Cynthia Gilmore :: My Boobs at Sixty ::

Creative Non-Fiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I moved south kicking and screaming in 2015 with my partner, a leg man. He stalks women on the balmy South Carolina coast where I left him, while I’ve made a peaceful home in the mountains of North Carolina, desperately resisting the urge to utter beloved colloquialisms I haven’t yet earned.

My Boobs at Sixty

Perky would be a long shot. But they’re not completely flat or down to my waist. Not yet. I took a long look the other day and was pleasantly surprised at their upright condition. I wish I’d photographed my boobs throughout my life to document their gradual transformation. If I’d been born later with a cell phone in hand, I probably would have. Mammograms don’t quite capture the magic. Tragic? Not today.

I didn’t have much of a chest in my youth. But for some mystical reason, they sprouted from a B to a C size cup around the time I was married. Maybe they inspired his proposal, “the boobs that launched a thousand ships” like Helen of Troy. Maybe they were just a wedding bonus. Honestly, by today’s standards, a C cup is a marginal achievement, but a milestone following such modest beginnings.

At thirteen, I was already 5’10” and squeezed my feet into size 10 shoes (size 11’s were non-existent in the 1970s). I was quirky, awkward, and determined to shrink from notice once I’d exhausted the day’s supply of snarky commentary. Boobs weren’t among my hopes and dreams since being a giant among my peers was torture enough. I was already bullied with an unimaginative list of names like moose and big bird, big boobs would have done me in.

The small bumps I sported through high school and into my twenties went mostly unnoticed by the opposite sex. They didn’t inspire oohs and aahs in the bedroom either, but then again, who was I sleeping with? Not exactly the cream of the crop. Low self-esteem attracted mostly bottom feeders who could sniff out the weak of the herd like my acerbic, alcoholic father; more Don Rickles than George Clooney.

I married at age 32, when my C cup was a noteworthy alteration, inspiring an interest in fancy bras, corsets, and my blossoming sensuality. My husband supported the exploration with his whole heart and reproductive apparatus. Unfortunately, lace-clad boobs and silk stockings weren’t enough to hold a marriage together. I left eight years later with the garters and significantly depleted self-worth in tow.

What happened next didn’t help. It was deemed by suspect professionals that I needed both braces and bifocals. Moreover, a stylist whispered in my forty-year-old ears that my hair was resisting the chestnut color she applied every six weeks. My body was repelling both youth and marriage. Imagine my joy. The depression of that period supported a brief growth spurt in my chest as the rest of my body expanded thanks to Ben and Jerry’s and an expired gym membership. But I made my way back to average-sized appendages eventually.

In the twenty-odd years since, my unvarying cup size has had limited influence on my ability to navigate relationships and cope with the world at large. I dated on and off for years then fell madly in love with the man who would become my greatest teacher. And he wasn’t a boob man. He was a leg man. Luckily, I had the correct leg length to appeal to his discriminating taste. So, another narcissist shared my life for eight exhausting years. Until I left, cried for two years, and therapied myself to death like a persistent, hard slap in the face. I don’t give up on unhealthy patterns without an apocalypse. That ending nearly did me in, but I clawed my way back to a gentler reality, and five years later, dating doesn’t inspire the gag reflex.

So, what do my boobs at 60 have to do with anything? Acceptance. Dignity. Less interest in the world’s 1-10 perfection scale of approval for women, in and out of bathing suits. Not always, and not every second. But minutes strung together over time add up to days and weeks of improved self-worth. I’ll take it. My boobs and I survived, upright, through the trials of a life in the dark. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at my butt.