I grew up fairly certain that one day, I would get boobs.
I was so convinced of this fact that, as a child, I once strutted around the house with a couple of Mr. Potato Head toys shoved high inside my shirt; y’know, to prepare my family for the inevitability of my boobs.
( This is how you maintain the upper hand over your family: divulging humiliating anecdotes about your childhood self to the whole of the Internet to pre-empt them from doing so. It’s working fairly well for me, actually.)
But back to the story:
“One day, I’m going to have boobs like this,” I declared proudly.
“No, you won’t,” my father prophesied.
OH HA HA, DAD! Very funny. This must be one of those “Dad Jokes” I’ve heard so much about. Of course I’m gonna have BOOBS! What kind of girl grows up and doesn’t get boobs?
Well, as it turns out… me.
Don’t you just hate it when your dad turns out to be right?
Truthfully, I think I’ve had boobs on the brain almost all of my life.
(punchline: “…now, if I could just get them on my chest, I’d be all set!” HAR HAR.)
I remember being very young, younger even than I was in the previous anecdote, and having posters of cartoon characters on my walls: Ariel, the Little Mermaid. Jessica Rabbit. I recall once overhearing an adult comment on these posters, asking if maybe they were not appropriate for a little girl to have on her walls. My teensy childhood brain mulled over this for a long time.
As far as I was aware, “not appropriate” only meant one thing: calling my brother a “Stupid Butthead.” When it finally dawned on me exactly what about these posters was “not appropriate,” the clouds parted and my world was changed forever: THE BOOBS. It was the boobs!
The provocative cleavage leered off my walls and penetrated my brain. From that moment on, I. Wanted. Boobs. Come on! They were “not appropriate!” And much like the utterance “Stupid Butthead,” knowing that they were not appropriate made me want them that much more!!!
My peers got their own boobs so gradually that I didn’t even notice it happening all around me. Like a horror movie. Where you’re already so deep inside the haunted house that by the time you realize you’re doomed, you can’t get out? One minute, we had agreed to split up and check the basement to see if the killer was hiding down there, and by the time I got back upstairs, everyone else had boobs!
And I didn’t! What the heck! I was acutely aware that I was the only girl in sixth grade without the slightest hint of boobs.
Then, I was the only girl in seventh grade without boobs, and even the sixth graders had them! Then, I was the only girl in EIGHTH grade without boobs, and all the SEVENTH graders had them, and to add insult to injury, there were SIXTH GRADERS who had boobs! “Are you there, God? It’s me, Meghan. Now gimme them damn titties!”
But still, I pined. Boobless. Not even a single boob to call my own. Hey, I was willing to compromise!
And the boobs, they were everywhere. Taunting me. On the TV shows I doted on, like The Girls Next Door, about the lives of Playboy bunnies. I grimaced through the song “Dance 10, Looks 3” on my beloved soundtrack to A Chorus Line. The song is about being desperate and getting breast implants. Give it a listen: it’s not subtle.
And when I stayed up late watching cable TV shows that I technically wasn’t supposed to be watching, I’d see the infomercials for Girls Gone Wild. They were positively riveting. The titular Girls who went Wild in these videos almost exclusively did so by revealing their boobs to the camera.
Now, they were blurred out, to ensure that the consumer didn’t see too much upfront. You had to call the 1-800 number and purchase if you wanted to see un-obscured nipple. But I watched these with fascination, even still.
To go “Wild” was to rebel in the most subversive way imaginable — it was so unfathomable, it needed to be censored even on cable TV. These “girls” were HEROES. Of course, writing this now, I realize that the participants in Girls Gone Wild were probably drunk, but innocent little teenaged Me chalked their vacant facial expressions up to a zen-like nirvana they reached by shoving their boobs in the face of society’s conventions.
There was something almost angelic about the way they swayed on their feet as they struggled with halter tops behind their necks, freeing their breasts to tumble out of their bikinis for the cameras. I watched with wide eyes and steely determination. Someday, I vowed, when I have boobs… I’m gonna Go Wild with them.
But, of course, that would never happen. Mainly because I never got those damn boobs. In fact, if you want the searingly painful truth, I couldn’t even find a bra small enough to fit me until halfway through college.
Oh, and I tried! I’d scour the racks for the items with the lowest number/letter combination to sneak off to the dressing room, only to become flustered when I’d find that even the smallest cup size available in stores was cavernous on my meager frame. Let me break this down for those of you who’ve never had this problem with a handy visual: it was like putting a marble in a Big Gulp cup.
It was like buying a 3-bedroom condo for your pet gerbil to live in. Y’all, those foam molded cups had so much room left in them, I could have used them to store my car keys, wallet, and phone. Which is good, I guess, considering how pathetically small the pockets are in pants made for women BUT THAT’S ANOTHER RANT FOR ANOTHER TIME.
So I’d never grow boobs. Even to this day. How do I feel about this?
I’d always worried that I’d never be fully complete as a woman. All jokes aside, I never felt comfortable in my body because there was always that unspoken lack. Like my empty chest merited an apology: “Oh yes as you can see I do not have the boobs that an adult woman usually has and you know I could tell you a funny story about that…”
Being a girl is hard, especially without boobs. No, really. You’re supposed to be all these things: docile, outgoing, meek, adventurous, sexy, modest, gorgeous, humble. It’s a lot of fucking work to keep up with the “respectability politics” of womanhood.
Very few of us are above reproach. Any shortcoming — any! Was to be an abject failure at womanhood, and to me, my flat chest was my obvious shortcoming.
I worried that nobody would ever love me, and so, I settled for relationships that weren’t the best (flat and sassy/I would get the strays and losers/beggars really can’t be choosers — you DID listen to the song, didn’t you?). I lay awake at night, staring at the ceiling, plotting my eventual breast implants surgery. After I got boobs, I fantasized, my life could finally begin. And I was determined to get them, one way or the other.
But did I? Not quite. On a whim, I decided at 28 years old that I was going to get a massive chest tattoo of red roses, from shoulder to shoulder, clavicle to cleavage. The day they were completed, my world shifted.
I cannot possibly overstate this. When I looked in the mirror for the first time with those red roses framing my face, I felt how I’d always imagined I’d feel when I someday got those damn boobs. Feminine. Pretty. Sexy? I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the subway doors and my eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
What does this even mean? Was it ever really about the boobs at all? I wish I could tell you that I had an answer.
Maybe it would have something to do with the narrow standard of beauty for women. Or the notion that a woman’s value is directly linked to how she is viewed through the male gaze. Maybe I’ll never get those boobs, but I found something even better by redefining my own standards of feminine beauty with my tattoo.
Maybe the giant marking that I affectionately call “my roses” was the part of me that I was really missing, and it took making a statement in rebellion against conventional standards of female attractiveness for me to realize just how meaningless the boobs really were in the first place. I don’t know, I don’t even know yet.
Well, I know that I don’t lie awake at night, desperately wishing I could wake up in somebody else’s body anymore. I don’t think of myself as “incomplete,” and I don’t worry that everyone is judging me as inadequate because of my cup size. In fact, I’m quite comfortable dishing about my itty bitty titties on the Internet. That’s probably as far away as you can get from the way I used to try to cover myself up, hiding my shortcomings under oversized, boxy T-shirts. My tattoo empowered me to let go of the me that would never be, and embrace the me that had power over her life.
And to celebrate her.
Oh! And another thing! I’m not obsessed with sizing up all y’all’s boobs anymore, scrutinizing strangers’ cleavage as if we’re in a silent, unspoken competition for the winner of the Best Boobs prize.
featured image taken from the Instagram of @BadNewsBecca, mere minutes after she finished drilling those roses into my chest. You can still see the lingering pain in my eyes, can’t you?