The other day I asked a friend if he was picked on in school. He replied that kids teased him for being gay (he's straight) because he's skinny, wears glasses, didn't play sports and always had his nose in a book. A pocket protector kind of kid.
He asked me if I got picked on and I said, yeah, for being a groupie and my overall trashiness. He looked at me inquisitively, like, "That's it?" Later, when the conversation moved on, I realized I got picked on way more for being "flat chested," but that was so embarrassing I blocked it out.
So what if I wore a training bra through junior high, graduated to a 32AAA, and then stopped wearing one altogether?
"Flat chested," as girls like me are called, is not an accurate description, but a way to get around using the word "breasts" while at the same time suggesting you have a defect. All the other girls had boobs or tits or knockers … or breasts (if you were someone's mom) or bosom (if you were someone's grandma), but I had a "chest." That drove me crazy.
Kids are cruel and there are many ways to tease someone. If it's not your name, then it's some physical feature. Interestingly, girls never teased me about my breasts, probably because they were too self-conscious about their own, but boys were awful.
"Are you a pirate?" some doofus would ask me. The first time, I fell for it and said, "No."
"Then why do you have a sunken chest?" he'd say.
That's pretty funny now.
Then, to my absolute horror, an instantly popular doll hit the market when I was 12 and lasted until I was 16: "Flatsy." She was like Gumby and Pokey's wafer-thin flashy cousin. She even had her own TV commercial with a jingle that went, "Flatsy, flatsy, they're flat and that's that." The doll was a cruel joke, but the song! Kids would pass me in the hall and if a teacher was present they just had to hum it for me to know exactly what was going on.
I wish I had the savvy and sophistication back then to make "little penis" jokes.
If anything, I thought my ass was too big. This came from my pervert stepfather who told my mother and me to walk in front of him so he could compare and critique our rears.
Even though I was very skinny, I wore a panty girdle to school and walked stiffly so my ass would not move. At home, I would look over my shoulder in the mirror and pretend to walk to see if my ass shook. If it did just a little, I was mortified and got a tighter girdle. A girl's half-undershirt-style "training bra" and a woman's panty girdle; these were my strange undergarments.
When I was 19, I started competing in racquetball, fencing and bodybuilding and appreciating the power of my body. My flat chest worked in my favor, and I now had "gluts" that barely moved when I walked. In retrospect, I made my body hard as a defense against being sexually abused and teased. Being powerful, strong and in control of my body made me feel less vulnerable to being objectified.
I don't remember men ever saying anything negative about my chest (outside of my family, that is); certainly not any man whom I had a relationship with. Acceptance made me feel sexier and more confident. Then I became pregnant. I loved everything about being pregnant except the new noticeable breasts, especially before my pregnancy showed and after I gave birth. They were alien to me. Weird. I could have worn a sign saying, "These aren't me. They're temporary!"
It was when I started dating women that it was like high school all over again. For instance, I went to an academic conference halfway across the country for an assignation with a professor of feminist theory. In bed, she said, "I like women with big breasts." Then she wondered why I wasn't in her room when she finished lecturing. I joined a lesbian email list (this was in the late '90s, the early days of social media) and it was "ta-tas" this and "my girls" that. Talk of breasts was rampant while any other body comments were considered sexist and exclusionary.
I took to wearing a bra with a little padding.
But then I wound up in a relationship with someone who fetishized small breasts in general and adored mine. It was empowering to have someone really like what is otherwise considered a womanly deficit. I threw away the padded bras.
Now that I'm in my late 50s, the only issue I ever had with my flat chest is that retro dresses with darts didn't really fit and bikini tops were sometimes a problem but that's really it. And what I find a little amazing is that they're still upright and not that different from when I was a young woman.