Well it hasn't exactly been the 'breast' of times, has it Mr Dickens?
In a week where breasts have been all over the news, I have had several unrelated conversations about those mammae that protrude gently from the chest, including:
- the breast-feeding yummy mummy friend who said she'd felt like she'd been given an electric shock when her mischievous baby girl decided to try out her growing teeth by clamping down hard on mummy's nipple whilst suckling (as babies do)
- the excited gal pal who insists we head to a La Senza closing down sale to clinch some amazing deals on bras so the 'girls' (that'll be our breasts, in case you're wondering) can look pretty
- the offbeat conversation on palindromes (a word, verse or sentence that reads the same backward and forward) where the first word I said earned me..um..looks from the guys I'd been chatting with. (they'd been coming up with words like 'deed', 'mum' and 'dad', and, I was all ready to say, 'level' when I'd looked down at my chest and instantly yelled 'boob!' instead. Well that certainly caused a few seconds of diversion, especially as I was the only female there..)
Interesting, because the week has also been filled to busting - if you'll excuse the pun - with news of the worldwide controversy surrounding the safety of breast implants from Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), the now closed French firm whose implants were banned last year after they were found to contain non-medical-grade silicone that could potentially cause harm to the women who have had their breasts surgically enhanced with PIP implants. It would be simple to just go back to the clinic where one had their breasts done, have the surgeons remove the silicones and replace them with better ones, right? After all, it's just like buying something in a shop, finding it unsuitable because of a manufacturing error and deciding to return it for a better replacement without having to pay for that, because, hey, you paid for them in the first instance, didn't ya?
Here's the problem: this firm supplied implants to countries including the UK, France and Australia. In the UK alone, about 40,000 women have been fitted with PIP implants. That's 40,000 anxious women who are now probably very confused about the mixed messages from the various bodies/organisations involved. 40,000 women who probably gave a lot of thought to making the decision to go under the knife, knowing fully well the risks involved - I hope.
So now we have a war raging on who is 'morally responsible' for the replacement surgeries. Not I, said the
Harley Medical Group which fitted almost 14,000 women with PIP implants over a nine-year period. Their position is this: PIP implants were licenced by the relevant government body (the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency of the Department of Health) for use in the UK, so if there's a problem with them who's to blame? The body that green-lit the product for use, or the body that performed the procedure with the product in question? It's a bit of a pass-the-buck story being played whilst the patients who paid top money to have their breasts done feel they have been let down by the private clinics. You can read more from the Harley Medical Group here, and the latest news from the BBC on the subject here.
As women, when we stand naked in front of the mirror, there are potentially so many things we can find 'wrong' with our appearance, from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet - some imagined, some true; some we can do something about, others we decide it is as it is..and so on. I joke with my mum that my face currently looks 'funny' because I haven't shaped my eyebrows in a while as I decided I wanted to have the arch bigger. It means that there's generally uneven bits of little hairs growing where, previously they'd have been shaved off. It means that as soon as I see myself on any reflective surface I want to laugh because I feel like it's given my face a 'look'. And as anyone who shaves anything regularly knows, the moment you don't keep up with it, there's a marked difference. Twice I've been to the salon and had the beautician insist in consternation on shaping my eyebrows 'for free', probably because she can see that they've been neglected. But it's a deliberate 'negligence', I always hurry to assure her before she lunges for them. So yes, I can do something about my eyebrows if it bothers me much...or I can sit out this phase until it's grown to the point I like and start the process of shaping it to the size of arch I want. A 'funny' face in the mirror staring back at me says I'm doing the second.
The point is, like everything else, it boils down to attitude and choice, and to each their own. I believe that what you make of your appearance is that which elevates the individual to an ism. It is undeniable that breasts are one of the most fetishized parts of the human body, so it is no wonder that many woman have hang-ups about theirs and would consider cosmetic surgery for reasons like: to look better in and out of clothes; to feel more confident about themselves...etc. There are women who were given PIP implants within the NHS for reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy, and that is of course a different scenario to the average Joanne who had surgery simply because she wanted bigger breasts.
I just wonder if we can ever be steely in cultivating a habit of simply being happy with the natural assets we have! Of revelling in the curves (or perceived lack thereof) and 'imperfections' that we run a critical eye over everyday. In this body-conscious world, the media will never cease to find the next 'big' body part to focus on. There will always be something on Angelina Jolie's lips, Pippa Middleton's pesky posterior, J-Lo's bum et patati et patata..and when it gets old, there'll be yet more. Maybe it's even been found, and I'm already behind with the news. Forget the Northern Star, the only constant in all the media barrage is you. How do you receive it?
Changing your breast, is it the best?
Or perhaps I'm just a (happily) small-chested woman who's spewing a load of tosh?