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cap, captain miss america

[info]karnythia recently posted a wonderful post about dealing with unwanted male attention, and it made me revisit a draft of a post I started writing after the I Write Like meme stuff I posted. The original post wasn’t about the story I’m sharing here. This was originally background information, but the more I wrote, the more this became its own story.

When I was twelve, I went on a school-sponsored camping trip. We went away for a week, and stayed in cabins for all but one night. On the last night, some of us were selected by lottery to go on a tent overnight.

I was one of the lucky kids who was chosen to go. I’m not sure how it happened, being the social outcast I was in middle school, but I wound up in a tent with a group of the more popular girls in my grade. These girls were usually very nice to me, but why they chose me for their tent is still beyond me. But they were friendly and inclusive, and for that night, I actually felt like I belonged in their group.

We pitched our tent fairly close to a tent belonging to a group of boys in our grade, one of whom I had a massive (and I thought, undying) crush on. I thought nothing of it.

Then it was time for bed, and in hushed whispers, the girls in my tent arranged a game of Truth or Dare with the boys across the way. I remember feeling apprehensive– I was thrilled, in part, to be permitted, even if just for one night, to be included in a game that was one of those secret realms of the popular, a game to be played at parties that boys came to. But I was also afraid. What if someone asked me to do something I didn’t want?

I decided the easiest way to deal with the situation was to just answer “Truth.”

We played without leaving our tents, whispering our demands and our responses between the two. It made it difficult to come up with good dares, but somehow, they came anyway. It was strange, though, this lack of association that the boundaries of the tents created.

When my first turn came around, they asked me, if I had to date any boy in the school, who would it be?

Of course, the boy it would have been was in the next tent. I was mortified, I didn’t want to say his name and have them all laugh. He already had a girlfriend, as much as any twelve-year-old could have a girlfriend, and it was one of the more popular girls, that these girls were friends with. I said I didn’t know, I didn’t like any of the boys.

They said I had to pick one. One of them suggested a name, a boy who was nice enough but probably someone they thought was socially acceptable for me to date– not too cute, not too popular.

And I named a completely different boy, one whom I thought was very conventionally attractive but not someone they were friends with, who I thought wouldn’t be an asshole about it if he found out.

They all laughed at me, incredulous, because he was shorter than me. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but it wasn’t really that big a deal. I was a little embarrassed for a moment, but we moved on.

Another girl asked for a dare, and the boys told her to hand her bra across to their tent.

Things went quiet in our tent for a moment. The girl in question looked at all of us and whispered, quiet enough that the boys couldn’t hear, that she wasn’t wearing a bra.

One of the girls told her to just tell them, but she was too embarrassed to let the boys know she wasn’t wearing one. Finally, I asked her what size bra she wore.

“34A,” she said.

I said that was my size.

The girls looked at me with disbelief. “But your boobs are so huge!” one of them whispered.

The boys didn’t seem to catch on that this was taking so long. I suspect maybe they just thought that’s how long it took to get a bra off. I, meanwhile, started taking off mine, and handed it to her. She gave it to the boys, claiming it was her own.

The boys passed the bra back a couple of minutes later, and it didn’t look like they’d done anything weird to it. Knowing the boys in question fairly well, I think the dare was largely spurred by a combination of genuine curiosity and the fact that that’s what they thought they were supposed to be doing. None of them laughed or made any lewd comments. It wasn’t creepy in the way it might have been, and I didn’t feel pressured to hand over my bra.

The other girl was spared humiliation, and the game went one, but I don’t remember anything else about it.

It was the first time anyone told me I had big breasts. Uncertain, I went to my mom and told her an edited version of this story (leaving out the fact that it had come up during a game of truth or dare). She took me bra shopping shortly after that, and I was re-fitted with a 34C. In eighth grade, I was wearing a D, and then a DD.

By the time I was in ninth grade, I was having to special-order my bras.

But that night was the first moment in my life when I was even aware that I had breasts that were even a little larger than average. Somehow, looking in the mirror every day, the way preteen girls do, I never noticed the difference between the shape of my body and the shapes of other girls’ bodies. It took another girl to point it out to me, in the dark, in a tent. Until that moment, my breasts had never been part of my identity, and after that moment, it became increasingly difficult for them not to be.

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.

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i can't remember when i was aware that my boobs were really big. The only person i really talked about it to was my friend who's breasts were almost as large. She got harrassed a lot more than i did probably because she was only five foot, while i was around five eight and still taller than most of the boys... i also refused to wear anything tight fitting, i always wore big t-shirts and skater pants.

It was such a relief to have a reduction. I'm a C now, almost a D. I'm rather proud of my cleavage instead of being ashamed of it. It's funny how a hallmark of femininity like having breasts can make you feel so horrible about yourself. We go from being gender neutral little princesses to being curvaceous women in such a short time. It really does seem like over night we've got adult bodies and we have to get used to all these new parts that weren't there before. It doesn't help that middle school girls can be the most vicious creatures of the animal kingdom.

I decided not to have a reduction, since I didn't have any real health-related issues. But I don't think any of my discomfort with my breasts comes from the size of them or the way my body looks-- it comes almost exclusively from the way men treat me.

A brilliant post! You inspired me to write my own! :D

I remember a situation that isn't similar in any superficial way, but rather in point. It also took another girl pointing it out to me, in an incredulous and somewhat rude fashion, to make me realize that I had large breasts. Pity it was loudly in the locker room. >.

This was my story, too, only it was all the girls in the locker room, haranguing me for not wearing a bra.

I can't remember when the fact I had large breasts first came to my attention, but I can say that the thing that keeps them on my mind the most NOW is not the attention they get from men, but usually the perceived negative attention they get from other women if I don't cover them up completely.

Maybe it's because I just spent a couple years in Europe, so the dress code expectations of the Midwest just seem ridiculous to me, but I still fail to see how a little cleavage should affect my ability to be taken seriously. They're just boobs - half the population has them. But a certain segment of that half has a hard time finding shirts that are flattering but still have high enough necklines to cover up the cleavage, even though the neck would be completely fine on someone else.

I don't know why it seems like it's always other women who patrol these dress code issues, either. I don't know if men in general are worried to address it because of sexual harassment issues or just aren't bothered by it or what, but the end result is that when I get dressed in the morning before work, I think about how other women are going to judge me based on my breasts, not men.

That's interesting, because I have never been made to feel uncomfortable about my breasts by another woman, save for typical embarrassing relative type stuff. I've only ever had men comment on my breasts or my manner of dress or anything like that in any way that wasn't complimentary. The only thing about my appearance that women comment in in a way that makes me uncomfortable is my hair.

I am wondering if that's regional.

Hiya, randomly browsing through my 'friends of friends' list and your entry caught my eye because I just read another boobs story at spiralstairs's journal. I was just wondering how you feel about your ladies now? I'm at 36B on a good day, and the grass is always greener, you know. I'd love to be more filled out, but at the same time, I know it's tough on a lot of you lovely busty girls. :)

Hey, I'm really sorry, but I'm having trouble thinking about this question because it really upsets me when people refer to breasts as "girls" or "ladies," because it's a way that we're encouraged to reduce ourselves as women down to our body parts, and no piece of anatomy is equivalent to a whole woman.

I know that wasn't your intent by using it here, but it makes me really uncomfortable reading your comment, so I'm going to have to decline to answer it.

So, this is something I've been thinking about for a while, and I'm not sure this is the most relevant of your posts about it, but it's the most recent.

You post, from time to time, about stuff that (unfortunately) comes along with being a woman - body image issues, and objectification by men, and things of that ilk. And a lot of it makes me go: "Huh. Really?" Not just what you say, but what the women who comment say as well. It feels like there's some great underlying trend of Women Issues that I've kind of missed out on. I'm not denying that it's there - or regretting that I don't feel it! - merely commenting that somehow, I seem to have missed out on it.

And there are reasons, of course. I am small - short, small-chested, thin, generally mistaken for younger than I am. I've never felt pressure about my weight. I don't get unwelcome male attention. I simply don't enjoy places like clubs and bars, so I haven't spent much time there there. I have been in one, uniformly happy relationship, so that hasn't caused any self-esteem issues. I grew up in the UK rather than US, and I wonder if that matters.

But it can't just be that, because there are all sorts of inter-women tensions that I've missed out on - like the locker room stuff you mentioned above, or women wanting to be/not wanting to be friends based on each others' attractiveness (and I went to an all-girls' school, too).... I just haven't noticed them.

I recently read Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. I partly read it because I loved the author's book on what it's like to be a clinical psychologist (it was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to read), and partly because I'm generally interested in psychology stuff, and mostly because my dad mentioned that he and my mom had both read it when my sister and I were adolescent girls, to try to learn how to bring us up happy and healthy. It's a very unsettling book - full of clients' stories, and how girls seem to lose their identities in order to fit into an ideal of womanhood that is submissive and passive, and pointing out the ways in which society reinforces this problem. (For example, it comments that the qualities rated as being characteristic of adults often contradict those rated as being characteristic of women - like independence and strength and determination - and that girls are getting conflicting messages from society about how to grow up.)

To make a long story short, I talked to my dad afterward and said that I found the book very gloomy - that it didn't seem to present any practical ways of protecting your daughters (only society-level changes about media, etc.). He replied that the message he and Mom took from it was to limit our exposure to media - and that that was the reason that we did not have a TV in the house for my teenage years (13-18). It shocked me - I had never considered this as a reason before, I'd always taken our TV-free house somewhat for granted. In those five years, I recall maybe one time I watched TV for anything besides a sports game - and I was bored silly.

I've been grateful for my lack of interest in TV in many ways, but until then it didn't occur to me that it might have had that kind of effect - to insulate me. And when I read your posts about Women Stuff that I just don't get, it makes me wonder what a difference to my life being cut off from the media in that way made.

The issue is, to me, that you can't protect young women from it, because while being oblivious to it might make you feel more comfortable with yourself overall, it doesn't protect you from the harm that people in your everyday life can do to you, and that includes harassment but also physical harm.

I barely watched television in high school-- the only TV I watched with regularity was Quantum Leap and Animaniacs, neither of which fit the kind of problematic mold that causes girls to rethink their own self-worth. But that didn't keep strange men from coming up to me and touching my breasts and hair or telling me they'd like to fuck me when I was 14 years old. It didn't keep boys in my high school from cornering me and threatening me. It didn't keep the director of a TV show I was supposed to be on from dismissing me because my breasts were large and that made me too "slutty" for their "family image." It didn't keep my school play director from telling me he couldn't give me a certain role because I was a virgin and couldn't understand the character's motivations. In front of the entire drama class. The issue is that no matter what a parent does, short of removing a girl from society at large, there isn't really anything you can do, and protecting her might actually be worse because it won't leave her prepared to deal with these things when they happen. Not watching TV might have insulated you, but insulating you wouldn't have done a damn bit of good if a man had decided to target you in a sexually predatory way.

BTW! I am totally busy this week and next and then school starts, but we should definitely hang out and discuss this because I want to pick your brain some more. No idea when I'm free yet, but just putting the RSVP out there. #mwah!

I'm not really comfortable with the idea of anyone picking my brain over this. I'm sharing what I want to share here, and just assume that if it's not here, it's off-limits.

That being said, hanging out is good!

Edited at 2010-08-27 01:29 pm (UTC)

That's really quite a story! I wasn't even wearing a proper bra until I was 14. That was the year my school packed us away to the residential campus for six months so my mother very embarrassingly took me along to buy some before I left "just in case". I remember we got two As and two Bs and I ended up growing into the latter within the six months. Also, being away like that, we had communal loads of laundry... so that was of course the time for everyone to see what size other people actually were (for clothes as well as bras), ugh!

Yeah, a lot of the seeing what size other girls were happened in the locker room. I still remember the first pool party I went to where I noticed that the other girls had boobs.

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