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When Breasts Change

26 Sep

This post is for women.  Especially women of a certain age.  I confess I am rather hoping that the men I know do not read this.  But I’m learning that when things are uncomfortable for me, it doesn’t mean I’m not supposed to share.

This post is about “aging” breasts.

In this culture, breasts, for good or ill, are very much a part of what is considered sexually attractive.  I am fortunate that even after my lumpectomy and subsequent weight loss, I still have large breasts.  However now that I am officially considered menopausal – it has been over a year since I’ve stopped bleeding – I’ve noticed my breasts are different.  They are not as full and round and perky as they once were.

The ego part of me, the part of me that grew up in this American culture, struggles with this.   Here, breasts are prominently displayed on every other billboard, are blatantly paraded in movies and sit-coms, and are splashed throughout magazine ads.  We glorify breasts here, and we glorify young, round, pert ones.  We even adulate fake ones.  (But that’s a subject I’ll save for another time.)

The other part of me knows, deep down, that there is no shame in aging.  This wise part of me knows that we are all multi-dimensional beings who are ever so much more than our physical appearance.

But I cannot easily negate or erase the feelings the ego part of me has.

One time I was in a gathering which included two men from Africa.  I cannot remember how we got on the topic.  I think I was talking about older women and the subject of power.  Anyway, one of these gentlemen mentioned that there is a term in Africa for ‘the woman who fed you’  (breastfed you.)  It is a term of enormous respect and affection.  I love this!  I love that they honor these women who gave them nourishment and kept them alive.  I love that breasts are acknowledged and revered for nourishing and sustaining life.  I find it sad that we have sexualized breasts to such an extent that a woman cannot even breastfeed her baby in public without facing harassment or disapproval.  This is certainly not true in Africa and other parts of the world.

I used to think breasts got saggy because of simple gravity.  But now I am realizing it is because the milk ducts atrophy.  When a woman reaches menopause, there is no longer a possibility of giving birth (unless a miracle happens along the lines of Abraham’s wife, Sarah.)  And when there is no longer the need to care for a baby, the milk ducts shrink.  Hence, the breasts change shape and begin to sag a bit.

So… how do I – how do any of us – endeavor to feel sexy and attractive even with breasts that are aging, or scarred, or removed, or replaced with synthetic ones?  The best way, I imagine, is to focus on our overall health and inner beauty.  If we are healthy and happy, that beauty really will shine through.  The right people, the best people, will see your beauty no matter what.  It probably goes without saying, but anyone who “loves” you only for your breasts, obviously does not love you at all.

Be well, dear women.  And shine on!