They arrive on a Saturday. A regular leisurely morning. As you pull off your PJ top to change into your rainbow tank top and start your day you see them slightly swollen. When you poke them they feel really strange. So despite the 90 degree heat you add a t shirt and sweatshirt over your tank and keep your chin down on the stairs, rounding your shoulders, you still see them poking through.
That afternoon sitting on the rocking chair on your father’s lap, you realize you are too old for this as he hugs you into him and his arm crosses you just so and you know it will never be quite the same. It is fifth grade and most snuggling is instantly over, you will balk at hugs for a while, almost for ever more, and squiggle out of offered embraces. You hate them.
Later that school year, planning for the school dance the cutest boy in the class is looking at your chest not into your eyes when he declares that you will dance together. Your belly tingles, he will hold you a lot closer than arms length and you will have a strange power over him for the next year. One that makes you uncomfortable but a little proud, and you try to twist it into a real connection rather than a physical appreciation and it is impossible because this is fifth grade anyways.
You almost like them in Junior High. They have been around for 30% of your life, and it seems imprudent not to acknowledge their advantage. You can attract the attention of the eighth graders and the girls hold their books to their chests and walk the halls in tight knots and you carry them under one arm, swinging freely, steps apart.
In French the boy behinds you starts calling you Bobes. At least thats how you tell yourself it is spelled. Your one friend reassures you, but you can tell from her hooded eyes that you both know what the nickname is. You become quiet in that class, for the first time ever. And you hide your quarterly report card with its first A-.
In high school they are twin assets. Mostly. They earn you a boyfriend at the new school. A photographer with brown hair and blue eyes. He and a few other guys are looking through the window into the dance studio as you and the girls you do not yet know stretch on the floor in your dance clothes. They cannot be judging you for your brain. They can’t see it through the glass.
After class they invite you to walk on the frozen pond and you fall, hitting your tail bone which will hurt for the next four years. Helping you up you realize how blue those eyes are and in that way you match his shallowness.
For the next 6 months you are even more outspoken, forcibly witty, a joiner. Showing him that he is dating a whole person. Not a rack. When he tells you he loves you, he doesn’t meet your eyes, and some echo of doubt is there. You ask him why you? Of anyone in the school why you and he laughs, not uncomfortably, and tells you you have the best body in the Sophmore class. This does not please you, and you are not surprised when he ends it a month later for the only girl with bigger boobs than you.
When they are still together at graduation you try to be magnanimous, you have moved on. Maybe he has too.
The first time you use them, really use them, is in tenth grade math class with the 23 year old teacher. You sit in the front row. As he paces the small basement classroom, more animated about math and card probabilities than you have ever seen anyone in your life you realize your V neck top is plunging too low, and your key chain necklace is dripping into your cleavage. You leave it there. You itch to adjust it, but literally sit on your hands, and watch his eyes. He is stumbling over the probabilities and ends up sitting down at his desk, changing his angle, but not his attention.
It is an unfair advantage you have over most men. An almost literal superpower. After a few months, when the math teacher is calling your house and your father reports him to the dean and you have to go in and repeat four times that he did nothing wrong then you regret it. It was your fault. It is your fault his passion for probabilities is dimmed, that he no longer chaperones the school camping trips.
They are no advantage during the summer in Israel excavating. You have to haul these hot and heavy things to and from the pits. It is the pits. It is hundreds of degrees and you sweat from places that you didn’t know had sweat glands. They are sticky and icky and no fun at all.
Then you are 24 and in the breast care center and having an ultra sound in a part of your that you didn’t think could be assessed that way. Your paper gown is thin and scratchy. The assistant medical student is about your age. The doctor tells him with excitement about this certain layer of connective tissue that supports the breasts “like a built in bra” until age 26 or so. She snaps on the light to illuminate Xray still on film fluttering on the light box. “No” she sighs disappointedly. “They must be too big.” Her finger traces the edge of your breast in the picture, it has failed her.
And possibly you, as you sit on the table waiting for her to stop teaching and start checking this lump that has been whispering fear for months. As you wait you think about these times, the way you have flaunted them, and you make a silent deal. You will keep them to yourself. You will get all new tops, you will strap them down. Anything if this lump is nothing.
The wand, the needle aspiration, the news.
Fine. Normal breast tissue. “Lumpy”, she declares, their second strike of the day. Maybe stay away from underwires she recommends and you look at her lovely midsized chest and decide you might hate her. In her white lab coat, body angled towards the medical student and away from her patient.
Then later, when they ache for another reason in pregnancy and finally do their actual job and grow the two fattest babies you love them again. This is why you have been dragging them around all these years.
Measured for a nursing bra the fitter declared you a 40 G. You joke that it is an apartment number, not a bra size. And although both measurements will go down over time you will never again think of them as a turn on. That one sentence has been their sentence.
After pulling and stretching and biting, and leaking and all the other manipulation at the hands of the small greedy tyrants they are not the same. They no longer point out, beacons towards the future, but look down a bit. Tired after their hard work.
You hoist them up, plumping and shaping, creating a reasonable facsimile of their former selves. But you are not that girl anymore. All three of you have matured.
Lumps and all.
Second person experiment inspired by my favorite high school English teacher, who likes me for many things, but never my boobs.