"Sayonara, Sugar Tits" is a photo story series documenting the motivation and healing process of one woman's breast reduction surgery By Sarah Miller and Caitlin Little
On January 10th, Caitlin Little lost a little piece of herself. As heartbreaking as that sounds, let's get to know her a bit first. I've known Caitlin for a couple years now and have been fortunate enough to see some of her performance art pieces. These performances are often bizarre, silent, and unavoidable. The first one I saw was what I'll call "Pancakes." During Lincoln Calling — a weekend-long music festival that takes place in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska — Caitlin did a performance in the middle of the artist market, dressed in all black. For the next hour she proceeded to make pancakes on a small griddle, occasionally taking a break to smear syrup across her body or to wear one of her perfectly golden pancakes as a mask, complete with holes for her eyes and mouth.
"Pancakes" performance during Lincoln Calling 2017
The next performance I saw was during a Benson First Friday event in Omaha. I was walking into one of the galleries I usually photograph and there she was. In what must have been a 4x8 window was a topless Caitlin sitting in a vintage salon chair. A collage of magazine models was posted up behind her as a man went to work doing her makeup, painting her nails, shaving her armpits, plucking her brows, and picking out a hairstyle and, finally, an outfit. Her performances are often a statement about the pressures put on women - to be pretty, to be sexy, to be perfect. It's a chance for her to call into question why womanhood is hyped up as a magical and beautiful experience, when in reality there's pain and blood and imperfections, along with the societal pressure to hide all of that.
Salon chair performance at Petshop
Caitlin's not a shy person. When I recently went to her apartment, she had a multi-color sequined jacket and a platinum blonde wig just casually hanging next to her front door. The home she shares with her boyfriend Ali is covered in floor-to-ceiling art and filled with vintage and thrift store finds. She's been the host of a men's beauty pageant at O'Leaver's. She regularly does karaoke, to the point that karaoke hosts get excited when she shows up. Despite all the fun she has, her body holds her back. For years, Caitlin has been burdened by the weight of her size 40 H breasts. She used to be a runner, but her breasts have made that impossible to do without inflicting pain and damage to her back. In the past two years, she's thrown her back out three times. This injury can often take weeks to recover from. This isn't helpful when you're trying to run a retail store that requires lots of lifting and climbing up and down ladders, but that's Caitlin's reality as she manages a clothing store in Omaha. She often sticks to just two bras, because finding bras that are both comfortable and affordable is too difficult, not to mention the cuts of the bras often limit the necklines she can even choose for her outfits. Without a bra for support, her breasts cover most of her torso. While many might think she's lucky or sexy to have the breasts she does, Caitlin finds them a hindrance to the life she wants, and that's ultimately what led her to get breast reduction surgery.
Caitlin sitting in her favorite chair at home
Caitlin grasps her breasts while looking in the mirror because, really, which of us hasn't wondered what we'd look like if only our body was different?
The average cost of breast reduction is $5,482. After Caitlin jumped through multiple hoops, her health insurance, fortunately, offered to cover a portion of the surgery costs, but that doesn't cover any expenses for the month she won't be able to work. For the first couple weeks, she won't be able to lift her arms above her head or lift anything heavier than five pounds, preventing her from managing the clothing store. To help with this, Caitlin announced her breast reduction surgery by making a Facebook event - a karaoke party at the Sydney in Benson to raise donations to cover the remaining costs of her surgery and the month that she wouldn't be able to work.
Caitlin having the breast time at her karaoke party
This gentleman sang his own version of Puttin' on the Ritz...he titled it Cuttin' off the Tits.
Caitlin probably won't be able to do karaoke for a month or two after her surgery, but when she does, she'll return with size B breasts feeling lighter and ready to take center stage once again.
Check out Part 2 of this series as Caitlin begins the healing process.