If I were to describe my relationship with my boobs, I'd say we're cordial. They haven't brought me great joy, but then again, they haven't caused extreme pain. We coexist peacefully and have for all of my boob-carrying existence.
They're a 32C. Respectable, as far as boob size goes. You hear C-cup and you're not imagining a concave situation between the collarbone and the end of the ribs. And I grant you that there are two visible protrusions there. A duo of pleasant lumps that start out fleshy and round, then disappear as they rise.
Even though I don't begrudge my breasts, I will confess that I have wondered what it'd be like to have bigger ones. (Disclaimer: Boobs come in all shapes and sizes, from AA to ZZZ. Some women love their breasts exactly how they are. Some women want to change what they were given. And all of that is fine.) How nice would it be if a man could motorboat me for real and not just have his face plop down in the flat space between? Would clothes look different on me if I had cleavage that I could accentuate?
So, just for fun, I decided to fake my boobs. With the help of some strategically employed surgical tape, bra inserts (opens in new tab), and a push-up bra, I inflated myself from a C to a DD.
"Why would you do that?" asked the makeup artist who was getting my face ready to take some pictures. She was a 36G but a denier of her own chest, trying to get away with wearing bras that were 38DD and covering up so "the girls weren't always out there." At various points in her life, she had tried to save money toward getting a breast reduction. "I would kill to be your size."
The hair stylist in the room was also confused about my plumping project. "I hear that small is in right now," she said. "I wish I had little boobs."
That was all before they saw me with my new, bigger breasts.
I stepped into the changing room to apply the surgical tape across my chest, smushing my boobs together so there was highly defined cleavage. (This is a tried-and-true method of temporary boobage, as demonstrated by Kylie Jenner (opens in new tab).) I put the chicken cutlets into my push-up bra and scooped it all around after I strapped in. There. Boobies. I'd really...perked up. Cleavage you could lose change in. It was like I'd turned into bizarro Mulan. And the girls looked great.
Summer in the City Dress (opens in new tab)
, THREE FLOOR, $226
Seeing the change, the stylists quickly took back what they'd said about desiring my real chest. They seemed to mentally clutch their ample bosoms with a newfound gratitude. But their reactions, interesting as they were, had nothing on the responses I got from men.
Being that I'm a human in the world, and one who projects female and stereotypically feminine, I have frequently been the object of catcalling and hollering by men. I'm not saying that it's appropriate or acceptable—street harassment is not okay!—or that it makes me special; I'm only saying that I've experienced it enough to know what it's like.
But nothing could have prepared me for what it would be like to go outside with my enhanced breasts. You know the saying, "My eyes are up here"? I never understood its true meaning before my double D-day. Men were literally sticking their necks out to stare at me, specifically in my below-the-neck region. They almost ran into each other trying to catch glimpses. I got "Helloooo," and "Hey now!" from the random guy outside the Dunkin' Donuts, from the parking lot attendant waving his orange flag, from the well-dressed older man as he was holding the door open for me.
It made me realize why the makeup artist had said she was always trying to cover up: She wanted others to look at her as a whole person, not just a pair of boobs.
I wouldn't advise applying surgical tape to your boobs, especially on a hot day. Don't do it. Getting the strips of tape off is way more painful than ripping off a Band-Aid. It's been a couple weeks since my experiment and I've still got scars.
I went to a wedding that night without saying anything to my boyfriend. He met me outside the venue and broke into a smile when he saw me getting out of my cab. Clearly he liked what he saw. But he said nothing until I broke it to him that my cleavage wasn't just the result of an excellent bra. "You're mutilating yourself," he said, sounding a little self-righteous. "Your breasts are perfect. If I wanted a girl with big boobs, I would have picked a girl with big boobs." But he couldn't help himself, and throughout the night, he was referring to them as "jugs" and "honkers" and "twins" and "funbags" and "titties" and more.
Surgical tape was annoying, and the inserts and tape kept peeking out too obviously from under my summer dresses, so I gave up the experiment after about 24 hours (taking the boobs off for sleep, of course). But a one-day stint as a well-endowed woman was enough to affect me for some time. Going from feeling desired by so many strangers back to getting the occasional remark on a good day was a shock to the system, an ice-cold realization that I was less sexy and attractive than I had been or could be. I'd felt merely indifferent to my breasts before, but I now found them lacking.
I also felt a little like I'd walked a mile in a large-chested woman's shoes: When all you're seen for is your breasts, you'll do what you have to do to cover them up. I'd only had my boobs for a day; I'm sure they come with baggage when you've had them your whole life. I also understood a bit more what it might be like to be so dissatisfied with your boobs that you decide to do something more permanent to change them. If you're aware of how significant a good pair of jugs can be, you'll do what you have to do to get them.
I'm not going to tell you that I didn't feel bad about my body for a little while, because I did. My outward appearance undoubtedly informs my interior life; I couldn't truthfully say otherwise. I walked around in the days following Project Boobies with my head down and my shoulders hunched as if to preempt the lack of scrutiny from others. I know you're not interested so I'm not even going to bother.
But the confidence quietly came back. I wore a dress that I liked and felt good in it. I got a blowout one day. I did my makeup. I returned to center, a place where I know deep down that boobs do not define a woman—not her attractiveness, and most certainly not her self-worth.
Helin Jung is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She was formerly the executive lifestyle editor of Cosmopolitan.com.
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