A small amount of feelings I have regarding my boobs:
In seventh grade when all the girls started getting them, I did not. Or, I did not get them according to my expectations. Boobs. Magazines and kid’s shows had me convinced that I would have bloomed to a full and upright c-cup in time for high school, at least. Because all high schoolers had c-cups, and also incredibly complex male-female relations and sometimes very deep running secrets. It would take getting to the other side of high school to realize that all of this was merely angst and padded bras.
In sixth grade my de facto best friends were a pair of twin boys whom I felt privileged for having the ability to tell apart, chief among our circle of friends. Someone would say something and I would interrupt. I would say, That one’s Stephen. It made me feel important. It is unclear whether they appreciated my Rottweiler approach to protecting their individualism, or whether they appreciated playing basketball with me, which is what they were doing, the three of us sweating under the heat of the sun and the exertion and the exhaustion of the running question of how to properly divide three people into two equally-weighted teams when my mother walked over and sternly pulled me off the court, which doubled as a driveway, and also as the scenic view that the bay windows of the kitchen overlooked. She’d been watching from the kitchen.
She pulled me off the court and in a tone I’d never heard before she said, From now on you wear a bra.
I looked down. I was wearing a purple shirt striped horizontally and a pair of jeans that suddenly seemed to be floating up closer to my ankles. The only things sticking out were my hip bones.
I said, For what?
The bra talk pissed me off. It became the first of many things that would separate me from this pair of twin boys. Suddenly a single training bra with an elastic band and two cotton triangles below the straps seemed to follow me around the house. I would put it on when my mother was looking and take it off when she was not. Still, the thing lurked. I’d find it entwined in the blankets of my unmade bed, hanging off of door knobs, the handles of drawers, coming back clean and bleached white out of every laundry load. It itched, I thought. And it was obvious. Something about it was obvious and I feared the conversation that might follow the question of this bra—someone in my sixth grade class asking what that strap is, my answer, that same look down and that same question I’d asked myself: what for?
And then in seventh grade it seemed everyone had a bra. I walked around on the breaks between classes with the question hanging in my head and I’d watch the curiously smiling faces with the braces, the shivering lips at the smallest slights, everyone suddenly turning to fashion and accessory and suddenly wanting to like and be liked. My boyfriend wore puka shells. He looked at my chest and snapped the strap of my bra. He said, What for? My twins had defected and I’d taken a new best friend. A girl. My boyfriend looked at her. When she walked away he said, Sarah is stacked.
In the bathroom I cornered her. I said, Stop stuffing your bra.
She looked in the mirror and adjusted it.
It’s for protection, she said. They’re sensitive.
The next week my boyfriend was her boyfriend.
By the eighth grade a line had clearly been drawn in the sand by some evolutionary fuckwit who had determined that girls would be divided by the haves and the have-nots. Boobs. A blond girl with acrylic nails and a dusty tan had them. She had them more than any other girl had them, adjusting for body fat, age, tissue paper. She really had them. Her name had the suggestion of them: Christine. Christine with the boobs. The girls who became her friends had them. The boys talked about them. As time ran down to the final moments of middle school I checked my shirt with downward glances for progress. There was something there, sure. Enough that if a boy were to find it on his chest, it would distress him. This was a poor measure of success though. I feared if things didn’t speed up for me before high school it would fuck things up. Maybe things like my shot at getting into a good college. Or maybe just things like my shot at remembering high school fondly. I needed boobs. Unmistakable boobs. Not the palmful I was working with. I had small palms. Once we got down to that final week wherein you find your true worth based on the number of yearbook signature requests you get I realized I would be going into high school empty handed. Or at least with not with enough of a handful that my hands couldn’t be used for other purposes. My boobs were small enough that a handful of them would still allow one to multitask. I shoved my yearbook in my backpack. I remember the last day of middle school, walking towards the bus and passing Christine seated in front of a line of thirteen year old boys waiting for her signature. She would go on to do everything else right, too.
I turned eighteen in the September of an uncharacteristically hot year. The October that followed was sweltering too and Sacramento is a valley collecting the fumes of San Francisco, holding them like a bowl of dry ice over which if you waved your hand you might stir up the gas. The sun burned down through. Spaghetti-strapped tank tops were all I wore, braless. There were reasons. Primarily there was the reason that involved my never having recovered from the trauma of the white-triangled training bra creeping behind me in my house. Never recovered from the straps of it giving me away and calling attention to my lack of need for the thing in the first place. Also, primarily, there was the reason of how much better my tiny boobs looked under that thin fabric as opposed to how caged and shy they looked in a real bra. They had a quality when they were bare. I couldn’t name it. Secondarily there was simply the heat. Sacramento, when it is not cold, is a place where one aims to touch as little fabric as possible.
Looking back, the quality I could not name was the nearly fake quality my boobs had even then. The perkiness. The perfect roundness. And the nipples. My boobs were small but mighty. The mighty part would only be something I realized in hindsight. I focused on the small. But October was the month I walked into a strip club and bared them. There were reasons here, too. I wanted a pony. I was maybe not the most mature eighteen-year-old, but I had an ass and a waist and mighty small boobs. The conditions are few.
Ten thousand dollars per month, cash. That’s what I made stripping in a club lined with benches and chairs and no VIP room. It was a simple system. Dances at twenty per. I could keep my dance card full. I thought I would make twice that if my boobs were bigger. I thought of Christine with her line of boys holding yearbooks. In place of each yearbook I imagined crisp twenties waving in the wind.
I bought bigger boobs. It did nothing for my money. It turns out that under this simple system I described, when your dance card is full, it is full. The only way to make more money is to work more days at that point. My feet were bleeding from the shoes.
I was maybe not the most intelligent eighteen-year-old, either.
Dr. Donald Jasper in Roseville, California, gave me my new boobs. It’s time I gave credit where credit was due. He’s good, that man. At the consultation with a purple marker he made a comment that I quickly dismissed that has since ghosted its way back into my memory.
He said, Your left boob is bigger than your right.
I looked down and in the mirror. I couldn’t see it. There are not zeroes that are bigger than other zeroes. It is why I have always disagreed with the saying, “big fat zero”. It would imply that there are skinny zeroes and normal sized zeros and zeros with all sorts of variations in characteristic and size. Zero is zero. Math is the only exacting thing. We should not mess with it.
I said, Whatever.
He said, They’ll be even when I’m done.
And then he was done. My Christine moment did not come at the strip club where it was expected but it did rear its pretty head at school. It was fitting, actually, the way it came. Symbolic and literary nearly, once you dismiss the subject and the superficiality, the fact that the story is being related in a blog. It was the first week of school—community college, this time—and I was walking from the parking lot towards class and there was a bus full of some male sports team waiting to go somewhere for something and I wore a tight fitted shirt—spaghetti strapped—and as I walked passed they leaned out collectively and hollered. If they’d carried yearbooks they’d have asked me to sign them. I knew it. Every last one.
Today I would be irritated by this.
Speaking of today, that was when I remembered his comment. Your left boob is bigger than your right. I know this now. It is perhaps the truest thing that has ever been said of me. Why I never saw it before is baffling. I know all of my flaws. One of my nostrils is a different shape than the other, for example. There is a freckle in my belly button, and one on the bottom of my foot, and one in my left iris, and then a bunch of obvious ones everywhere else. I’m pretty sure one of my eyes is a millimeter higher than the other and I know for a fact my hairline is jagged in the center and I’d like my legs to be longer and my BMI to be less and in general I’d like to travel around with more of a photoshopped finish. But somehow I missed the issue of the separately sized boobs. Neuroticism left room.
That is, until, week one of breastfeeding. You may have noticed, if you’ve followed my tumblr page, that procreation has done beautiful things for the size of my boobs. It has given them better hang, for one. And size in general. They are sizeable. My nipples have grown in proportion but I am not bothered by this. Things might look out of place, otherwise. No, my nipples do not look out of place.
What looks out of place is my right boob in relation to my left.
It happened like this: I do not suffer well the condition of ruined sleep. I am not a trooper, if you will. There is no drive in me to step up and manage in spite of the circumstances, there is no “when the going gets tough/the tough get going”, there is no motivational poster hanging on the walls of my interior that might imply that I will rise against the odds when the condition in question is one of sleep. I just won’t. I need sleep. I operate on a binary battery-type system and I am either properly charged or I am dead.
Infants do not operate on this same system. They sleep frequently and often, which is a condition that insists that they also wake up frequently and often. They do this to eat. I am food, as it turns out.
My solution to being a midnight snack, in those first nights, involved lying on my side and falling back asleep and just letting her nurse to her heart’s content. Which she did. All night long. When I am not food I am a pacifier. A better pacifier than the other pacifiers, even. I am the preferred pacifier. And on this fateful night where I first let her nurse to her heart’s content and she really rode that for all it was worth I woke up with a blister on my right nipple. This hurts, as you might imagine. So I switched her to the left side and sidestepped as much action as I could on the right side and forced myself to stay awake during her midnight snacks so that I would be aware enough to pull her off whenever it became clear that “food source” had ceased in being my primary function and I had merely become a human pacifier. And then of course there are the books and recommendations all warning scared new parents to put the work in now and not to let a baby fall asleep on the nipple, that it is best to put them back down when they are still awake… phrases such as “sleep training” are thrown around. It seems like there are plenty of issues in the world that might require more attention on the priority scale until you try just once to make them sleep without the aid of a human pacifier and suddenly all priorities ever are subject to rearrangement. World peace falls a rung or two.
All this to say that I am tired. I am tired and my left boob is bigger than my right boob.
But it really got bigger following the blister/right boob avoidance incident. Because, it turns out, one’s body will amp up or decrease milk production exactly according to what is asked of it. And I asked a lot of that left boob following the blister/right boob incident. I asked very little of the right boob.
The fallout: In clothes I became lopsided. I had a hard time gauging whether it was on obvious condition when I was approached head on, but I noticed that in the Bikram studio during the breathing exercises when we interlaced our fingers and folded our hands under our chins and rested our forearms on our chests I was noticeably different from the other students. My left elbow jutted out farther than my right.
I noticed when I hugged people it always felt as if I was landing at an angle. I wondered whether it was off putting; like those one-sided shoulder to shoulder hugs that people will offer in lieu of coming any closer. There was an urge to explain.
The left boob became projectile. When detached from without warning during the nursing act it became prone to haphazard spurting. Or maybe spurting is not the word. An unbroken stream. That is the picture. Fountainous. I could lie on my back and watch it run and reminisce of those times passing by the Bellagio—the beautiful choreography of water and music, lights. Sometimes I would reach for my phone and play my own music.
But sometimes it was not pretty. Sometimes it was like the arterial wash of a severed limb. And then the word became spurting. Pulsing. I could water lawn, or maybe paint with it. Something messy and real. There was too much life in that boob.
The severity of the matter became most clear though in this defining moment: picture a lazy afternoon and an infant who nurses like a drunk on the bottle, nodding off into sleep as she is still gulping, that strange uneven flutter of eyes. The heavy head lull. With a final drop of the head she rolls it back on my arm and passes out for good this time, open mouthed, undisturbable. I continue reading one very good book. A few moments go by. Suddenly there is a gush of warmth running down my torso. I assume I have been peed on. There is frustration. Not with something so precious as an infant, but definitely with the incompetent diaper makers. Diapers should prevent one from being peed on. That’s what they’re there for. I would expect nothing less. I look down, suddenly concerned with the logistics of how a baby would have peed on me from the top end of her.
And that’s when I saw them. The pools. It was breast milk that had gushed down me, warm and wet, only it hadn’t run in a stream steady or pulsing. It had pooled first. And she was sleeping through it, still, both eyes closed and hidden under the two little bowls of milk gathered placid above them. She looked like the star subject of a horror film. Like a disturbed child’s doll. My left boob gave one last spurt and turned off.
This prompted change. My left boob had nearly drowned a small child. It was insidious now. I Googled ways to even out boobs.
Breast pumps. Breast pumps are one way. Ramp up production on the weaker side. I had a fine one given to me by someone in the know. She said, This is the mother of all breast pumps. I’d really meant to avoid the process entirely, but still. People assumed that eventually I’d want to leave the house.
So I opened the thing up. There was a handbook, and a second handbook, and some further literature. I trashed that. Especially the flyer at the bottom that read “Breast Pump in style!”
I especially trashed that.
I plugged some things into some other things and screwed a thing on a thing and then it seemed assembled enough and I plugged the cord in the wall and turn a dial. A noise happened. A sickening noise. Sort of a puffing and slurping noise. It was unappetizing and desexualizing and somehow patronizing. More patronizing than “Breast pump in style!” and more desexualizing than the suggestion of breast pumping at all, and unappetizing. Yes. There are layers of unappetizing involved in newborn care, and just when you think you’ve peeled the last one up and you’re standing on the ground floor another thin film of something will curl up at the corners. This was more than a thin film. I listened to the noise. I was being harvested.
But what a terrible harvest I would yield.
After an hour of pumping what seemed like dust and air out of the right side I had a little under an ounce of milk in the tiny bottle. It made the bottle seem larger. I switched the pump to the left side. Ten minutes and five ounces later that bottle was full.
I thought of Christine and her stupid line of boys with their yearbooks. I thought of my rise to glory that day at community college with the sports team on the bus, all those years of porn that followed. The conventions. The lines at the conventions. No one would want me to sign their yearbooks now. Or their DVDs, their shirts, the undersides of their baseball caps. No one. Or maybe they would. But only the left side of me. They would stand in line for the left boob while the right boob withered further under the burning sun of shame.
Christine probably had a baby that came out sleep trained and lived on ambrosia. Her right boob was probably exactly as mighty as her left. That’s what I thought right then.
But I am vain and vanity drives me. I stuck with that pump. Here are the adages one might write on my motivational poster: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, or, in blocky and well-spaced letters “P E R S E V E R E N C E”. Because today my right boob pumped as much as my left boob. It spurted. Like arterial hemorrhaging. Like the Bellagio it was fountainous. And large. My right boob has increased in volume. One could no longer fit two of them in one of my left boobs. And that was the case a couple of weeks ago—that the right was only operating at fifty percent capacity. I was convinced of it.
Still, though. My hugs are coming on a bit crooked. I tried the yoga breathing in the mirror to check my elbows and the left one definitely comes out slightly further than the right. It seems the infant harbors an unstated preference for the left. I don’t blame her.
Because I looked back at pictures and what the doctor said was true. My left boob has always been bigger than my right. He never did even them out. Or maybe he did and the left managed to catch up again. Because the left is just intrinsically that much better. It is the Christine. And I may make excuses for the right—the unfair disadvantage early on with that fateful night of nursing, the straw-reaching explanation about how I probably worked that side out harder in the gym days, the fact that I sleep on that side, maybe it’s my posture that is uneven, maybe I’ve sent bad energy somewhere. Alchemy. My excuses are the stuff of Alchemy.
But then in a moment of calm when I am not counting the hours I’ve racked up in sleep on one hand or chasing spurted lines of my own breast milk down with rags I think it is probably a thing that you wouldn’t have recognized anyway, had I not said anything. And I pat myself on the back and remember that even though I sucked at middle school I still kept my dance card full back when my boobs were not only uneven but mighty tiny too.