Breasts in the Kitchen

March 16, 2011 § 5 Comments

I am, to put it politely, well-endowed. Busty. I have Huge Tracts of Land. I actually get the reaction, when I mention my cup size, “They make bras that big?” And let me tell you, they are a pain in the neck. And back. And shoulders. And themselves. Especially in the kitchen.

For one thing, they’re in the damn way. Even wearing a minimizing bra, reaching across my body is significantly more difficult than it is for a man or a smaller-breasted woman. The classic elbows-in default posture of the cook is essentially impossible for me. I have more than once burned myself because my tits were in my way, and have, many times, knocked things over with them.

I was once in the prep kitchen, steadily chopping away, standing next to a pair of (male, of course) sous chefs chatting about jock itch and how they dealt with it, whether or not to powder, what kinds of underwear helped most. (I’m unsure to this day whether to be bothered by the fact that they thought this was appropriate to discuss in front of me or pleased that they counted me as “one of the guys” enough to do so. The kitchen is pretty much the only place I’d take the second as a good thing.) I considered jumping in to tell them that I regularly had problems with bra itch, no matter how much powder I used, and despite my wicking-fabric sports bras. I didn’t. Too embarrassing.

Oh, and let me tell you, finding a bra that provides enough support, minimizes my profile, wicks away sweat, and isn’t actively painful or uncomfortable is . . . well, quite the challenge. I have to keep not just multiple bras but multiple models on hand to account for the day by day changes in size and sensitivity. And they are not fucking cheap.

This shit is, of course, only one of the many reasons I’m not fond of my breasts. I’m not even going to discuss the social issues of having large breasts in the kitchen. I mostly avoid them through minimizing bras and having a lot of belly fat, which definitely decreases how obvious they are.

One of these days, I’m going to get around to having a breast reduction. When I have insurance, when I can afford it, when I can afford to take the time off, when I’m sure I’m not going to have any/any more babies. Until then, I have to cope.

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§ 5 Responses to Breasts in the Kitchen

  • Sarah says:

    I work in a Kitchen and I am also very busty. I hear you on the pain in the neck and back that the girls cause. Plus it just makes for unpleasant looks, I envy the flat chested women. Do you have any advice for young women chefs? and how to not cry?

  • Ginny W says:

    Sure!

    For bras, Title IX is the best I’ve found. Sports bras tend to be minimizing, and make sure you get one that’s wicking. If you wear jackets in your kitchen, wear one that’s oversized, to hide what you can. If it’s a more casual kitchen, high-necked over-sized t-shirts.

    As for not crying, actually not crying takes years to get to if you’re the type to cry frequently. Start by working on not crying when people can see you. Displaying anger can help, even if it has its own problems. If they’re saying nasty shit, a good forceful, “Fuck you!” and walking away can gain you some space, and then walk-in coolers, store rooms and bathrooms are all reasonably good places to hide and let it out. Kicking or punching walls and then standing facing a wall and breathing heavily looks like you’re trying to keep your temper rather than trying not to cry.

    If you’re crying because it’s hot and stressful and you’re frustrated, exhausted, and/or in pain and can’t leave your station, put your head down and keep working and try not to let them see your face. Bite your lip or pinch yourself, too, if that helps. If they catch you anyway, you can try a couple of things to pass it off and not lose as much face. You can act like you’re in a lot of pain — bad cramps and migraines work well for this — and working through it, which can gain you points. You can also refuse to acknowledge it, just shake your head and keep working grimly, which will communicate that the job just sucks today, you’re frustrated, and it’s not worth paying attention to because you have a job to do.

    Cultivate crying quietly instead of sobbing. And if your boss asks you about it, get stoic and say it doesn’t matter, unless you’re actually being harassed.

    Other advice: Many, but by no means all, women chefs really like to see other women in the kitchen. Try to find them and work in their kitchens and get their advice.

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you for the advice. I simply cry when I am frustrated, over worked and tired and in pain. I recently switched jobs, and now work in a kitchen under a women chef. Its nice, different. But I still find men crude.

    I do love your blog, when my sister sent it to me, I couldn’t stop reading. I only wish more women wrote about there experiences in the kitchen.

  • Carolyn says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and let me tell you, as a 19 year old female cook working in a hotel kitchen, it gets tough. They tell me I’m not going to make it. I tell them to fuck off and let me do my job. I have a very strong personality but there are days when I doubt myself. I have only ever cried once at my job but I suffer from anxiety and I get mood swings. I am currently seeing a psychologist because I refuse to take medications if I can solve my problems by how I think. Its a rough start to career that will probably only get rougher and my skin isnt that tough yet. I am a very a attractive woman and I do get hit on daily by the male cooks. Its as if I’m a joke being this hot chick trying to be cook and I’m fucking sick of the bullshit. I know I could make more money as a waitress but I’ve been there and that job is so fucking mundane (dont get me wrong, waiters do have a tough job and I do appreciate them.) and its just not my thing. I happen to like being behind the line thats if they’ll let me. Half the time i’m thrown over to coldside to make salad and sandwiches. I’m working twice as hard and all I want to do is be a chef.

    Anyway, reading your blog has helped me out a lot, and I know I’m still very young and very fresh in this industry. I hope to see another post from you soon. And I apologize for ranting but theres a lot going on in my crazy head.

    • Ginny W says:

      I’m glad I could help. It’s why I started this blog, part of it. I’ve got four different entries started, but it’s been a rough year, and I haven’t been able to finish any of them.

      Good for you for keeping on. It does get better, or it can. Get some seniority, find a place where they aren’t quite so fucking awful, even just stick it out long enough to prove you’re going to, and it can get better.

      Sometimes it’s worth it to report the sexual harassment, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s the worst thing you can do. You’re the best judge of whether or not it would work for you. If it’s not a good idea, then you might try taking a hint from some of the women Bourdain praises, and start talking shit back. If it’s that sort of kitchen and your coworkers are that sort of guy, it can win you some respect.

      If it were me, I admit, I’d be looking for a new job, possibly in a new city. I wouldn’t have survived a month in a kitchen anywhere in the Northeastern US. (I don’t know where you are, I just know that’s one of the worst areas in the country.)

      I understand the preference for not trying psychiatric meds — I didn’t use them for ten years after my first few tries went horribly wrong — but just remember that they aren’t a failure and that they can help. A lot. If you have bad brain chemicals, you have bad brain chemicals, and the best way to help yourself is to balance out those chemicals. But if you can do without, then that’s good, too. (Not to mention cheaper.)

      Best of luck to you. Hang in there, and if you need somebody to talk to, I’m here. You can also reach me at onesownkitchen at gmail.

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