The French actress, Charlotte Gainsbourg, is a real example of what I think it means to feel good in your own skin or “bien dans sa peau” (why does everything always sound better in French?). I was living in France when I was 20 and lots of people told me I looked like her. I had no idea who she was but when I saw pictures of her I couldn’t get over the likeness. We even dressed the same way. It’s probably incredibly narcissistic of me but I tend to look at her in movies and admire her. I like to see how we are similar and different. There is something simultaneously ‘ugly’ and beautiful about her, a true ‘jolie-laide’ and appreciating those qualities in her has really helped me appreciate myself and my own particular beauty/ugliness. Maybe the important thing to grasp is that we are all beautiful and ugly in our own ways. In character as well as in looks.
The last film I saw Gainsbourg in (Ma Femme Est Une Actrice above) she was running around in one scene having a huge argument with her husband (played by her real-life husband Yvan Attal) and you could see her breasts through the gap in the arm of her floppy, oversized t-shirt. She wasn’t wearing a bra and her breasts were small and floppy. Oh, the relief flooding through me to see someone on the screen with breasts like mine! To me, she seemed so real and no less a woman for not having big, round, full breasts. She was being petulant, moody and emotional.. with small breasts!!! I felt better. I felt human. I could relate. Her on/off screen husband looked like he wanted to kill her.
I watched this film with my then husband on his birthday and I remember feeling decidedly wistful and caught myself momentarily wishing that I was in a relationship that had that kind of passion in it. Up to that point, I wouldn’t say I had a complex per se about my small breasts but, I couldn’t truthfully say I was either proud of them or confident about them. Seeing that scene helped me go a long way to accepting them and to start loving them. I stopped wearing a bra around the house after that. I liked the way she was free and accepting of her body. I decided it was that that made her beautiful and sexy and not the size and shape of her breasts.
I did a photo shoot once where I took my clothes off and I really wasn’t looking forward to the moment. I wanted the shoot to be real and honest, to expose my body truthfully for what it was but it was not easy. Men assume most women (especially actresses) are extremely confident about their looks and don’t get how vulnerable they feel. I don’t hold myself up to be any sex symbol and I certainly don’t feel like one.
After I bared my upper half in this session, the photographer asked me if I had had a child? Inside my head my paranoid voice started “Oh my god, he thinks your breasts are saggy! He thinks they look like they have been through some serious breast feeding!”. It took all my willpower not to grab my clothes and shield my poor breasts from his lens and eyes. But I decided I wouldn’t be a wimp and I’d just do it. My breasts are not fulsome and luscious and that is the truth. If they look like they’ve seen some child bearing then so be it.
I’m sure he was not aware of how he made me feel. The question could have been completely unrelated to my breasts. Who knows? It doesn’t matter anyway. I’d seen other pictures of naked, ordinary women like me taken by this photographer and it always made me feel less self-conscious and self-critical when I see other women whose bodies don’t live up to some impossible stereotype. It’s such a relief.
What I can honestly say about my breasts though is that they are like my mother’s. I used to play on the bathroom floor as a child when she was having a bath and I used to love watching her breasts floating around in the water. Her nipples were so big and beautiful. They seemed heavenly to me. Seen through the eyes of love every body shape is beautiful. And that is something worth remembering.
taken from a now deleted blog “Who Am I?” anonymously written by me in the spring of 2007.