I tend to say “boobs” a lot. I mean, not ALL THE TIME, jeez. I’m not parading around the office blathering on about boobs and underwires and bra manufacturers, or anything. But when the topic does come up, my word of choice, especially with my peers, is boobs. “Breasts” can feel clinical or medical, even though it’s technically appropriate. I know we’re all supposed to be mature about our anatomy, and say “penis” and “vagina” and “breast” and “testicle” without getting all coy and giggly (remember when we all said va-jay-jay, and that led to idiotic words like “vajazzling”? Kill me now). I do say “breast” a lot, especially when it comes to talking about some of the more technical aspects of fit, but I kind of like “boobs”.
“Boobs” is a fairly innocuous word, like a goofy friend, and I usually hear it in cheerful, friendly situations. “Tits” and “cans” are really off-putting to me, as I associate them with situations where I’ve been ogled, commented on inappropriately, or catcalled, but I remember when I first discovered Bravissimo, and along with adorable, smiley models, the website’s copy talked cheerfully and kindly about our “boobs”. Beautiful bras for big-boobed girls! It was sweet, enthusiastic, and didn’t have any sort of weird, sexualizing undercurrent that I’d associated with “big-boobed” lingerie in the past. It also came with really awesome English accents.
I realized this month when I started fitting women that I used “boobs” not only on the blog, but also in conversation.
Everyone approaches bra fittings differently. For some women it’s fun and interesting, but for others there’s a lot of defensiveness, shame, self-consciousness, and uncertainty that goes along with asking someone to help you with your bras. I mean, we’re adults, right? How can we be so dumb as not to know how to wear a basic item of clothing? Alternately, we may feel angry or defeated: We’re [x] years old, goddammit, and bras are the worst! They’re uncomfortable, and they’re not made for our shapes! Why should we expect this shopping trip/fitting experience to be any better? Also, Victoria’s Secret said we were [x] size, so if you don’t make that size work, we’re leaving!
With all of these emotions coming into play, I think it’s particularly important that I use language deliberately and sensitively. We’re dealing with really personal shit, here, and I want to do my best to make sure that any volunteer or customer who’s getting fitted feels comfortable and at ease. Therefore, I ask you: how do you feel about the word “boobs”?
For example, I never really liked calling breasts “The Girls”. I used the phrase jokingly for a while, largely because it’s what Stacy and Clinton said on “What Not to Wear”, and I adore Stacy and Clinton, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes me feel uncomfortable. I remember feeling utterly divorced from my breasts when they first started growing. I know it’s not everyone’s experience, but I felt so powerless when my body started changing. My ideal of beauty was the long, sylph-like ballerina’s beauty, and these . . . THINGS just showed up and kept growing and people felt the need to comment on them and look at them and evaluate them and I hadn’t wanted them in the first place and UGH. Saying “The Girls”, to me, feels like continuing to separate myself from my breasts. There’s my body, and then there are “the girls,” with a mind of their own, ruining my life and my shopping. It took me a very long time to accept that my breasts were a part of me, and even more time to accept that they don’t define me (I still struggle with that one). So they’re not “the girls”, to me. They’re my boobs.
I made a list of some common slang names for “breasts”, and I gotta say, there aren’t many I like:
Titties (are you a ten-year-old boy? No? Then don’t say “titties”, come on.)
Dugs (ughh, ick)
Chesticles (absolutely not. No. I refuse.)
Jugs (ewww, no, bleah)
It’s interesting looking at the full list. Lots of food parallels, as well as, weirdly, machinery and mechanical allusions. Mostly, for me, this list is a list of words that majorly, seriously rub me the wrong way. God, if someone asked me about my “cans”, I swear I would punch them in the face.
Seeing how strongly I feel about most other-words-for-breasts, I wanted to open it up to you: what nicknames would make you feel uncomfortable during a bra fitting? How do you feel about the word “boobs”? Does it bother you when I say it on Sweet Nothings, and is there a word or phrase you’d prefer I use? Let me know!