Did you know that in order to get approved for a breast reduction, you need to have a doctor take a bunch of photos of your boobs and send them off to a panel full of strangers? Well I didn’t – until my doctor whipped out a camera and snapped away at my droopy melons.
I’ve always been a bit more gifted in the chest region than most – something I realized around the time my sixth grade classmates started eyeing my sparkly, B-cup Limited Too intimates. Today, I’ve got a DD on the right and something a little more than that on the left. Oh, and did I mention I’m only five feet tall? Double D’s might as well be Quadruple Z’s when you’re five feet tall.
Between strangers’ gross sexual comments, the tearful hours spent in bra fitting rooms, and the embarrassment of having to constantly re-adjust all my shirts, I spent a ridiculous amount of mental energy agonizing over my chest.
So, last year, I decided to look into getting a breast reduction.
I’d seen the procedure work wonders for several friends (and one enemy). Women, once as breast-burdened as I had been, were transformed into lean, graceful swan-people – their backs straightened and their necks lifted upwards as if they were being pulled by shiny, boobless angels.
A call to a plastic surgeon’s office provided me with a list of the symptoms of which I’d have to show evidence in order to qualify for the reduction.
I sought out a series of doctors to flush out my record of these symptoms. First, to see whether my boob weight might be contributing to my constant migraines, I saw a neurologist. A full-chested gal herself, she examined me empathetically and gave me a strong “hmmm…maybe” on the subject. Then, she hesitantly refilled the triptan prescription I’ve been on since high school and sent me on my way.
To get a record of my back, neck, shoulder, and jaw pain, I went to a physical therapist. She spent about five minutes poking around my neck, back, shoulders, and jaw before exclaiming, “It’s like all your muscles have been petrified!” While horrifying, I was encouraged that her findings would probably help my case.
None of the symptoms on my list involved mental health – apparently health insurance companies haven’t gotten the memo that mental health is, you know, a thing – but I still felt it was important to have a record of what my overflowing jugs were doing to my psyche.
I visited my psychiatrist and explained the constant anxiety I felt about my golden globes. She – in a display remarkably close to actual human compassion – offered to increase my Zoloft dosage. A couple weeks later I tried going to a psychologist, whose response to my situation was approximately, “Okay but let’s talk about your relationship with your parents.”
Finally, it was time to see the plastic surgeon. Mine was a classic, Upper East Side dad-type, with a reassuring voice and sensible shoes. As I sat in a baggy gown, nervously twirling my split ends, he explained the finer points of the surgery. I wanted to make a joke about requesting they give me square nipples – but I was so anxious all that came out was, “So I’ll still have nipples.” Good one, Lisa.
Then came the fun part of the discussion – applying to get the surgery covered by my insurance!
Without insurance approval, getting a reduction in New York City can cost you upwards of $10,000.
My J.Crew Factory Store lifestyle couldn’t accommodate such expenses. Even if I did have ten grand lying around, I’d rather spend it on something more exciting than boob deflation, like a very nice kayak or a few of those Volcano candles from Anthropologie.
Insurance approval was a must for me to move forward.
I had all my records in order, so I figured approval would be a piece of cake. A piece of the kind of buttery, gratuitously frosted cake I’d eat all the time once I was less insecure about my body. God I love cake.
Unfortunately, there was a surprise final layer to the process.
Even with all my medical documentation, the insurance company itself had to inspect my honkers. And so, I found myself standing topless in an exam room while a surgeon I’d just met snapped pictures of my chest.
He directed me in what was surely the world’s most awkward photo shoot.
It. was. not. cool.
The photos would be sent along to a panel of folks at the insurance company who would decide the fate of my sweater balloons.
People I had never met would be staring at my tits.
I wondered about these faceless critics. What were their lives like? Did they dream of being tit critics when they were little children? Did they spend their college years making vision boards full of lopsided breasts?
After flinging myself back into the hospital gown with all the poise of an ostrich on fire, I asked the surgeon what he thought my chances were for getting insurance approval. Turns out, after all that, he thought my chances weren’t great. When I pressed, he admitted the approval process was extremely opaque, so he was hesitant to give me any sort of assurance. I’d worked so hard to get the upper hand on this crazy boobventure – and it was still so far out of reach.
In fact, from the moment I first called the plastic surgeon, the process had felt as if it was snowballing out of control.
With each new doctor’s visit, new pair of eyes and hands adding their judgment to my flying saucers, the process spiraled further and faster.
What began as a simple wish to gain some more control over my own body had grown into a giant, mangy, nipple-covered beast. I needed to take a step back – to take a breath.
So, I caged the nipple beast and decided to postpone the whole surgery thing for a while.
To make things easier on myself, I took steps to lessen my day to day boob-related stress. I threw myself into meaningful creative projects – like a body-positive, feminist holiday album. I bought a few thicker, boxy-fit shirts that made me feel cozy and protected. I made a conscious effort to walk by more dog parks – there’s nothing like watching a bunch of stupid-cute doggies fight over a ball to get more endorphins flowing.
Every night, as I rub lotion on the red welts where my bra straps have been clinging on for dear life, I imagine a world without shoulder pain and unwelcome stares from middle-aged men.
Boxes of spaghetti-strap tanks and button-down blouses from when I was less chest-endowed sit in storage, patiently waiting for the day when they can be worn again. The day when I’ll twirl about in the sunlight in that free-spirited way only slight-chested girls can.
But, for now, it feels good just to walk with my feet firmly on the ground, my twin peaks pressed close to my heart by a specialty sports bra, shamelessly spying on other people’s dogs.