I'm extremely concerned about a private matter involving my nipple.
Have a question for Miss Information? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Miss Information,
So, I'm in my late twenties, and one of my nipples never formed properly. Basically, it looked like two or three smaller pieces of a nipple that never joined up. I had cosmetic surgery on it when I was nineteen, but it still looks odd and definitely different from my other, "normal" nipple.
You'd think by now I'd be used to this part of my body, and to an extent, I am. But lately, for some reason, I've become paranoid that the guys I've been with have found it revolting and that perhaps it's contributed to them breaking up with me.
I've been with a number of men sexually and in a few short-lived relationships. I've never brought this up with anyone I've slept with. I don't bother saying anything when we first have sex, as I feel pointing it out makes it more of a deal, and at the end of the day it's just how my body is. Yet I don't dare ask if they've noticed it or find it gross — what if they say, "Yes, it's hideous?" I don't think there's much more I can do to it to make it appear more normal. No guy I've been with has ever brought it up, but I've noticed a few of them looking at it a little longer than normal at it during sex.
My questions are:
1) Should I actually be mentioning my different-looking nipple before I disrobe with a guy? Is it that big a deal? I find it embarrassing, so if I do mention it, how can I do it without making it super-awkward?
2) Am I being overly sensitive in thinking guys would find this gross? Would the general population say "not a big deal"?
3) Does anyone else out there have the same condition, and how have your partners responded to it?
Despite all of the above, I'm the kind of girl who has sex with the lights on, so while on the whole I'm pretty confident, this small thing is always at the back of my mind.
I'm nervous to write this as I'm scared readers will say some horrible things. This might seem silly, but it really does play on my self-esteem.
— Not Quite Double the Fun
Dear Not Quite Double the Fun,
A few months ago I stumbled upon a New Yorker interview with Bradley Cooper about his role in the play The Elephant Man. Cooper talks at length about how he used to watch the movie version of The Elephant Man over and over as a kid, and how from a young age he closely identified with the (terrifically disfigured, sideshow freak) protagonist. The interviewer has eyes, and thus gently challenges him on this point, but Cooper argues that he understood the Elephant Man because his body is totally weird too! One eye is slightly more symmetrical than the other one! His long legs make him uncomfortable on planes! His features are in such golden ratio that he turns invisible in mirrors! Or something.
See, Double the Fun? If that hideous wreck Bradley Cooper gets it, we all get it.
Let me put it another way. You say you've slept with a fair number of people. Were each of them Adonises chiseled from marble? Or did at least a few of them have some flaw, real or imagined? $10 says it's the latter. I've done the research. Almost everyone has at least one physical thing that consumes their attention, which they have convinced themselves is at least four times larger and six times hairier than it actually is. To put it succinctly, human bodies are grotesque, and none of us is in the position to throw stones.
So, Double, no. You don't owe anybody any sort of explanation. If one naturally comes up, great. If you see a guy "looking a little too long at it during sex" and it makes you uncomfortable, give him a prepared one-liner. ("[Whispered]: That's just the source of my powers." "[Whispered]: I got it in a tiny knife fight.")* If he stops the action and demands to discuss it, then you're the one who should be looking at him incredulously, not the other way around.
Also consider this: when naked with somebody new, we are all hermit crabs without our shells. (Yep, even Bradley Cooper.) Whomever you're with is feeling as spongy and vulnerable as you are. He's probably too preoccupied with his weird mole/birthmark/baby foot to even think about your insecurities. So no, the vast majority of people shouldn't be "grossed out" by your body, any more than you should be "grossed out" by theirs. Just make a silent pact to respect and respectfully ignore, and get to the sexy, squishy, conch-on-conch action.
* I am not responsible for terrible one-liners.