Back when I was in my early 20s, before I became the proud, dazzling, professional, skirt-suited woman-scholar that I am today (i.e. a hungry, unshowered, still-in-bed hangover-crone who's only managed to make it to semi-vertical today despite having had to pee for literally four hours), I used to make this joke in moments of false bravado: "Oh, I hope nothing happens to my boobs! They're ALL I HAVE."
They're not, of course, "all I have." In fact, my boobs objectively make up very little of what I have—being crowded out by a great brain, an awesome family, a magical job, surging ambitions, a car that gets me places, a very soft sweatshirt that belonged to my dead father, kids who need help with their whale shark diorama*, shoes, a dishwasher(!!!), and a whole bunch of other body parts that perform much more important functions such as converting Cambozola into energy. My boobs are fine—we have no quarrel!—but all that other shit is immeasurably more important to me. Plus, my dishwasher never gives me back pain.
But what I meant when I'd say, jokingly, "They're all I have!" was, "My boobs are the only reason why my insecurity-riddled self can imagine men ever paying attention to me, and male attention is the only metric by which I've been taught to measure my own value, therefore BOOBS ARE LIFE!" Good one, former self! You totally fooled everybody with that great "joke."
Now that I'm in my 30s, my life gets better all the time, and my boobs probably get way lower and shittier or whatever (I honestly can't really tell). But part of what made my life become awesome was learning to like my body and validate other women's bodies no matter what they look like, which makes it really hard to take a bunch of pride in something like lady-front fat-sacks. Yeah, I like them, because I like me, but they're not, like, an accomplishment. They just showed up one day.
But that's how women are socialized to think—my body is my currency, my beauty is my worth, my youth is my only window to find happiness—and that's why this study seems like a cruel cosmic prank. Scientists have found a genetic biological clock that's linked to women's breast tissue. Short version: Your boobs age faster than the rest of you.
Via Science Daily:
While earlier clocks have been linked to saliva, hormones and telomeres, the new research is the first to identify an internal timepiece able to accurately gauge the age of diverse human organs, tissues and cell types. Unexpectedly, the clock also found that some parts of the anatomy, like a woman's breast tissue, age faster than the rest of the body.
..."Healthy breast tissue is about two to three years older than the rest of a woman's body," said Horvath. "If a woman has breast cancer, the healthy tissue next to the tumor is an average of 12 years older than the rest of her body."
The results may explain why breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Given that the clock ranked tumor tissue an average of 36 years older than healthy tissue, it could also explain why age is a major risk factor for many cancers in both genders.
Obviously this is a cellular subtlety—it doesn't mean that you're going to wind up with Wewe Gombel mamz unless you get de-flappification surgery on your 40th birthday or something. But I think, viewed through a sociological/feminist lens, the concept speaks really powerfully to the way we teach women to conceive of themselves. It's like a trick from a cruel, misogynist god: our "most valuable" asset is the one that withers into unfuckability the quickest.
So maybe...women...just an idea I had...maybe fuck it? Fuck fuckability? Fuck being angry at your own body and try being angry at the system that makes you hate your body? I know we all have to live and get by in this system, and it's absurd to act like we can just shrug off lifetimes of conditioning, but maybe we could just start here. Small-boobs/no-boobs/dangle-boobs/all-boobs unite?
I'm not saying I've managed to completely escape arbitrary body standards and anxiety about aging (I AM NOT A WIZARD), but I've clawed my way much closer to peace in that regard than I ever thought possible. I'm also lucky enough to have found a partner who loves me-the-person, not me-the-OMG-BOOOOOOOBZ. So, as distressing as it is to think of my youth slipping away and the body I knew—the ME I knew—transforming into something else, it seems ridiculous to pin that distress on something as superficial as breast tissue. I don't want to get old and die because I don't want to stop hanging out with my friends and writing jokes and watching Game of Thrones and annoying my boyfriend in the morning. Not because I'll miss being propositioned by taxi drivers and getting stabbed in the armpit by a rogue underwire.
I don't want to die because I want to live, and I don't want to live a life of singleminded obsession and self-hatred.
Anyway, there's a kernel of hope in this study:
"My research shows that all stem cells are newborns," he said. "More importantly, the process of transforming a person's cells into pluripotent stem cells resets the cells' clock to zero."
In principle, the discovery proves that scientists can rewind the body's biological clock and restore it to zero.
Sweet. I could use a reset. Because I wasted a lot of years being super freaked out about boobs.
*Actually—this is true—did you know that kids don't make dioramas anymore? Now they make TRIORAMAS, because THE FUTURE. It's like a diorama but shaped like a pyramid or something. TECHNOLOGY THESE DAYS, I SWEAR.