was a 36A from Limited Too (remember when it was still called that?), and I had them in all different colors—blue with green polka dots, pink, black, white, yellow, orange—the list went on. “It’s so good you finally got a bra,” my best friend Jenna said to me. I was shocked because I didn’t know she even noticed, but by that time it was too late to worry anyway.
Luckily, in seventh grade I moved to a new school, where I would also go to high school. As I progressed through the years, my bra size moved up to a 36B. With a new bra size came more fun, perhaps more adult colors of bras—red, plum, hot pink, green with lace and so on. I didn’t like talking about my breasts, though, and whenever my mother would bring something up related to them I would snap at her and tell her to shut up (I did turn into one of those teenagers who yells at their parents, anyway. I guess it’s just something we do).
I took my 36Bs with me to college, where they stayed until my junior year. The bras I had been wearing had no underwires, and I noticed that my boobs were sagging a bit in their sad cotton triangles. Not only that, but back of the bra was cutting into my sides and the straps had begun to cut into my shoulders. Did my boobs get bigger again?
This time, though, I wasn’t angry or scared, but curious. Cool, man. What kind of new bra would I get? But I was measured for a bra and it turned out my boobs didn’t grow, but my back did. I was now a 38B, and with a proper underwire and molded cup, my boobs no longer sagged but were proudly shaped, lifted and separated. Wow, I thought. My boobs look really cool! I felt like a pinup girl, and I loved the new way I was able to fill out a sweater. Meow!
A 38B, huh? Not too shabby. I got used to the number, and I began to like it. Now, on the whole, I’d say I have a positive body image. I try to take that indomitable pinup girl spirit with me wherever I go. Sure, I do dislike things about myself, but my breasts are never one of them.
However, as I tried to purchase new bras, I began to realize that, perhaps just as I wanted, I definitely wasn’t like everyone else. It turns out 38B is a more unusual size, because people with wider backs usually have larger breasts. In some stores, I found, it is completely unrealistic to even hope to find a bra in that size.
At one particular store, I searched in vain for what I hoped would be a sexy little red bra, just something cute to make me feel sexy under my clothes. I only asked that it have an underwire and a molded cup with no padding and, perhaps most importantly, that it be a 38B.
Alas, all of the bras smaller than a C were heavily padded and I wasn’t looking to make my boobs look bigger. I just wanted them to be covered and stay up under a shirt or something—not too complicated a request, I thought.
After that, I repeatedly found beautiful, shiny red bras, only to be deterred from them in one way or another. Either they were awash in a sea of padding or they came only in the following size ranges: 34B-DD, 36B-DD or 38C-DD.
In one last-ditch effort, I asked the sales girl for help. She was a younger girl, maybe 19 or 20, and she took me to see some bras. I was hopeful—perhaps there were some I missed. The first one was leopard with padding, a 36B. The second one was nude with no padding, 36B. She had one more chance. A black bra, no padding, no underwire, 36B.
“Um, I’m sorry, I said 38B,” I said, trying to hold in a series of expletives.

“Ohhhhhh,” said the sales girl in a breathy, squeaky little voice. “I’m sorry, I thought you said 36B. We don’t carry 38B in what you want.”

I thought it was strange that one of America’s largest lingerie conglomerates did not have a full range of sizes to offer its customers. Angry, I left the store and vowed never to return. I realized that like my boobs, and I cannot respect anyone or anything that makes me feel I am so far out of a normal size range that I do not deserve a shiny red bra. I also realized how vastly my body image had changed and how much I really respected myself for the curvaceous (and unafraid), hot little tomato I was. Who was this person? She was kind of fierce and I liked her. She’s been around ever since.
To look at it now, I am almost shocked at the complete turnaround I have made in regard to my boobs. Where I did not ever even want to discuss them, I have now written a whole essay about them. My boobs and I have had a rollercoaster of a relationship, but I think overall the relationship is an important one. They’re not there to give us grief, but to give us love. And they should really be loved in return. After all, the most important relationship you can ever have is with yourself, boobs and all.

Elyssa Goodman likes words and pictures a lot. She is a Style Consultant at Her Campus, was previously the publication's first Style Editor, and has been with the magazine since its inception in 2009. Elyssa graduated with honors from Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied Professional Writing, Creative Writing, and Photography. As an undergraduate, she founded and was the editor-in-chief of The Cut, Carnegie Mellon's Music Magazine. Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Elyssa now lives and works in New York City as Miss Manhattan, a freelance writer, photographer, stylist and social media consultant. Her work has appeared in Vice, Marie Claire, New York Magazine, Glamour, The New Yorker, Artforum, Bust, Bullett, Time Out New York, Nerve.com, and many other publications across the globe. Elyssa is also the photographer of the book "Awkwafina's NYC," written by Nora "Awkwafina" Lum. She loves New York punk circa 1973, old-school photobooths, macaroni and cheese, and Marilyn Monroe. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @MissManhattanNY.
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