Being 38 years of age and having breastfed two children, suffice it to say that my previously perky and proud breasts are, sadly, no longer quite the upstanding citizens that they used to be. Don’t get me wrong: all is not lost and I can certainly hold my own in a plunging neckline, should this be required. But there have been changes. This in itself doesn’t particularly bother me, as I firmly (no pun intended) believe that paying for a good bra, one that is supportive whilst remaining pretty, sexy, lacy, feminine or all of the above, is one of those necessary evils and fortunately can hide a multitude of sins. I am aware, however, of time taking its toll and am observing with quizzical interest how my body has changed over time.
Many of my friends are in a similar boat, and one (who shall remain anonymous, for obvious reasons) morosely described her boobs as ‘’n lang haas wat langs my op die bed le**’ after a few glasses of Chardonnay with the girls one evening. As such, it’s probably not such a surprise that the issue of boob lifts / enhancements has raised its head in recent times. A few of my friends have had work done already, some are toying with the idea, some are vehemently opposed to it and some are saving up for their second time on the slate, so thrilled have they been with the results the first time around. I am somewhere in the middle: at this moment in time, I don’t feel any burning desire to get myself pumped up, tightened, lifted or otherwise enhanced, and in principle I embrace the concept of ‘growing older gracefully’ and learning to live with one’s body as it changes over time, rather than doing something as drastic as going under the knife. That said, I reserve the right to change my mind at any point (and certainly, as time marches on and my bra size keeps going down, I fiercely defend that right).
What intrigues me is why so many women feel that they need to do something about the subtle but insidious southward slide of their breasts. Is it a completely personal issue, or does it have more to do with the relentless pressure in our modern day lives to look eternally youthful? Is it to do with keeping our men happy and close to our sides? I have another friend (who shall also remain anonymous) who mentioned to her husband that she was considering having a breast lift done. His response: ‘Where is the benefit in that for me?’ He feels that a lift is pretty much pointless (sorry), and would much prefer a full-blown enlargement, both to justify the not-insubstantial cost as well as to know that he was also going to get something out of the whole thing. It made both my friend and I shriek with mirth at how her boobs had somehow become shared property – that rather than making a decision for herself to have an operation on her own body, paid for with her own hard-earned money, it also had to have a tangible – literally – ‘benefit’ for the spouse.
Now, back to topless swimming. Today was one of the hottest days this summer. At midday, my car thermometer read 43⁰ Celsius, and it was parked in the shade. This is hot. So hot, in fact, that when I dived headfirst into the pool in the late afternoon, it even felt too warm to wear my bikini top. Fortunately our garden is beautifully secluded and no one can see in from the street, so I did my 100 lengths sans bikini top. That in itself was a glorious, unrestricted and liberating feeling. But it got better. Way better. As I rested in the deep end after my swim, with my elbows supported by the pool edge and just my head and shoulders sticking out above the water, I happened to look down at my submerged body. ‘Halleluja’ is all that I can say. We all know about water’s ability to defy gravity. I have subsequently found out that there is an actual physical principle describing this very phenomenon. It is called Archimedes’ principle and is stated thus: “Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object”. And let me tell you what: it works with boobs too! Miraculously, I was restored to my former glory, resembling myself back in my early twenties, and was quite giddy with delight at finding myself buoyed both physically and emotionally by the kind, gentle water in our pool.
In a way, it was a dangerous discovery because it absolutely made me see how much room for improvement there is in my chest department. But for now, I am perfectly content to just whip off my top and go and loll about in the deep end should I ever feel the need for a fleeting moment of feeling pert and completely supported by the elements of nature.
At the end of the day, I believe in women having the right to make their own choices, particularly when it comes to their own bodies, and I genuinely support (oh dear, how do these tired puns keep creeping in here?) anyone who does something that boosts their confidence and makes them feel better about themselves, whether it’s having highlights put in their hair, their nails manicured, running a marathon, going on a shopping spree, a yoga retreat, whatever floats their boat, as long as no-one is getting hurt.
And when I look at my two precious children, I don’t regret a single cup size that’s disappeared as a result of their appearance.
** Roughly translated from Afrikaans: ‘a long rabbit lying on the bed next to me’.