Even in paradise, Kristen Jules had a tough time accepting her post-baby body. In this month’s “Life with the Girls,” a stressful run-in with airport security forces her to unpack the angst she’d been carrying around.
There are many good things about breastfeeding your kids. Being mistaken for a drug mule isn’t one of them. Yet there I was, attempting to fly home to my babies after a romantic weekend getaway in Mexico, waylaid by a smirking woman in khakis wielding a stick.
“Step aside, miss,” the TSA agent in Cancún instructs after I pass the initial security scan. My heart starts to race; our plane boards in an hour. We’re tired, hungry, a bit hungover.
“Why?” I ask, slightly annoyed by the inconvenience. I’m told that my bag was flagged for a suspicious item and that I would have to wait for a more thorough inspection of my belongings.
Soliiiiid, I think as I watch her begin to unpack my garments one by one with the kind of pointer a teacher in grade school might use to rap on the board.
One after the next, the various breast-enhancing undergarments that I’d brought along were produced. I had breastfed my two children for three years all in, and my naturally perky 36Cs had deflated a few cup sizes. Push-up bras made them look worse; not wearing a bra was no longer an option. At 35, I felt like I had lost one of my best assets, and no amount of double-sided tape or chicken cutlets was going to fix the problem.
“Maybe you have rrrrrrocks in your luggage,” she replied in a scolding, suggestive tone. My mind raced to dark places. She had obviously mistaken something on the X-ray for contraband, and I could tell that she didn’t believe I was flying home to my children. All thanks to the cutlets.
Earlier that same day, on a pristine beach, I had dug my feet into the sand and taken a selfie. Then another. Twenty-something pictures later, I couldn’t find any that would suffice. In one, my shoulder jutted out too much. In another, my hair looked frizzy. In the most Instagram-worthy snap I had managed to take, my bikini top had shifted, highlighting my deformed boobs. No amount of self-confidence could overcome the fact that I had the breasts of someone three times my age. I had recently lost 40 pounds of baby weight, contributing to the saggy state of affairs. Years of healthy eating and weightlifting had me feeling proud yet looking profoundly uncomfortable in a bikini.
“There is nothing illegal in my luggage. I have two small children at home,” I say matter-of-factly, half of the airport now watching this exchange.
Until this moment, the trip had been cathartic for me.
“Welcome to this sacred space. Please take a moment to be conscious of all your blessings,” said Jesús, the cherubic-faced spa attendant who had bestowed these lovely words upon me only yesterday as I began a hydrotherapy treatment. “Let’s acknowledge the universe of perfection within us, and purify our body and our emotions in the present moment. Cast your anxieties into the water. Leave your troubles behind. Be present, be thankful, be loved.”
I didn’t feel loved, certainly not by myself. The hotel was designed for wellness and relaxation; everywhere you turned, there were artfully arranged objects in pleasing patterns. Smooth, black rocks were nestled into sand that had been raked with rows of curved lines as the Mexican sunshine gleamed through a Pagoda-inspired ceiling.
The perfection that surrounded me was a far cry from the chaotic mommy life I had left behind. It inspired me to tackle my nagging insecurity. For the first time in a good, long while, I felt in control.
After an eternity, my TSA agent unearthed my silicone fun bags. I pointed to my chest and started to laugh so hard that I cried.
“Para los tetas!” I explained, to which she responded, “Bueno, now you get to go home to your family.”
This was an intervention from above, a final humiliation spurring me to take action once and for all.
The week of my return, I booked my breast augmentation surgery.
The only cutlets in my life now are dredged in flour and baked in an oven.