My grandmother assured me they would grow.
“You’re just a late bloomer,” she would say, soothing me, stroking my hair.
“Ha. Easy for her to say,” I thought, crossing my arms in front of me. Hers were the size of ostrich eggs. Mine were more like quail eggs.
Like most late bloomers, I wondered if there was something I could do to make my breasts grow. Fertilizer, exercises—I was willing to try anything, for it was clear that if you had breasts you got power and attention. The more developed girls in my sixth-grade class were having their bra straps snapped by the alpha males. The more daring girls, daring for wonder-white bread suburbia, wore black bras under white shirts. They were both scandalized and revered.
I sadly looked down at my own shirt. There was no strap to snap. My profile would not elicit any salacious comments. I spent many nights standing in front of the full-length mirror, pulling my shirt against my chest, and hoping that a miniature bulge would appear. It was more likely that eight tiny reindeer would.
My tabletop curves soon became a joke among my friends. When the senior prom pictures were posted in the hallway, my friend Missy ran up to me and notified me that she spotted some cleavage in my picture. Closer examination revealed the “cleavage” to be a shadow caused by the flash.
Besides changing for gym, lingerie shopping was great source of angst. As soon as I walked in, I felt every single eye in the place on me. “What is she doing in here,” I imagined them saying to themselves. “She doesn’t having anything to hold up.”
“Can I help you find a size?” they would ask politely, fluttering their mascara-laden lashes at me.
Too embarrassed to admit my size, I announced that I was “just looking.”
However, as I glanced around, all I saw were satin and lace bras for women with ostrich egg breasts. Training bras were humiliating. Besides, how do you train breasts? It’s not like they could roll over, pee on the rug, or attack the mailman. But I would have given anything to find out.
All this was BWB, before Wonderbra. When the Wonderbra arrived, women and men rejoiced. Someone out there knew what it was to be an A in a world of Bs and Cs. Newspapers reported an increasing number of car accidents in front of the Wonderbra ads, as men stopped to gawk at breasts that spanned the sides of buildings. Now I, too, could have breasts that would stop traffic, cleavage deeper than the Marianas Trench. I made a beeline to Victoria’s Secret.
For the first time ever, I walked into the store as if I belonged. And there, by the thong underwear, were the Wonderbras, their satin skins bathed by track lighting. As I walked toward them, I noted what odd looking creatures they were. They resembled a normal bra, but the cup part of the bra was stuffed with a stiff, puffed material that looked as if it could float in water.
“They should put a tag on this thing warning people that this is NOT a life-saving device,” I joked with my friend Heather who had accompanied me.
“Okay, dearie. Just find your size.” She did not need a wonder bra. She was one of those ostrich egg women.
I rifled through the rack. 34B, 36C, 38C. I found my size, 32A, grabbed it, and requested a dressing room. I unbuttoned my shirt, took off my bra, slipped on the WonderBra, and looked in the mirror.
Traffic would not stop when it saw my chest. I stood sideways. The bra curved out beautifully, but my breasts were cowering inside the padded, protective shell. I put my shirt on hoping that the curves would look natural beneath fabric. They didn’t. It looked as if my shoulder pads had migrated down to my chest.
“Let me see,” Heather called from outside the dressing room.
“I don’t think so.”
“C’mon. Open the door.”
I obliged. Heather took one look and smirked. “I guess you need to start off with something.”
I hung Wonderbra on the brass hook in the pink boudoir that is Victoria’s Secret dressing room and left, my mood as flat as my chest.
Not long afterwards, I started to consider exactly why I wanted the WonderBra. After all, the point of WonderBra is not to fasten your breasts in place but to uplift them so that the opposite sex can behold them. How else could you explain the padding in sports bras?
I was disgusted with myself. How had I become the victim of advertising? How had I been taken in by the “Go from breadboard to Siren in minutes” logic? I had always prided myself on wearing shorts regardless of the amount of hair on my legs. “If Prince Charming comes along today,” I told my friends, “he’ll have to take me and the Old Growth Forest.” Yet, here I was listening to WonderBra advertisers tell me that I needed to pump myself up.
Besides, wearing the Wonderbra would misrepresent my figure. What if, while wearing the Wonderbra, some hapless was attracted to my “curves”? And what if, in the heat of the moment, the hapless guy rips off my shirt? He shrieks, not in ecstasy, but in horror. And why? Because my “breasts” are one hundred percent cotton. Think about it. How would you feel if you found out your date’s seductive bulge turned out to be a rolled-up tube sock?
Unless I am like that cactus in the Chilean desert that blossoms once every hundred years, I still haven’t bloomed. However, instead of longing for curves that I will never have, I revel in the advantages of my aerodynamic chest. Hey, if I catch someone staring at my chest, at least I know I have a spot on my shirt.