I had no reason to ever think I would end up with enormous breasts. All of the women in my family are about a B-cup, and I developed at a normal rate for the most part. That is, I wasn't one of those six-year-olds in training bras. But about the time my sweet 16 rolled around, I was busting out of the "average" category and into the "Dude, she's stacked" league. My boobs weren't gargantuan then--just a mere D cup--but by age 19 they were spilling out of a Double D, and things didn't stop there. In just a few years, I was special-ordering J-cup bras from England in an attempt to tame the wild beasts that were my breasts.

It was becoming increasingly difficult to find clothes. Forget empire waists, button-downs, and spaghetti straps. It wasn't just in public that my boobs were causing problems, either. Those two were troublemakers in the sack, as well. I've come dangerously close to giving men black eyes while riding the ol' baloney pony, not to mention compromising my own safety. Oh, and did I mention that my shoulders really, really hurt?

Being stacked isn't all bad, of course. There was certainly an up-side (as long as I wore a really supportive bra). I was young and pretty and I had big boobs. Men loved me. And I wasn't one of those frumpy, repressed girls in oversized sweatshirts attempting to conceal the heavenly soap cakes that lay just beneath. My wardrobe consisted of a lot of cute little fitted shirts and skirts. I could barely walk down the street without getting a marriage proposal or two, which resulted in periods of mildly delusional narcissism. But then I'd go to Victoria's Secret and leave entirely depressed and frustrated--my boobs didn't come close to fitting into their measly D-cups.

One night, in a groggy fit of sleep, I was trying to get comfortable on my stomach. As one might imagine, this was a rather awkward position for me. I tossed, turned, and adjusted. And then I had an epiphany: Enough was enough. I decided to go under the knife.

Wait, I Need $10,000

I started by doing some research on the net. I looked at a lot of before and after pictures to get an idea of what I could expect, as far as a finished product. One night, I was watching The Learning Channel and Operation came on. Fate was calling: the show was entitled "Breast Reduction." The surgery was incredibly gory and invasive; burning flesh and breasts sliced up like pumpkin pies. But a couple of bloody boobies weren't about to stop me--within a week, I had an appointment with a plastic surgeon.

At my initial consultation, I met Dr. W., a highly recommended, knife-wielding woman of great respect. She took a look at my breasts (and copped a few feels) and said I was a great candidate. I looked at her portfolio and asked about a billion questions, all of which she answered patiently. Then the bad news: apparently, my insurance company wasn't one to easily give up the green for breast reductions, even when medically necessary. They had denied every initial request for the last three years; I was potentially looking at a year-long fight. I almost cried. Then I got proactive.

My primary care provider was the first person to arm me for prospective battle. He wrote a letter of support that stated, "Marie has unnaturally large breasts that are causing all sorts of back problems." (In official medical jargon, mind you.) Next, I wrote my own letter--a cohesive-but-true, candid correspondence from one human being to another. Then I got down on my knees and prayed.

And they said yes.

I was immediately on the horn to the plastic surgeon's office to schedule my surgery. I could hear the secretary flipping the pages of her calendar.

"Looks like we're booked solid for the next three months."

A wave of anti-climactic disappointment. Three more months of aching shoulders. Three more months of hazardous-to-your-health sex. Three more months of under-the-boob-sweat.

"Oh wait," the secretary said. "We had a cancellation for Thursday... Can you do it?"

Thursday was the day after tomorrow. A split second of butterflies, palpitations, and electrons zipping through my entire body.

And then, "Yes. Yes, I can do it."

Reduction Junction

After telling my boss I'd be MIA for two weeks, I hit the stores to prepare for battle. My shopping list went something like this: crushed ice, extra pillows, easy-to-prepare food, a ton of magazines, several button-down shirts (I wouldn't be able to lift my arms over my head), and more than $200 in pajamas (one wants to be fashionable when convalescing after breast-mutilating surgery). Normally, I would have a pre-op appointment with my surgeon, but because of the immediate surgery, there was no such luxury. Most women take Polaroids of their big boobs before the operation, but I had posed for some nude portraits so this was already taken care of. (The egomaniacal phase, remember?)

On the big day, I had to get to the hospital about eight o'clock in the morning. It wasn't until I was actually admitted to my room that a significant case of anxiety set in. What if something goes horribly wrong? What if they accidentally cut a nerve and I can't feel my nipples anymore? What if I do something really embarrassing while under deep anesthesia? God, what if I have a bowel movement on the table or something? These, my friends, are the thoughts of a neurotic 22-year-old about to undergo a three-hour major surgery.

After filling out paperwork, I put on one of those hideous pastel hospital gowns and awaited the nurse. She placed my IV and drew some blood before the anesthesiologist arrived, who promised she wouldn't let me fall asleep for all eternity. Then it was time to wait. Someone brought in a portable TV and a few videotapes. After two or three episodes of I Love Lucy, my plastic surgeon had finally come to mark up my breasts and go over any last-minute questions. She took out a purple surgical pen (I figured this was a good sign, being as purple is my favorite color) and showed me where the incisions would be made. My nips, though traveling a bit northward, would stay attached to the nerves and blood supply throughout the whole ordeal, so there wasn't much danger of losing any feeling. In fact, I was likely to gain sensation since there wouldn't be so much extra tissue in the way.

I was still pretty nervous when the anesthesiologist returned. "I'm going to give you something to help you relax," she said, and pushed some medicine into my IV. That was the last thing I remembered before waking up in recovery.

I woke up in the post-op area fairly incoherent and uncomfortable. The anesthesiologist was at my bedside, reassuring me that everything went fine as she fed me ice chips. (Yeah, that was a little weird. But I was really thirsty.) Then I fell back to sleep and woke up in my hospital room, a close friend waiting for me. The next 24 hours consisted of several servings of vanilla pudding and a lot of Morphine. It was great. In a way it felt like I had been hit by a truck, but at the same time things weren't too unbearable. How could they be? I was high as a kite on narcotics and had a really cute male nurse who, unfortunately, was a homo. (He made off with my copy of the Mercury's Queer Issue before I left.) After my plastic surgeon's assistant checked me out the next morning, I was discharged home with a packet of instructions and a follow-up appointment in two weeks.

The next 14 days were a blur; most of my time was spent on the couch propped up by several pillows, surrounded by reading material and movie rentals. I wandered around the house in head-to-toe white pajamas, doped up on Percoset and daytime television. Considering I wasn't wearing any makeup either, I bore close resemblance to a mental patient. Not much of a radical departure, I know. It really wasn't so bad.

After two weeks, I reluctantly returned to work. Most everyone knew the reason for my absence, but those who didn't (mostly male acquaintances) said things like, "Marie, I see you've made some big changes." Yesiree.

After surgery, I made the decision to take some time off from dating. Having never been a big fan of horror films, I wasn't about to put on a live show in my bedroom. We're talking some pretty nasty bruises, swollen nipples, and occasional seepage during the first month. Not exactly Playboy material (but hot stuff for some fetish publication, I'm sure). I couldn't even wear a bra for two months. One would think these potentially awkward situations would be enough to keep me off the meat market, but alas, my hormones would have no such patience. Within a few weeks, half a dozen gentlemen had been, uh, mysteriously lured into my boudoir.

To avoid any surprises, I decided to be entirely forthright. Shockingly enough (or not, considering how "eager" men are as a general rule), my surgery didn't stop anyone from venturing below the bra. Sure, there was "Does this hurt?" No. "How about this? Does this hurt?" No, but lay off the chewing action already. For the first few months, my doc instructed me to massage my breasts twice daily, and there was never any shortage of young men willing to be of assistance.

Half a Rack

Almost nine months later, things are looking good. The incisions have faded to a pretty-in-pink hue, and in time they'll be practically invisible. My breasts have settled into a beautiful shape and my nipples are sweet little things in perfect proportion. Altogether, my surgeon took off about five pounds. That's what's really cool about the surgery; I got to choose size, shape--almost like boob shopping. And speaking of shopping, finding a 36C bra is a whole lot easier than tracking down a 38J. Hello, Victoria's Secret.

When I decided to have a breast reduction I knew it would affect my life, but I had no idea of how many physical, emotional, and social implications it entailed. For the first time in ages, I felt like a real girl. I never considered my cartoonish big boobs to encapsulate my entire identity, but they were at least part of it. That part was now gone forever, and I had to come to terms with a new reality. I'm still a sex kitten; any wise man or woman knows that comes from the inside.

Big issues aside, even the little day-to-day things have changed dramatically. I can hug my relatives without feeling weird. I go braless on a regular basis. I hear the word "Mamacita" a lot less. I can run. I can jump. Hooray.