It’s December, 2014. During the colder months of winter in Northeast China, I take every chance for a soak and body scrub in one of the many bath houses across town. Which during that time is usually once or twice a month. Our son is still a baby. I hand him to my mother-in-law to take care of him for an hour or two. I always go to the same place and have a little chat with the employees.
After finishing the body scrub this time, the employee looks at my breasts and observes:
“Your left breast is smaller than the right one”.
“I know. It’s even more obvious now that I’m breastfeeding.”
“My left breast is also smaller than the right one.”
She then goes on: “You can let your baby drink more from the left breast. That way it will become bigger.”
This conversation reminds me of another chit-chat about breasts: When I went to a massage place about two years earlier in Shenzhen, the female employee told me that my breasts are almost non-existent.
Talking about breasts is no taboo in China
One of the quirks of living in China is that female employees in bath houses, massage parlours, underwear shops, or sometimes complete strangers on the street, will not think talking about (and sometimes even touching) your breasts is taboo. While this used to make me feel uncomfortable in the beginning, I now think being able to talk about women’s issues with other women is great. In China, it’s also completely okay to talk about your menstrual problems with others. And that doesn’t only include women, but sometimes also men (albeit maybe not male strangers you run into on the street). My husband has never thought it weird if I talked about my menses, but has tried to help me find solutions for back pain and other related issues. My mother-in-law will sometimes ask me if I’m on my period so she can prepare the right food for me. I have also overheard female co-workers talk with other female co-workers about trying to get pregnant and infertility issues. It can sometimes be of huge help to hear of others who have been in similar situations without the issue being regarded as such a big taboo.
This little conversation about breasts also appears in my story about being pregnant and raising our son in China in the anthology “Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists and turns around the globe” by Lisa Ferland. Pre-order the e-book or a physical copy of the book by backing the project on kickstarter. The project will only come to life if the pledged goal can be reached. You’ll get to keep all your money and won’t be charged if funding doesn’t succeed.
Have you ever had a similar conversation? I’d love to hear your stories.