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How Bras are Like Love

On past Valentine's Days, I've morphed into that girl. I've always been a romantic at heart and on Valentine's Day, it gets amped up to truly ridiculous levels. When I say ridiculous levels, I really mean epic, age-inappropriate meltdowns. When I haven't received gifts, I cried. I criticized. I yelled. While these moments aren't anywhere near "my finest", I'm not entirely to blame. My boyfriend is ironically awful around this major (!!!) holiday. Yeah, that time he gave me a Kmart blender on February 15th? Or, that time he invited me to dinner with his parents, four days before we started dating? I've been challenged by Zack's conception of February 14th for the past three years.

I can't get enough of this kid and he isn't into V-Day

Part of my obsession stems from my own personal materialism. I was successfully incubated with that capitalist idea that gifts equate to love. I attribute the other half of this reaction to my actual personality. Under all my left-leaning and feminist opinions, I'm a traditionalist at heart. I believe in monogamy (for me!), marriage (for everyone interested!), and gift-giving that's rooted in a cultural heritage. Before I knew of Zack's noninterest in Valentine's Day, I firmly believed that partners should and do exchange such things as chocolate, lingerie, flowers, and jewelry. Because if they don't or won't, it'd be proof that they were terrible partners.

Conveniently, the gentlemen I dated before Zack fit into my tidy, socially reinforced ideas of what February 14th means. No surprise here: they were bummer boyfriends for the other 364 days of the year. Zack has never bought me a piece of jewelry or surprised me with romantic plans. But he's done things that are infinitely better. He's taught me that success comes through perseverance and hard work. When I'm stuck in a pit of self-doubt and insecurity, he reminds me that I'm not actually the worst things I see in myself. He's always encouraged me to go after my dreams, even when they seem inevitably doomed. I've learned he doesn't fit into the 'mold' on Valentine's Day, but that he's infinitely better as himself.

Zack wanted me to call this, "My shining champion of a man".

When I was first fit correctly, I thought about lingerie in the same rigid, conformist vein. I had one thing on my mind: looking like everyone else and making my boobs disappear as much as possible. As you can imagine, my "lingerie collection" consisted of three beige contour bras. My object was to blend in and attract as little attention to my size as possible. It wasn't that I wanted to dress in a flattering way for my shape, this idea revolved around escaping the reality of my body. I perceived my body as "abnormal". People say really shitty things to women with large breasts. But before I started working at a lingerie store, I was casually resigned to this bizarre and offensive cultural phenomenon. You know what? That was really shitty too.

This really appealed to me from 2003-2010.

While this might seem like an irrelevant comparison, my end goal or aspiration was the same. I wanted my boyfriend to match what I believed everyone's boyfriend was like. I wanted my body to look like what I imagined was "normal". Sadly, these attempts at blending in only ever resulted in misery. I ended up spending unhealthy amounts of time in front of a mirror, seeing how small I could make my boobs look. I screamed at my astonishingly sweet and generous boyfriend over whether or not he would buy me chocolates. I artificially smiled when I was casually harassed. Those moments were never a reflection of who I wanted to be or who I really am. I wanted to repay the kindness of my sweetheart. I wanted to stand up for myself. I am tolerant of diversity in others, why couldn't I see how intolerant I was of my body?

I'm a big fan of the Dove Real Beauty Campaign now.

Today, I've learned to love my boobs. I've started to appreciate how my boyfriend shrugs when he's culturally pressured to do a certain thing on this specific day.  My man and my tits might be "different" but instead of shoving these slight diversities under the rug, I celebrate them. I wear colorful bras and bras with seams because I want to. I love to tell jokes about our previous holidays because I'm proud of Zack's nonconformist stance. I'm a giant cheeseball, but this is what I wish for everyone this Valentine's Day: Love what makes you, or your experiences, different. Celebrate your individuality and ignore what's expected or accepted. You're you and I think you're breathtakingly and heartbreakingly beautiful, just as you are.

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