Angela had great tits. The boys at school, they called them knockers because of the way one was constantly pushing at the other one, like a pillow fight beneath Angela’s tight school uniform. When she de-robed during P.E., she wore a bra, not the white, stretchy training kind, but the real deal, with black lace, under wire and cups that ran over with milky white flesh.
I didn’t want a bra. I was thirteen and the only thing that distinguished my breasts from the smooth, white plane of my chest was two angry, red bumps that looked like bites from a vicious mosquito. I didn’t need a bra. There was no point.
But that didn’t stop my mother, who saw a trip to the Dillard’s lingerie department as a right of passage. I hung my head as I eyed a 44F bra hanging from a mannequin like an emergency parachute. I wondered if mine would ever be that big. An itch from my right mosquito bite told me to dream on. The saleswoman was trying to be helpful. She smiled at me as she wrapped the tape measure around my bony ribcage, and then moved the tape measure up to my molehills.
‘She needs another year,’ she said.
‘You’re just a late bloomer.’
‘They’ll grow in time.’
But my mother was determined to make my adolescence as normal as possible, so she grabbed the smallest size of white, cotton training bra and headed for the cash register.
I didn’t want to wear it. ‘What exactly am I being trained for?’ I yelled, as my mother pointed me back into my bedroom to change into my bra before school. It was too tight and it left angry red marks on my skin.
The locker room became a peep show, girls showing off their pink training bras, and boasting of going up a full cup-size over the summer. I dressed with my mosquito bites facing the tiled locker-room wall. My uterus quavered monthly with a searing pain that sent me to the school nurse for a heating pad, but the visible sign of my womanhood was late to the party.
Then one day Angela pulled me aside after P.E. She told me it didn’t have to be this way. Then she reached into her polo shirt and from the depths of her bra came a wad of toilet paper. It was like I had believed the world was flat and someone had shown me a satellite image of the earth. Her breasts were still much larger than mine, but she gave her guarantee that it would work for me too.
We went to her house that night to practice. Opening a drawer, she pulled out a small, pink, lacy bra that she had outgrown. I put it on and she adjusted the straps until they fit around my small shoulders. Looking down into the cups, I saw a vast canyon between the soft pink material and my swollen chest. Reaching for a wad of toilet paper, Angela crumpled it into a ball and reached down into my right hollow and then my left. The result was underwhelming. But at the time, it was magic. I pulled my shirt back over my head and ran to the mirror. I had breasts. Or at least, it looked like I did.
‘But what about when I take it off?” I said.
‘Never take it off,’ Angela replied.
And so it went. From the time I was 13, I stuffed. I stuffed on rainy days when I would have to run to the restroom and refill my bra with dry batting. I stuffed at P.E. class when boys would accidentally-on-purpose run into my mounds du Charmin during soccer. I stuffed on my first day of high school, though by then I had moved on to pre-stuffed bras. Padded bras. Bras with gel inserts. Under-wire technology. Silicone chicken cutlets.
I sat in class pushing my tits together with my forearms, watching, waiting for them to sit pertly together like a lingerie ad, like Angela’s, who had gone to a different high school. I slept in my bra. I woke up in my bra. When I showered, my breasts were defeated, barely hanging off my chest, still the same duo of angry, red mosquito bites.
But once I put on my bra, they were reborn. They filled out new dresses. They were a hit at parties. They were groped in the backseat of numerous Toyota Corollas.
And no one ever noticed. Some girls have horror stories of trailing TP down locker-lined hallways. No one asked after mine. Sometimes, I wished they would.
Then I started working at Victoria’s Secret, my first after school job, a 30 percent discount. I spent hours untangling bra straps from one another, folding lacy panties, hanging satin negligees. Men would come in looking for their wives and girlfriends. They’d want you to model the lingerie for them. Bigger women would come in looking for support. But the bra sizes ended at 44D at Victoria’s Secret.
Most women wanted the same thing.
‘Can you make them bigger?’
‘Can you make them perkier?’
‘Can you make them younger?’
Pushing, pulling, straining in the dressing room with a 45 year old woman whose skin feels like tanned leather. Reaching into a 36C Very Sexy Lace bra in Cerulean, grabbing handfuls of tanned leather flesh and dragging it to rest at the surface. I’ve handled so many breasts that I can’t wash the scent of perfume and tit sweat out of my hands. My high school boyfriend meets me after work and unhooks my 30 percent-discount-purchase.
‘Do you like that?’
‘How does that feel?’
Tits, titties, knockers, ta tas, melons, funbags, boobs, all day, every day, jiggling and swelling in my brain. I don’t care about mine anymore.
And that’s when I quit. Not only Victoria’s Secret, but bras in general. My breasts have grown somewhat since I was 13, but are still on the pre-pubescent side. They pop through my t-shirts enough to state my sex but not enough to cause a traffic jam. My current boyfriend says they are perfect, because they fit into the palms of his hands.
I think they’re perfect too.