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Keeping abreast

Jude SImpson

If I were more confident of my status as a professional writer-commentator I might have been less ridiculously chuffed to find myself, while on maternity leave, the subject of not one but two letters in consecutive issues of Third Way. Were I more au fait with social networks, I might well have claimed to be trending.  
Having written what I hoped was a provocative but intelligent contribution to the debate on feminism and family values ('breastmilk ice cream - yukkadeedoodah or yum-diddley-dum-dum?'), I perhaps hoped that readers - particularly female ones - would queue up to praise my perspicacious social comment and insight into the human condition.  
Oh no, my periodical-reading friends. This letter, you may remember, complained that I was showing off about the size of my breasts. (My vital statistics are the subject of discussion in a national magazine! Is this celebrity? Don't tell my mother.)

I was somewhat taken aback. I didn't even claim in the article to have large breasts, only that they became so at the onset of milk-making. Anyone who's ever known a breastfeeding mother will be unsurprised to know that the bras in my collection now range across four back measurements and six different cup sizes.  

To write in celebration of women's marvellous assets, only to be slapped down by another owner of such assets (which perform their function equally well regardless of size) is both ironic and disappointing. Look, I can't help it if you feel unfulfilled by what a flat-chested friend of mine describes as her 'two paracetamol on an ironing board'. It's not because I (allegedly) have larger ones, it's because you have a warped idea of how a woman should value herself.  That's exactly what I was attempting to rail against. The green-eyed monstress rears her head - and the sisterhood turns upon itself.  

Thankfully, a man rode in on his metaphorical white charger. In the following issue, Richard Wilkins put some extra flesh, so to speak, on the bones of my column exploring the politics of large families. 'Courageous' he called me. He claimed to recognise, behind the chatty frivolity, a discourser of wisdom and understanding.  (Although I suppose it's possible that he only liked my article because I (allegedly) have big breasts.)

To be known is something we hanker for and fear in equal measure.  When somebody truly understands us, it can be utterly wonderful or devastatingly crushing.  'Who do you say I am?' Jesus asked his disciples. Surrounded by disdainful declaimers and undiscerning groupies, what he really wanted to know was whether his closest confidents got what he was trying to say.  

To write is supposedly to bare the soul, but the things we say take a long time to reveal the person we are - especially when our sense of self-preservation means we keep at least a few things under wraps. 38B or 42H - will you ever know???

Jude Simpson is on maternity leave.