"I must, I must, I must increase my bust." -every flat-chested girl ever.
I stood barefoot on the sticky tile of our Central Florida bathroom. I had wandered in here to ask my mother some stupid question that couldn't possibly wait till she was done bathing. I glanced at her breasts then down at my own but instead staring straight down at my feet. I frowned. I was ten and very into rom coms, except for the sex scenes that were very uncomfortable to watch with my parents. I was starting to worry. Would I ever be as pretty as Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? I was fascinated by the miraculously thin but also curvy leading women, their often perfectly straight blonde hair, and oh yeah, their supple chests. Since I saw Gidget a few years before, I secretly tried exercises that might make my chest bigger during my normal workouts. When I got a smart phone two years later, I'd google "how to get bigger boobs," frustrated by the lack luster solutions of: get a boob augmentation or get pregnant. It seemed that breast development would just have to happen on it's own time and as an ectomorph with a sky-high metabolism, it didn't look like it was going to happen anytime soon. What was even more problematic than my own fascination and scrutiny of my breast size was the equivalent scrutiny from my male peers.
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"You must be the President of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee."
It started early: I had been accepted into an excelled sixth grade class which to my parents' hope would provide me with a better education and a more cushioned dive into adolescence. All the same, as the age old saying goes, "boys will boys," (we should really stop saying that) and no G.P.A. could protect me from the sexual harassment that every girl encounters at the crossroads between girl and woman and will encounter for the rest of her life. The first time I heard a derogatory statement about my body, it was on the playground in sixth grade. I was sitting on the jungle gym with my two equally-flat-chested best friends unaware of the clump of boys that had gathered on the far side of the playground. Two of the boys in our class jogged over wildly, like they had something to say. "If it isn't the itty bitty titty committee," the larger one prodded sending his sidekick into a fit of laughter. The alpha of our friend circle shoo'd them off, my other friend sulked, taken aback, and I was lost in confusion. You'd think at twelve I'd know what a "titty" was, but I was more sheltered than your average sixth grader. I asked Alpha what they meant- I knew it wasn't good. "They're making fun of us for having small boobs," she explained. I looked down at my chest that hadn't done much developing since the last time I inspected it two years ago. Later, in the hallway I confronted the boys. I might be naive, but if I do one thing well, it's stand up for myself and my friends. "You shouldn't be talking about our boobs," I uttered quietly first. I repeated myself to the dumbstruck boys. Finally, one came back at me, "And you must be the President of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee," he leered. Shit. I thought to myself, embarrassed by the profanity of it all. I've made it worse. Sooner or later the jesting slowed, but I was off to middle school a whole new world of unrealistic expectations of my anatomy.
There was a boy in middle school who sat on my lap on the bus. I didn't like him, at all, but when my best friend wanted to go on a date with his best friend, I sucked it up and joined them for a double date. Alpha and I arrived at the movie theater. The two of us never shut up, but we made awkward small talk while we waited for the boys observing the faded movie posters. Finally they arrived walking in with a bounce, an awkward swagger in their step. We all bought our tickets one by one and made our way to the theater. Alpha and her date positioned themselves. My date left a buffer seat between him and Alpha intended for me. I scooted past him awkwardly as he stared into my chest. Alpha and I were both wearing our most padded push-up bras. When I plopped down next to him, he looked at me smugly. "Why do your boobs change size every day?" Flushed and knowing it was my push-up bra to blame since I skipped it most school days out of discomfort, I played dumb, "What?" I said sweetly. "Your boobs are really small usually, but they're huge today." I wondered if he knew why they were larger and was berating me or if he was just genuinely confused and curious. Either way, I was embarrassed and hurt. "I don't know what you're talking about," I replied curtly. Lucky for me, he was silenced by the credits. I sat for the next ninety minutes and wondered if it was my fault. Wondered if by wearing a push-up bra, I was lying or deceiving him. This encounter sparked the hunt for the best push-up bra ever. I saved my allowance for weeks and a month or so later, dropped $120 on two sparkly, new push-up bras from Victoria's Secret, boasted for their breast boost from both the sides and underneath. I tried them on in my room satisfied with the curve of my pseudo-cleavage. I called Alpha, "Come over!" She came over and I shared my findings, "There's a line!" I said celebrating the small space where my breasts met. We had been trying to accomplish this for months and at last Victoria had the secret.
"I dreamt of my life turning into Pretty in Pink. The reality was much closer to Easy A."
Immediately, boys took notice and I became the regular Pamela Anderson of my sophomore class. My phone would light up with texts and Facebook messages from guys at school that before long ago, didn't give me the time of day. I was a new woman, reborn by the attention of the finest male specimen. The soccer team, the basketball team, even the bad boys with no particular interest had all eyes on me and my fake C's. For a time, I enjoyed this: being taken on dates, flirty make outs on the beach on our way home from basketball games. Suddenly my social calendar was thriving but one thing remained unchanged: I was nobody within the premises of school- where it truly mattered to me. I dreamt of my life turning into Pretty in Pink where I as Molly Ringwald's character finally got noticed for being the babe that I am. The reality was much closer to Easy A. When word got out that I was embracing my flirtatious nature, I was shamed during the day for being a "slut" and by night received countless inquiries from curious classmates hoping for a day with the school's resident nerdy, hot-chick. It felt like this was all because of that damned bra.
"I am no one's property."
An incident my junior prom pulled the plug on the whole big boob operation. A friend of mine asked me to the prom and I said yes, assuming that we'd go as we were, friends. I was "talking to" another guy who couldn't make it to prom at the same time, so I thought going with a good friend was the next best thing. One day after school, I was berated by friends of my prom date about how I was a slut for "doing this" to my date. Doing what?! I wondered what warranted the backlash as I watched the grey dots bounce and waited for my attacker's response. He explained that it was "slutty" of me to go to prom with his friend but have feelings for someone else. At first I felt bad. I liked my prom date, he was a nice guy, but I caught a second wave of anger. "I'm no one's property," I revolted mentally. "I haven't even had sex yet," I bargained to no one in particular. When I got home that day, I retired my push up bra and opted for the more comfortable, less provocative Hanes bras my mother had bought me. I went to prom that year with another friend and went bra-less and that for me was a moment of freedom, realization, and empowerment. Exhausted from the stress of getting, losing, and gaining another prom date all in one week, as I danced around at prom unconcerned about if my push-up bra was showing, or if they'd know I was wearing one, I decided that I don't need big boobs or a prom date to feel amazing. I was amazing.
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I spent the remainder of my high school career staying far away from dating, flirting, and hooking up. "I'm a slut?" I thought, "Fine, enjoy an embargo on my body, assholes." Quickly, I stopped thinking about coyly worded texts and prom and started thinking about songwriting and red carpets. I slept in instead of waking up at 5am to primp for two hours. I showed the world my true self and wore what I felt great in. I decided I had no energy for people who only valued me for my body fake or otherwise and started focusing energy on my goals, on things that made me happy and fulfilled. A girl reborn again this time of her own doing, I found myself in New York City on fire and chasing after my dreams. Sooner or later, when I decided to try dating again and my boyfriend told me, "I love your boobs," I was able to answer back, "thank you, I do too," -- and that's what actually mattered.