By Kelly Seal
There have been many things I’ve wanted to change about my appearance over the years. In high school, I hated my large Italian nose and thought nobody could ever feel romantic towards me, at least not as much as they swooned over the popular perky-nosed girls. In college, I dressed like a guy: t-shirts and jeans only, because I didn’t feel feminine or sexy like the women who could throw on mini skirts and heels for a Saturday night. They managed to get dates, while I watched from the sidelines wondering if I would ever be like them: pretty, confident, sexy, and feminine.
I’ve battled with similar challenges through adulthood. It’s always been difficult for me to think of myself as sexy or beautiful, so I didn’t expect men to treat me like I was. And while I’ve (luckily) never been with a man who asked me to change myself in some way for him, whether it’s my weight, my boobs, or even my hair, I still felt as though I wouldn’t be “enough” as a girlfriend. I think on some level, we women feel insecurity about our physical appearance a lot in relationships. If I had a boyfriend who asked me to get a nose job, cut my hair, or dress sexier, I might have considered the idea when I was younger, since I already questioned those parts of myself. I hope not, but I’m glad I didn’t have their doubt influencing my decisions. Many women do.
In honor of this month’s topic Moldable May, I interviewed my friend August and her experience with a boyfriend who asked her to change her physical appearance for him. She explains how it affected her perception of sexuality and desirability, and how she responded.
1. When your former boyfriend told you that your boobs were too small, how did it make you feel?
I’d been shopping with my mother that day, looking for bras. I was disheartened because there were few bras that were small enough for me, and many of those that were my size were ultra-padded, which I don’t like. So I was lamenting this state of affairs, and I said, “I know my boobs are small, but they aren’t that small.” And he said, “Oh, yes they are.” And I said, “No they aren’t.” He laughed and made a joke about the “itty bitty titty committee” – which he, of course, found hilarious. I felt very self-conscious and uncomfortable about my body. I felt like maybe I wasn’t woman enough for him, that I had betrayed some sense of beauty.
2. This same boyfriend also commented on your legs and bikini line being too hairy. How did this make you feel?
When he commented about my body hair, I wanted to tell him to fuck off. I thought it was completely and totally out-of-line for him to complain about the way I shaved my legs – like I should be doing a better job for the twice a week that he ran his hands down my legs. When he told me “you need to shave down there,” I was embarrassed, of course, but also had the fuck-you response. While I don’t have a landing strip, I also certainly don’t have a forest: and shouldn’t he be happy that he’s getting in there anyway? As someone who’s also had a healthy (not overinflated, I like to think) concept of my own looks/beauty, his clear disapproval really struck a discordant tone. And when he complained that I wore “granny underwear” and insisted that I start wearing thongs, I got all riled up inside. I got defensive and fought back about how uncomfortable I find thongs, and how they look, to me, very whorish. He was unmoved, and continued to insist that I wear thongs.
3. How did this make you feel insecure about your body?
I know this is silly, but when he laughed at my boobs it reinforced this sense I sometimes get that I’ll always only be “passable” — that I lack a certain signifier of “Sexy Woman” or “Beautiful Woman.” It made me feel that I’ll never be the type of woman that men dream about or lust after — but in particular, it made me feel like my boyfriend found my body lacking, even comical – and that certainly didn’t lead to a sense of security in the relationship. It took me back to my middle school and high school days when the most popular (and well-endowed) girl would laugh at my breasts, even though they really weren’t that much smaller than those of most 13-year-olds.
With his comment about shaving, I felt gross and hairy. I think most women feel that way anyway, even if they aren’t very hairy to begin with. I’m a little on the furry side (my husband insists he’s seen furrier), but I’m au natural all around – I rarely wear makeup, rarely do my hair, don’t wear short, tight clothes, spend tons of time outside playing sports and in nature: which is to say that I’m not overly concerned about how much hair I have on my bikini line when I’m not wearing bikinis (this incident was mid-winter). So I started to wonder if I could be seen as sexy by a man. At this point in my life, I’d never had a waxing, and my only experience with hair removal was shaving — and shaving down there kinda sucks. It highlights to me how stupid men are about body hair. They think it’s a simple shave to remove body hair, or they think that their porn-star fantasies are naturally trim down there (just like they’re naturally DDs). With the insistence on wearing thongs, I felt like I wasn’t living up to his standard of beauty — which inevitably involved a porn star ideal. I realized that with small breasts, a furry bikini line, and comfortable underwear, I’d never be anyone’s dream.
4. Did this make you question your sexuality and/or femininity?
It absolutely made me question my femininity – but only in an outer way. Which is to say, I’m confident in my own body, I accept that small breasts on a lean frame are a part of what make me so athletic, and so sexy in the way that I am. But it really hit home that I wasn’t feminine and sexy in some outer, societally-defined sense. It made me feel like my femininity lies on the margins.
I thought that my particular type of sexuality and femininity was quaint, even passe. That if I wanted to be a sensual, passionate, in-control-of-my-sex-life kind of woman, I’d have to start dressing different, grooming differently, etc. So for most of my twenties I had this deep resignation that I simply wasn’t sexually attractive to men. In intimate relationships – and this one in particular – I was really uncomfortable when it came time to get naked. And I think that’s part of why I had a hum-drum sex life. I got this sense that the only way I could be beautiful or sexually desirable was to have all the trappings of a porn star – big boobs, landing strip (or less) of pubic hair, wearing a thong.
5. How would you respond to this now (compared to then)? Would you react in the same way?
In that situation, I think I was defensive, withdrew from the conversation and then let the situation pass. Ultimately, I broke up with him, because I realized he was never the type of person I could be with. And I think I’d react the same way now — there’s no sense arguing with someone about the relative size of my breasts. I don’t really see the sense in trying to change someone else’s notion of beauty – especially if it’s the standard big boobs, blond hair, red lips notion of beauty. Subtlety will never mean anything for the man who goes for those signifiers.
The bottom line is, I didn’t feel comfortable being myself around him. It’s clear that I would never, never stay with a man who demanded I become his vision or ideal of beauty. I might just flat out say “fuck off” and leave. Yeah – that I could do.
I’m now married to a man who loves everything about me – and who insists that there are plenty of women with smaller boobs, and that my boobs are perfect for my athletic frame (which, of course, he finds sexier than D-cups).
* For the next few weeks we here at Badonlinedates.com will be talking, writing and posting about the ideas, motives, and thoughts that surround trying to “mold” aka change someone in a relationship. Is it possible, is it a good idea?
Join in and share your own “Moldable May” stories with us on Twitter with the hash tag #MoldableMay, and on the
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