I sported high-necked collars hoping to distract people from noticing that my breasts were larger than my head. I layered sports bras and applied duct tape around my chest a la Christina Ricci’s character in Now and Then. Surrounded by flat-chested blonds at my New England boarding school, it was impossible for me to blend in. The constant attention and not-so-subtle jokes using my last name, Gerber, a popular brand of baby food, fueled my insecurity. I dreamed of wearing Lacoste sun dresses over 32B wireless cotton bras. I went on boob-shrinking, no-carb fasts during cross country season, but starvation didn't alter my breast size. Instead it left painful and visible stress fractures in my emaciated legs.
My enormous chest dictated more than just my anxious behavior, it controlled my relationships. My most significant romance was with an on-again-off-again long-distance boyfriend. During our infrequent visits, we'd kiss fully clothed. I can remember stopping his hand as he gently tried to slide it up my shirt. I could hardly stand to take off my bra in the shower, much less in front of another person. Although I was terrified of anyone picking up on my shrinking self-esteem, I feared falling too far behind my friends in high school who were already starting to have sex.
When I lost my virginity, I was almost completely dressed wearing a skirt and long sleeve shirt. I'd just turned 18 and had ditched my latest boyfriend for a blond hockey player who was too shy to pull at my top. I didn't tell him it was my first time. I felt comfortable knowing we weren't dating and he wouldn't have time to realize how miserable I was with my body. As I quietly searched for my heels in the morning darkness—looking to escape without waking him—I realized that protecting myself from criticism meant avoiding intimacy altogether.
After a family friend with breasts smaller than mine decided to go under the knife, I became convinced a nip-tuck would be a quick fix to my growing relationship problems and my distorted body image. I called my surgeon father in hysterics and begged him to help me.