I stand in vague, slightly embarrassed shock. For the first time since I turned 12 and started shopping (entirely needlessly) for bras, I have been complimented on my breasts. “Jenny,” some young girl says, “you have nice boobs.” Another young lady chimes in behind her in agreement. I eek out a sheepish and confused “thanks,” because I don’t ever remember having boobs and, if I currently am the owner of a nice – if not incredibly modestly sized — pair, it has crept up on me like those three ungainly inches I grew over the summer of ’95. In keeping with my inability to take a compliment, I deign to accept her fawning carte blanche. I tell her I never had boobs until maybe recently. “How old are you?” she asks. And then I blow her mind. “Almost thirty,” I say. She yelps in delight. “There’s hope for me yet!”
Don’t let this exchange lead you to believe I am endowed with a hefty, plush bosom of the heaving, maternal variety. Far from it. Like, light-years from it. I’ve felt my boobs bounce up and down on one occasion ever, when running across a street five years ago, during a suspiciously bountiful week that did not last longer than the seven days a week prescribes. Half of my bras are ones that I purchased, ambitiously, in high school that I only now fit into fully. Still, they’re just A cups. But today’s compliment came from within the confines of a model changing room, where the only “racks” one generally sees are rolling kind, covered in hangers and coats. Most girls — with their 24-inch waists, their hipless, newt-like torsos — don’t have much fat to speak of, and boobs, you know, are fat. In fashion, it’s more about shape than size, I suppose. But even then… my boobs? Really?
There are studies that say you never quite emotionally evolve past who you were as a young teenager, that the imprints made during that rather tragic time are permanent. To me, I will always be the chestless, awkward tall girl who never quite fit in with the cool kids, but didn’t quite fit in with the nerds. There I lived in social limbo, sporting a half-filled triangle bra and the hunched, accommodating shoulders of a friendly giant. Sam, Sarah, Allie: These were the girls with remarkable chests, ones that were marveled over like wonders of the world. Oh, how I envied those girls, the way they filled out the masculine dimensions of a shapeless polo shirt, a Catholic school uniform that could not contain their sex-worthiness.
Those of us born without so much as a handful know the feeling of those times– waiting so patiently for the bloom that never comes, the jealously of a particular variety of attention you will never warrant, not on account of your efforts, but on the biological limitations placed upon you like a chokehold. The longing. Oh, the sweet, cruel longing, like staring out at sea for a ship that will never come to port. But, who knows. You might just get what you wanted after you’ve stopped even wanting it. Plus, late blooming comes with its benefits: You’ve shaved off about a decade’s worth of gravity’s punishing drag.