There isn’t a woman on earth who hasn’t struggled at some time in her life with the question of body image. I was a “late bloomer”. In fact, by the time Grade 7 rolled around and I still showed no signs of the curves the other girls were sporting, I began to wonder if I would ever bloom at all. At least I wasn’t the only one. Susie and I became friends out of shared flat-chested misery. None of the boys were making fools of themselves over us. I overheard someone tell the boy I’d had a crush on all year that I liked him. It was one of those times I wished I’d listened when my mother warned me of the perils of eavesdropping. His response was “Her? She’s got nothing!” Obviously, breasts were the only thing that counted.
Susie and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to speed up whatever development was destined to happen. I remember one discussion behind the closed doors of my room where she insisted that she’d heard that placing ice cubes on your breasts for as long as you could stand it would do the trick. It didn’t seem logical so we just laughed at the idea. A couple of days later we both confessed that we had secretly tried it. After all, what did we really know?
That summer we tried stuffing socks into our shirts just to see what we would look like with a figure. After much careful adjusting and a few safety pins to safeguard against disasters like slippage, we even ventured outside for a walk down the road. Of course we made sure no one we knew was likely to see us.
How well I remember the bathing suit my mother bought me that year. A bathing suit was something I couldn’t inherit from my older brothers and my mom didn’t think she could sew one so I was going to get something brand new from the store. We didn’t have a lot of money so she decided she would get it a size or two bigger than I really needed at the time. That way I could grow into it and it would last more than a year. She bought a two piece suit that had an actual bra with fairly stiff cups that could stand on their own even without breasts to fill them. We went camping a lot and I loved walking around campgrounds where nobody knew me wearing that bathing suit. I felt like a million bucks. Unfortunately, getting it wet could sometimes result in extremely embarrassing cave-ins. I couldn’t possibly go swimming when there was always the danger that I would stand up only to discover that one of my so-called breasts was accidentally inverted and pointing in the wrong direction.
We moved when I was in Grade 8 and I never saw Susie again. I assume she must have finally blossomed in the end. In spite of all our fears it was inevitable after all. By the time I got to High School I was finally wearing a 32AA bra and had had my first period. That old bathing suit was still too big and eventually I replaced it. I never did have a figure that would catch anybody’s attention and to top it off I turned out to be smart. No boys would be chasing me any time soon. Somehow in the midst of it all I realized that that didn’t really bother me. I had good friends both male and female among the group of students the rest of the school called ‘Browners’, short for ‘Brown-nosers’ because we got good grades. I found I actually liked myself.
Getting my period hadn’t turned out to be such a picnic after all so I reasoned that having a boyfriend was probably just as likely to result in all kinds of unforeseen pitfalls. Being a woman was going to be about a lot more than breasts and what the boys thought of my figure. What was I in such a big hurry for anyway?