Bra in a Box is thrilled to welcome author Leslie Lehr to our blog. Leslie's book, A Boob's Life (Pegasus Books) brilliantly blends a cultural history lesson, her own story, and what every woman knows about boobs into one fabulous, inspiring book.
A Boob's Life has received critical acclaim and is in development for HBOMax by producer Salma Hayek (yes, THAT Salma Hayek)!
Some other highlights:
Good Morning America - Must Reads
People Magazine - Best New Books selection
Entertainment Tonight Online - "trailblazing women...changing the world."
Glamour Magazine's - 10 Best New Books to Read
Katie Couric's Wake-Up Call Newsletter - Books That Got Book Expert, Zibby Owens, Through Quarantine
Leslie: First of all, thank you so much for having me here at Bra in A Box. When I was younger, we stuck Band-aids over our nipples to go braless. Because even when you were small breasted, walking into an air-conditioned place got a bit revealing. And with the way society judges a woman, our bodies were judged by what they do naturally. And it was often painful pulling those Band-Aids off! Your silicone design is genius!
BiaB: What’s the most interesting fact you’ve learned about breasts while writing this book? The funniest? The strangest?
Oh my goodness, here are so many fun facts that I added a side bar between each chapter. The most interesting thing is that my life exactly parallels the rise of TV, Playboy, even infant formula, that gave rise to this American obsession where boobs are for men and bigger is better. The funniest thing is that scientists say men look at a woman’s chest within 200 milliseconds of a woman entering a room. I know this is part biology seeking food for their children, but size doesn’t matter when it comes to that. The strangest thing is that we are the only species that have breasts long before and long after they are of any use to feed our babies. And there is no medical specialty for an organ that literally turns blood into milk. Shall I go on? There are over 150 nicknames for breasts. Breast augmentation is the most popular elective surgery in America. Funeral homes are required to put bras on dead women.
Your book is all about body positivity, but clearly a lot of people feel that small breasts or no breasts is not a positive. How can we get past this?
It has to start with women accepting our bodies as we shape-shift throughout life. This will be a challenge as long as we’re confronted with idealized images of plump, youthful breasts. The more we see “normal” bodies, the more comfortable we’ll be. Had I seen photos of women with beautiful breast tattoos or proud of their scars when I needed surgeries, I would have hesitated more before wanting my implants spared and despairing when they got wonky. Instead, my first call wasn’t to my mother or my husband or my children. It was to my plastic surgeon.
We talk about valuing our beauty within, but it’s hard to walk the walk. We need self-care, respect, and power. We also have to stop judging other women and find solidarity. Then we can stop caring so much about what men think. Men are wired to like breasts, even if they claim to not be “breast men.” And we are wired to attract men to make babies. There is no perfect solution. But in time – and thanks to what we share on social media - we can learn to accept and cherish our own bodies. Love your boobs!
As a mother to daughters, do you think society is kinder to women today than in previous generations? Or are the challenges just different?
While the opportunities are greater today, the choices and pressure to achieve on all fronts can be crippling. With social media, there is no privacy to deal with life’s stumbles, and we are inundated with the success of our peers. It’s a popularity contest. We are pressured to lie even by using photo filters to compete. We are still judged by the way we look, valued for experience rather than potential, and objectified by the very body parts that define us. And the pandemic has proven that society is not kind to women at all; we are expected to pick up the slack. Working together as a community to improve the lives of everyone, all genders and races, is key.
“Having it all” is one of the greatest fallacies of modern womanhood. As someone who has balanced career, marriage, and raising children, what do you hope working mothers take away from your story?
All mothers are working mothers. A family vacation is essentially a work trip. True balance is impossible – there is always a trade-off. I went into marriage thinking I could do it all, but I underestimated the challenge of doing it all well. And life throws us curve balls. Not just mothers, but fathers, too. When Joe Biden’s wife and daughter died, he lacked money for childcare. If his mom had to work and couldn’t step in to care for his sons, he wouldn’t be where he is today. The pandemic has proved that mothers have an unfair burden – expected to do it all. Our progress in the workplace has returned to where we were decades ago. With the US so low on the list of countries for family and parental support, we really need to fight for universal childcare, equal pay not compared to your last salary, and make motherhood a valued skill set when returning to outside work.
Childcare is the key to everyone’s success and selfcare is the key to everything else.. When we truly take care of ourselves and love ourselves enough to demand the respect of others, we can accomplish even more. And we have to respect each other’s choices. We are all in this together.
Woodstock is thought to be a utopia where men and women were free, especially during the sexual revolution of the late 1960’s. But you have a different take. Why?
Your phrase “is thought to be” is the key. Men are the ones who reported it, photographed it, and were the majority of young people there. Even today, despite the way it has been monetized to sell cars and stereo speakers, the word Woodstock evokes a touchy feely, freer time. Yet, during those days with half a million people in the mud, most too far away to hear the music, women were not free.
There were no laws against sexual assault, they were surrounded by drug-fueled men at the height of their testosterone. Women were pressured to be topless, to have sex, and were not free to wear a bra. The only women I found who had a good time went with boyfriends who made them feel safe. The iconic image is a topless woman on a man’s shoulders. Yet even my mom, who was in her twenties then, was sorry she didn’t go after reading news articles written by men and seeing the Oscar-winning documentary made by a man. She bought me a tank top with the dove on the guitar logo (that replaced the original naked woman design) and as a teen, I felt cool to wear it.
And then there is your biggest challenge of all—your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. What do you hope readers take away from your experience as a survivor, whether they are fighting it themselves or someone in their life is undergoing treatment?
I was shocked that it happened to me. Like most women, I do not carry the BRCA gene. I had a lot of stress, but a healthy lifestyle. So, it felt random. And being sick is a full-time gig. I’ll never forget the feeling of being in such pain that I wanted to give up and die. It gave me empathy for others who struggle. I began to believe in the serenity prayer – to accept what I cannot change, to change what I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. For me, that meant choosing the best doctors and trusting them by following the treatment plan. The surgeons, the chemo, the radiation, the years of medicine won the battle. I still have side effects and I probably always will. But now that the treatment is over, it’s my turn to take up arms. Every medical appointment and every moment of self-care is a survival tactic. I was always a glass half full kind of girl, but now I’m grateful for every little sip. I’ve learned patience and to be gentle with myself. I learned to ask for help and also to be of service. I want to make every moment count.
If you have cancer, don’t let it define you. Despite all the medical appointments you will have for a while, you are more than a patient. Ask for help, but not from people who suck your energy. Go easy on yourself. Know that this too shall pass. And love your body no matter the shape it’s in.
If you know someone with cancer, don’t insist on coming over, sending recipes, or books on cancer. Ask how you can help. They may need a ride or groceries, or companion to help them walk to the end of the driveway. Cancer is expensive, so an Amazon gift card may pay for a special pillow or a pretty headscarf. A writer I barely knew sent me a hand-knit hat that felt so soft and warm on my bald head that I still smile when I think of her. And please, get a mammogram. Most of the women who die from breast cancer are the ones who don’t.
Many breast cancer survivors have shared with us that their nipples became asymmetrical following surgery (depending on the specific surgery they required). They’ve been happy to learn that silicone nipple covers have helped with that issue. Do you feel that it would be worthwhile for us to reach out more proactively to women in this situation? We loved hearing that our product meant a lot to them in that regard.
Absolutely. Bra in A Box is doing a wonderful job to support women with all variations of breasts. Outreach to more communities would benefit everyone. There are lots of IG communities that would love to know more about you, from The Breasties to BreastCancer.org.
You wrote this book because your breasts were crooked and you needed to understand why you were so desperate to fix them. Did you?
Ha! You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Leslie wrote A Boob's Life because her breasts were crooked and she needed to understand why she was so desperate to fix them. In the end, she tells us that she loves them both.
Let us know your thoughts on A Boob's Life below!