Breasts Know Best (Part 1)
Author’s Note: Due to the length of this piece, this is a part one of two, with the second installment to be posted on Thursday. This is dedicated to all my sisters — with breasts big, small or not at all, not to mention their over-the-shoulder boulder holders.
The retro fashion queens and their wannabe kings of the 805 area code seem to flood the streets of Main Street Ventura, seeking thrift shop finds and secret treasures two blocks from the Pacific Ocean. I love coming up here, away from the too-cool-for-school Angelinos who parade in their designer wear and teeny tiny waists. I’m in Los Angeles all the time; Ventura feels like a vacation from superficially twisted thinking.
There was a place I always wanted to stop, called Aphrodite’s. It’s a lingerie shop, said to cater to all sizes of breasts. Since I have ample ones, it seemed only fitting that I would find my way here to this tiny little storefront with its dark green awnings.
I stopped at the counter, and the girl behind it with long straight hair and kohl-rimmed eyes smiled at me.
“Do you think you can help me?” I asked. “My boobs are rather large.”
“I noticed,” she said with a cheeky smile. Being 5’11 with an ample chest, it’s pretty hard to hide them from anybody. I sheepishly pursed my lips, but her face softened.
“Don’t worry,” the clerk said reassuringly. “She’ll be able to help you.”
Just then, I saw a 5’5 woman zip by behind me with honey-colored hair and tan skin. “Hi honey, how you doing?” she said as she touched my back and headed back to the dressing room. This was the owner.
“So is she like the bra whisperer or something?” I asked.
“More like a bra nazi,” the store clerk replied.
The owner then zipped by again, grabbing my right breast along the way through my teal-colored tank top.
“I’ve been called bra whisperer, bra nazi, titty fairy, titty whisperer, boob queen,” she said, feeling around my bust line. “Fuck, I’ve gotten it all.”
She then headed into the racks of jewel-colored bras decorated with lace and I looked at her, puzzled and shocked. Most bra shop owners treated me like a delicate flower (of which I am not nor ever have been) that has to hide her large bosom under high-necked granny bras. Not one had ever grabbed my boobs, let alone used the word “fuck.”
“She’s gotten further than several guys I’ve dated, and I just met her,” I said to the clerk.
“Yeah, that happens,” she replied.
“Do you think you have my size?” I asked the owner as she whizzed by again.
“Hon, I have bras up to a 46K,” she said, pulling off several bras from a rack. “You are no problem. Come with me.”
And as I followed her to the dressing rooms, I had no idea what to expect, feeling dumbfounded as if I had never shopped for a bra before. And I hadn’t. Not this way, anyway.
* * *
I’m newly 12 years old in my bunk at Jewish sleep-away camp. My mother has packed me a bra — light pink with soft cups and two hooks in the back. I have never worn a bra before, but she sent me off with one to camp. Looking at it and feeling the satiny-feeling fabric across my fingertips, I didn’t really know what to do with this new addition to my wardrobe. I just was expected to wear it while I was away. Why, I didn’t really know.
The other girls in my bunk are city girls from the San Fernando Valley — more mature, too cool for school, shaving their skinny chicken legs out on the concrete floors of the cabin while sitting on top of bright beach towels. They talk about having sex with the boys and having them sneak into our bunks, bragging about conquests when in truth they probably hadn’t even had their first kisses yet.
One of the girls has coarse black hair, an upturned nose and an emerald green satin bra from Ralph Lauren. In a snobby yet strangely helpful tone, she shows me from across the bunk how she puts it on: Instead of hooking her bra from behind her back, she turns the bra upside down and inside out, with the hooks in the front underneath her breasts. She hooks the two latches on the band and then flips it around her body, pushing herself up in them. She seems to have been doing it forever.
I follow her example with my off-brand, soft-cupped pink bra, forcing my barely existent breasts into them, yearning for the cleavage and confidence of the girl with the black hair in her body. To this day, I don’t know any other way to put on a bra.
At 13, this is the same bra I wear when a boy grabs my left breast in the hallways at school. At one point wandering the halls months later, I see him, scream and run in the other direction. I get into trouble because of my yelling, not knowing how to explain what he had done. After all, I was a teenage ADHD brat; who was going to believe me?
* * *
“Are you getting married?” the owner asks me randomly.
“No, no,” I laugh. “Been there, done that, not exactly ready to do it again. I barely even have a guy for it.”
She nods her head as she gets me into the fitting room, and I’m taking off my top in the golden dim light behind the cream-colored curtain. I unhook the four hooks on my black bra, whose cups are so large it covers both of my breasts completely. The owner comes in with a different bra — white with thin black stripes, with black lace on top of the cups.
“Bend over,” she says, as I slowly put my arms into the armholes of the bra, coughing slightly as I move my body forward. She hooks me in the back.
“Pull everything in,” she says. “All of it — we need to see the true cleavage.”
Bending over, I slightly adjust my breasts in each cup of the bra. She shakes her head, indicating to me that all of me has to go in there — pulling the tissue in from the back, the armpits, from all the different pockets of fatty areas that I never thought could move forward on my body.
“Get it all!” she yells at me. As her voice barks the orders, I can see why people have come to label her as a bra nazi. This is obviously a woman who takes breasts very, very seriously.
My head lifts and my brown hair spills over my breasts. My cleavage, my bust line is startlingly sexy. I haven’t been in a lacy bra like this in years. It’s alarming for someone like me, who has stuck to simple standards in her wardrobe that can be paired with any t-shirt that’s in my closet.
“Are you a thong girl?” she asks me. I shook my head immediately no — comfort is key in my world, and she grabs the matching pair of cheeky underwear that go with the bra.
I couldn’t remember the last time I bought a bra that had a matching panty to go with it, like a luxurious queen of the bedroom. No one had looked at me in my underwear on a regular basis in a long time. Of course, the last time that happened, it was with a person who barely even registered the lingerie I was wearing, let alone me as a sexual human being.
* * *
I’m newly 15, lying on the brown leaved ground of Idyllwild with my camp boyfriend. It’s Friday night and he is begging me to take my top off. My body barely registers this new level of physical intimacy, but my mind is racing and my heart is beating fast. Up until this point, the only people to see me in my bra are girls in the locker room and camp bunks who don’t see me as sexual, who also have breasts and don’t see mine as a big deal. Even then, I still don’t feel comfortable with them seeing me without a shirt.
After an hour of him coaxing, I finally slip off my white tank top in the cold night air. His breath quickens as his hands run against my skin clumsily. He puts his ear against my heart, and it reassures me. I relish the idea that he is listening to the core of me. It makes me feel more alive, beautiful.
Several days later, he successfully takes off my bra, nuzzling his nose against the soft skin and putting his lips on my nipples, which I feel awkward about how tiny they are but he says are perfect. He tells me he loves me and wants to have sex with me. He doesn’t have a condom, so I say no.
These breasts are childlike compared to the one to come at 16: Huge D-cups with stretch marks from the weight gain due to the medicine my psychiatrist has prescribed me. When I point it out to him, he shrugs, pointing out that the weight gain, particularly in the breasts, is from the medicine thinking my body is pregnant. He then says to me, “Look on the bright side — at least you’re not lactating.”
On the verge of 19, my camp boyfriend and I meet again while he’s away at school, with him saying that he wants me to lose my virginity to him. During our excursion, he leaves bruises and bite marks all over the soft white skin of my now-large breasts, and the reddish blue welts take weeks to disappear. I wore high-necked shirts and prayed my mother would never see them and ask me what had happened.
A few days after that, he tells me that he won’t have sex with me, as I’m fat and unattractive now. I lose my virginity to a friend who says, “Hey, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll do it with you.” I say okay. Sex wasn’t about love anymore; it was about who wanted to take my top off.
* * *
Another girl has joined me in the fitting rooms, next door to me. She is shorter, but has ample cleavage that pushes together. I felt envious that I had a gap between each breast and wished that they could look like hers.
The owner slips me into a teal bra, the same color as the shirt I walked in with, which she points out is a great color on my skin tone. Like the other bra, it makes my breasts look sexy as she gets me to push everything forward.
Finally, after about 10 minutes of being in the shop, the owner asks me what I’m looking for. I tell her that I’m looking for a nude bra to wear under white shirts. What I didn’t tell her is that my current nude bra begins to make a creaking noise under the heavy weight of my breasts whenever I move, and it was awkward enough to have large boobs without them announcing their presence through noise.
I stand there and take off the teal bra, placing it on the striped bra and panties from earlier. In the owner walks, holding a romantic-looking ivory-colored bra with lace accents and bows. I was shocked — my nude bras were all a medical-bandage beige color, usually topped with a lace overlay to make up for the fact that they were such an unattractive color.
She helps me slip it on, encouraging me once again to scoop all my breast tissue into the cups. I stand there, looking at myself. My skin looks beautiful in this ivory color, the same color that my wedding dress once was.
“Let’s try it on with the skin-tight tank,” she said. “You need to see what it looks like under a shirt.”
She begins running around, yelling for her clerk to find the skin-tight tank top, and I keep looking at myself in the mirror. This bra makes me feel beautiful, womanly, delightfully curvy in the right places and slimmer in the rest. I feel innocent yet strangely sexy, which is not something I’m used to when I simply put on a bra.
The owner puts her hand into the dressing room give me the white skin-tight tank top, and I slip it on. As I see the other girl coming out of her dressing room, who is also wearing the same bra as me under her black shirt, I don’t feel as luxuriously sinful with the shirt on. But then, through the thin material of the tank, I see little hints of the bra through it. I have to remind myself that, underneath the surface I present to the world, something sexy is still under the surface.
To be continued…