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.
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.