Two years later, she was more ready to believe that I might know a thing or two about what women had gone through, and that perhaps it was going through some of those things myself that had led me to make the choices I'd made in years past, however ill-advised. I no longer registered the wish -- out loud, or even to myself -- that she'd shave her legs or pluck her eyebrows. She looked beautiful as she was, and I loved it that she felt no need to change herself, even though I (raised in another era, the product of a different set of experiences) could not feel equal acceptance of the toll taken by childbirth and the simple ravages of time.
So my daughter came to judge me less for my foolish vanities. She understood better how a person could find herself addressing the grief of a parent's death or the failure of a marriage with a crazy, poorly planned visit to a surgeon's office, where a scalpel would slice open the chest and a sac of silicone would be inserted.
I judged myself less harshly too, and as I did, it came to me how like a woman it was to blame herself, first for her imperfect breasts and then -- again and again and again -- for her inability to accept them.
You may think I am about to tell you how I came to love myself exactly as I was -- flat chest, scars, deflated breasts and all. But the truth is a little more complicated. Only a little money remained in my inheritance fund. With it, I took myself to one more cosmetic surgeon -- but this time, I researched my choice carefully. I didn't want large breasts, or showy breasts. You might say I just wanted there to be a soft place over my heart, like the softness that I felt within. Men have identified women's breasts as a source of comfort and refuge since time began. No great wonder, I sought the same.
I emerged from the procedure with not particularly dramatic or noticeable breasts, but they were comforting to one person: me.
Joyce Maynard is the author of five novels, including American Library Association award-winner The Usual Rules, and To Die For, made into a motion picture starring Nicole Kidman. Her best-selling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into eleven languages. She runs memoir workshops at her home in California and at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Read more at www.joycemaynard.com.
Originally published in MORE magazine, October 2008.