New year, new boobs
"My mate, who is a girl, is getting a boob job."
"Just one, or both?" I joke.
"Both," he replies, not getting it. "Bought and paid for. She wants to begin 2014 with a new body, and new boobs."
"Oh really," I say. "How much is that going to cost?"
"I dunno. Thousands."
I think about how common it is to want to begin the new year with new things: new ideas, new clothes, new relationships, new bodies.
Many of us want to begin the new year with new bodies. In fact, according to figures from the US published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the top 10 promises we make include: spending less and saving more; learning something exciting; helping others achieve their dreams; falling in love; spending more time with family. These are commendable aims, but what tops the list? Lose weight. (That explains the new crowdedness at the gym, the new healthy recipe focus in Sunday magazines, and the new season of Biggest Loser.)
"Well we all want to change our bodies this time of year, it seems," I say.
He takes a deep breath and looks out the window. I wonder if he's reflecting on his own promise to do something about the fact his shorts don't fit quite like they used to.
He looks back at me. "I guess I just wish she had told me before she decided. I would have talked her out of it."
He sighs. "But she's determined to do it, and do it now. I'm just not sure if she's doing it for the right reasons."
When it comes to changing the way we look, should anyone judge whether we're right or wrong?
Clearly a breast enhancement is a big decision. It costs a lot of money. It requires surgery. There's a healing time.
But a boob job appears to be a bigger than usual decision, largely because boobs are a big deal. Not just for women, but for everyone, apparently. Yes, boobs may be on a woman's body, but does that woman really own them? A breastfeeding child might regard mum's boobs as theirs, quite naturally, and often to the great sorrow of daddy - after all, those boobs used to be his sexy play things.
Boobs are also greatly symbolic. They symbolise life, they symbolise womanhood, they symbolise sex, they symbolise fertility.
Boobs become interesting when they start to grow. They cease to be as interesting when they are aged. This trajectory of relevance is academically interesting - yet the changing significance of boobs is not just a philosophical matter. It's deeply personal and emotional as well.
Are my boobs OK? Are they big enough? Are they too big? Are they too small? Are they the right shape? Are they attractive? Are they attractive? Are they attractive? Are they attractive, still?
Funny thing is, women sometimes worry about whether their boobs look good more than whether they "work" (as givers of food or pleasure).
And who decides whether their boobs look good? Friends, yes. Relatives, yes (most definitely in the case of sisters). But most importantly, it seems, men do. Men - whether in straight or gay land - seem to be the ones who have the ultimate boob approval power. This is the way it is, but is it right?
"Do you think you have the right to judge your mate's boob job decision?" I ask my friend.
"What do you mean? I'm not judging her."
"You are. You don't think she should. You think she's doing it for the wrong reasons."
"Well, that's not judgment - that's me being concerned. I'm concerned she's getting a boob job to fix her low self-esteem, and that she won't ever really be happy so long as she focuses on what she looks like, rather than who she is."
"You make a good point," I say. "We should all love our insides. As we age, our outsides go to crap, and we need to be prepared for a time when we're not pretty any more.
"But is her decision to get a boob job so different from your decision to get braces?"
He looks at me and rolls his eyes.
"Because ... I'm getting braces to straighten my teeth, because I want to, not because I want to make myself more attractive to women."
He looks at me.
I pause. "Maybe your friend is getting her boobs done for the exact same reason. Maybe a boob job is no different to braces. Maybe a new year and new boobs isn't that big of a deal."
How far would you go to transform yourself, and why do you want to transform in the first place? Where do you draw the line? And should we judge the new choices of others?
Sydney Morning Herald