Failure #2: Develop an Ample Bosom

This installment of 30 Failures by 30 deals with an inadequacy nearest to my heart–failure to nicely fill out a sweater. If you are sensitive to discussion about breasts or sex-related matters, you might want to skip to another entry.

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In general, flat-chested girls are often ridiculed and overlooked as sex objects. We don’t get fair representation in the media. The best role models we have are Olive Oyl and Helen Gurley Brown–neither great examples of female empowerment. In fact, most small-breasted women involved in the media have succumbed to insecurity/pressure and undergone breast augmentation. Even Helen Gurley Brown went up a cup size at age 73. We don’t have charming euphemisms for our breasts–unless you consider “mosquito bites” to be a term of endearment. More often than not, we are made to feel ashamed of our bodies. Granted, it’s rare to find anyone who actually has a positive body image. It seems like everyone’s got some flaw they’re looking to conceal or change.

Through exposure to television, magazines, billboards, and a well-endowed older sister, I assumed an ample bosom was the norm. I fully expected that by my 13th birthday I would develop my own set of perky breasts that would magically lift me out of my pudgy awkward childhood. Sadly, I remained pudgy and awkward for another six years. And by age 29, I think it’s safe to assume that I’m not just a late bloomer.

We’re programmed to expect some sort of development in the chest region. And when it doesn’t quite happen, it’s very disappointing. Waking up every day with small breasts is like Christmas morning and discovering all your friends got Barbie dream houses and you got a package of socks. Well, I suppose those might come in handy. Anyway, it’s a bummer. Not only personally, but to suitors and beaus. When a boy realizes that he’s fallen for a small-chested girl, he has to quickly disguise his disappointment. “Oh…well that’s alright…y’know, more than a mouthful is a waste…” he says, followed by a half-hearted chuckle. And even though both parties move past it and might settle into a cozy little relationship, the ghost of his disappointment lingers.

Despite my lack of buoyancy, I have dated pretty steadily since my first date as a freshman in high school. Being small-chested hasn’t rendered me a hopeless spinster, never to know the feel of a man’s touch. However, even though all of the guys have been kind and accepting, none have been especially enthusiastic on first encounter of my A-cups. In other words, no one’s said “Oh boy, I love small tits! This is the best day ever!” And in some cases there might have been some expectations that I might be willing to do certain other things. Y’know, since he’d been so gracious about accepting me as I am. We don’t keep in touch.

All of my friends, growing up and through adulthood, have been substantially more endowed than myself. I couldn’t related to any of the issues my friends had with their breasts. Problems with staring, underwire, bra snapping, back problems, and accidentally dropping spare change into cleavage were foreign to me. So I had no one to join me in my quest for the perfect bra or to try any of the silly regimens offered to small-breasted suckers. All of the experimentations were done sequestered in my bedroom, away from prying eyes and derisive comments.

There are a variety of devices a girl can use if she’s dissatisfied with the size of her chest—exercises, cremes, makeup tricks, falsies, and so on. Thankfully, I grew up with alternatives that were more sophisticated than the ol’ stuff the bra with socks or tissue method. Over time, I tried the Wonderbra, the water bra, the bra with gel-filled cups, and those inserts that look like chicken cutlets. Some more comfortable than others but none could authentically mimic the real things and it all felt deceptive. Any attention received while wearing the falsies wasn’t honest. And it was never fully appreciated. If any padding felt unsecured, I would spend the evening checking myself out in every reflective surface and one eye on my pretend cleavage just in case anything shifted. This distraction made simple activities like talking, eating, and breathing quite challenging. And forget about bowling!

I’ll admit that thoughts of augmentation have flittered through my mind. I never gave it serious consideration because I don’t see the long-term benefits and if I was going to splurge on physical alterations, I’d probably have LASIK or cyborg modifications. Of course, then I’d be a flat-chested lady cyborg, further disenchanting the hordes of geeky boys in my target demographic.

More than feeling inferior or lacking femininity, I feel gypped. I feel like I was robbed of fun and exciting social experiences. People actually look me in the eyes. None of my friends’ brothers “accidentally” walked in on me in the shower. I didn’t attend hair band concerts or Mardi Gras parades and lift my top. I was never a Girl Gone Wild. My dreams of entering the adult entertainment industry were crushed. No. I had to be funny. And creative. And good at Boggle.

Maybe I could dedicate the next 30 years of my life to small breast advocacy. Promote myself as a successful member of the IBTC. That would first require a success. Maybe I’ll toss out all the padded bras and embrace my body as it is, not as society perceives it should be. Or maybe I’ll write a novelty book of euphemisms for small breasts.

If you haven’t had the occasion to read Helen Gurley Brown’s books, I recommend it for her unintentionally hilarious use of italics and self-loathing. I read a bit via Google’s book search and plan to read more when I’m feeling low. Or you can listen to Love Lesson 2 at April Winchell’s site.

Failure #1: Successfully Drive a Car

Note: Essays are not written in order of the previously published list.

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Thinking back on my early life, I don’t recall ever possessing a real desire to drive. I wasn’t constantly daydreaming about all the places I’d go in my car. I did sort of expect that I would join the wheeled masses. Driving is just one of those skills that people assume everyone has—like the ability to tie a shoe or use the toilet. You just do it and don’t think about it.

The interest I developed as a teenager arose mostly out of peer pressure and envy. And, if we’re honest, to get a teensy taste of freedom that driving might allow. Didn’t I want to join the kids in the parking lot who were sitting on car hoods and smoking questionable substances? Didn’t I want to cruise the main strip in my small town? Well…The call of the open road came from an unlisted number, so I didn’t pick up.

My father received the call of the road early in his life and spent most of his life as a mechanic and cross-country truck driver. He dedicated so much time to his vocation that it actually led to his demise. While out on a call with his towing service, he was struck down by a drunk driver. My father was also seduced away from my mother and they had been apart for most of my young life. I was 14 at the time of his death and had very little contact with him. Tragic all the way around, but less painful than you might expect from such a loss. My father’s death, and to a lesser extent his career, did have some impact on my decision to resist driving. In my explanations to strangers bewildered by my license-free existence, I have given his death more credit than it actually deserves. I missed out on sitting on my daddy’s lap and helping him steer his semi cab. He didn’t give me a rusty old clunker that I could bang into a couple of lampposts. But through his death, I was afforded other opportunities. Had my parental units made different decisions and life gone a different way, I might be compiling a list of 30 different failures.

My mother didn’t drive–or own a car–until her late 20s. My sister was 30 with a newborn when she finally got her license. My maternal grandmother relied on the kindness of strangers and relatives to ferry her around town. My maternal great-grandmother would hire a taxi to visit the liquor store and deliver her booze order to her door. So, it wasn’t entirely expected that I would jump behind the wheel on my 16th birthday. However, out of obligation I took driver’s ed and through youthful optimism I bought a car.

My most memorable driving experience involves the test drive of my green 1996 Dodge Neon. Whoever had the bright idea to put an unlicensed 16-year-old in the driver’s seat of a brand new car and take it off the lot should’ve been fired that day. My mother and I took it out into the neighbourhood behind the dealership. I tried to make as many right hand turns as possible as I hadn’t quite mastered the art of steering and right turns were easier than left turns. Returning to the lot, I was so focused on trying to park the car between the lines of the space that I drove up onto the sidewalk, managing to stop mere inches from the showroom entrance. We bought the car I would call Raymond a few weeks later, probably from a different dealership, but I couldn’t get motivated to take him out for a spin.

The number of times I’ve operated a vehicle is far outranked by the number of boyfriends I’ve had. Three of these boyfriends had the pleasure of driving Raymond and the displeasure of experiencing my freak outs in the driver’s seat. I struggled to find a co-pilot who could be kind and patient and non-judgmental as I fiddled with all the dashboard doodads. Eventually I gave up, content with the notion of being a life-long passenger. The Volkwagen ad was right–there are passengers and there are drivers. And I call shotgun.

I gave up my car long ago. For all the freedom driving supposedly gives you, I think I have just a bit more. I’m free of insurance premiums and maintenance costs. I don’t worry about my car getting stolen or damaged. I am not on the quest of the perfect parking space. On road trips I am the designated navigator and snack dispenser. The rising cost of gasoline has no direct impact on my pocketbook. Since moving out of rural Alabama, I’ve chosen locations based on walkability and public transit. My general rule is if a destination unreachable by bus or by foot, it’s not my destiny to visit. This is probably a smarter way to live now, what with efforts to be eco-friendly and reducing the carbon footprint or whatever planet-saving buzzword you’re using these days. Maybe I’m not a failure but a genius, way ahead of my time. Uh-huh.

30 Failures by Age 30

kat_1983Okay, this list is a little premature since my birthday is still just over two months away. But there are quite a few items on here that are unlikely to be fulfilled before mid-August.

This is not a list of specific instances of failure. It is not about self-pity. As I approach this milestone, I’m taking stock of my life and looking back at the path that brought to where I am today. I think we are formed as much by our failures (if not more) as our successes. Had I done some/most/all the things on my list, I might not be who I am today. Some things were beyond my control and others were choices I’ve made.

It is my intention to use this list as a writing exercise, to delve into each item in essay form and explore why it might be considered a failure, what I have learned from it and whether I will work to remove it from the list in the future. Yes, it sounds a little touchy-feely and that gives me the dry heaves. But, c’mon, reading about someone else’s missteps and unpleasantness is fun!

Most of the items on the list are common experiences that I either had no desire or the opportunity to do myself but may have contributed to my social awkwardness and failure to assimilate into normal society. I may not perceive them as personal failures, but someone somewhere might (“You don’t drive?! What kind of loser doesn’t drive? Tsk.”).

Enough blather. On with the list!

1. Master nice penmanship
2. Drive a car
3. Embrace organized religion
4. Attend overnight camp
5. Keep a best friend
6. Join team sports
7. Learn/speak a second language
8. Develop ample bosoms
9. Obtain healthy glow
10. Ride a roller coaster
11. Win a prestigious award
12. Own property
13. Hold full-time employment
14. Develop drug addiction
15. Exercise patience
16. Ride a bicycle
17. Leave North America
18. Get married
19. Procreate
20. Stay in hospital
21. Defend myself (physically or verbally)
22. Visit a strip club
23. Participate in public nudity
24. Stick to fitness regimen
25. Perform in public
26. Move to NYC
27. Master the art of conversation/small talk
28. Be truly selfless
29. Contract chicken pox/measles
30. Run afoul of the law

That wasn’t so scary, was it?

katharine is the curable romantic

a while ago i mentioned that i was working on an anthology of old essays and columns I’d written in the early aughts. in april i completed the writing and illustrations. my editor proofed it in may. and now, in june, the book is officially print ready and available for purchase in two formats–a 6″x9″ paperback edition and a PDF ebook.

as i mentioned in march, i’ve taken this pile of essays and turned it into a nicely organized collection of humorous relationship advice. The Curable Romantic is more than the run-of-the-mill ha-ha dating book. it’s also a creative experiment. aside from the editing and printing, i’ve had full control of all aspects of the book process. the writing, illustrations and book design were all handled by myself. i’m also converting the file into different formats and designer/webmaster over the website. i still have to convert to HTML/txt for ebook readers. because it’s essentially a self-published book, i’m also responsible for the marketing. the art of selling is not one i’ve mastered, so i expect to encounter many frustrations and headaches in this phase.

in my research, there are several sources that suggest encouraging friends to purchase the new book/spread the word/offer support. if you have friends like these, please introduce me posthaste!

i’m waiting for my proof copy of the paperback to arrive so i can finally release the print edition into the wild. also waiting for the Amazon.com listing to show up online and the Google book search to complete its process.

in addition to selling the book through Lulu.com and managing the book’s official website, the book is also available to skim through online via Issuu.com.

should this turn out to be a professional failure, it has not been a personal failure. through the process, i’ve improved several skills and learned something new. keep your toes crossed, though.