Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hooray for boobies! And by boobies, I mean words.

Words and perception – the definition of “hell” to one person, that same word can mean something completely different to another.

Growing up there were some words I wouldn’t say. Not that I couldn’t, I just wouldn’t. Take the word “just” – it was something I would steer away from in spoken conversation. I would write it, just like I wrote jam, shit, Shannon, and chicken – all of those words were verbally verboten to me.

No, it wasn’t that I wasn’t allowed to say them, but somehow between my brain and my tongue, the ch, sh, and juh sounds come out somewhat jumbly and slurry. It gets tiring to write out my spoken words, when I was trying to say something innocuous as “Jim ate jelly”. Beginning then, I learned a work-around in my spoken vocabulary. It’s why I don’t say “shit” out loud a lot, even though it was my first word.

*******

Raised in Orange County, I always thought that all women wanted big boobs and blonde hair – it’s what my friends and peers talked about when we reached puberty. “D’ya think they’re real, or does she stuff?” “I dunno. Do you want me to go ask her for a tissue and see where she reaches for it?” When I finally did get my own set of boobs, I wanted them to be bigger, better, faster.

Well, that’s not really true …

For a long time, I didn’t want boobs. Did not want them. No, no, no. It meant I would be a woman. It meant that I could no longer go and hide in trees, or at the bottom of the pool. It meant that I would be noticed. Being noticed was tantamount to my own personal second circle of hell.

Driving home from school one afternoon, my grandmother said that it was time for me to get a training bra. Of course, anything my grandmother said I needed, or what she thought I wanted, I did everything within my power to do the exact opposite. I really didn’t need a training bra at the time, but apparently I had reached some magical, mystical age that meant, to her, that I did. From that day forward, I slouched. No amount of love taps on my back from the ruler-wielding nuns would make me sit up straight.

Well, that’s not really true either…

In dance class I always had perfect posture. (Is it odd that I was more afraid of my jazz teacher than the nuns?)

The uniform blouses that we were forced to wear at school aided and abetted in trying to hide my growing buds, but the leotards? Every flaw, real or perceived, was there for all to see, much to my shame. (Did I mention that I really didn’t want boobs?)

It was only when my dance teacher said that I might need some support that I finally caved and let my grandmother get me a training bra. I’m still traumatized from that shopping experience. Did she not realize that clutching a bra, then holding it to my chest, and exclaiming for the entire store to hear, “No, this one is too big!” would scar me for years?

The summer between 8th grade and my freshman year, the beige satin trainer began to pinch and I had to resort to stealing my grandmother’s C-cup bra. That, too, pinched in time.

“I don’t know where your bra went – maybe it has gone to play with the socks in the Dryer In The Sky?” After that one and only shopping trip, I was still too emotionally raw to experience another one and so I lied. That was the time that I realized that some small white lies are good. So, I lied about stealing her bra and I hid it under my mattress.

Again I found myself slouching.

*******

Once I realized that my boobs garnered attention from the cute surfer boys (Sal Belmonte? I’m looking at you), I started to embrace my boobs. To see them not as a hindrance, but as something to be used; used so that I could get what I want. If I wore a low cut top, leaned against the counter, and placed my arms just so, I created cleavage and the attendant at the Arco would sell me cigarettes – at age 14. Since his eyes didn’t get much further up than my clavicle, I was never carded.

Fast forward to age 21. Tanya was complaining about herself, saying she felt fat, that she looked fat. I, of course, told her, “You aren’t fat, you’ve just got huge tits.”

That went over like a lead balloon.

Actually, a lead balloon would have gone over better.

I’ve learned a lot since then.

*******

Words are a cozy blanket on a rainy day – I roll in them, they cover me, and give me warmth. Sometimes how others perceive my words? It is more like a big bucket of ice water splashed in their face.

Actions speak louder than words at times – I think Tanya saw that. My actions belied the stupid words I had said.

When I saw the look on her face after I made that comment about her boobs, I realized that I really stepped in it. Another case of foot-in-mouth-itis. After a long conversation, I realized the hurt that my words caused, and she saw that I was trying to compliment her. (That whole concept of “big tits = beauty” was what my Orange County and raised by a male experience taught me. It’s all perspective, no?)

*******

Almost 12 years later, that moment is what comes to mind when someone asks my opinion. That moment, and her face. “Are my words being filtered through my own life, my own perspective? How will the asker receive my words? Will they understand what I am saying at the core, or will the words cut?”

I have learned to love my boobs, just as they are. They, like my words, are me, I am them, I embrace them, but they no longer define me (nor do they make me slouch). Sometimes, like my words, I use them. But more often than not, I let them be. If others want to judge me by them, that is their perogative; their perception.

Yes, I still speak honestly, but not quite off the cuff any more. I allow myself pauses, and deep breaths, before I speak. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes I still slouch. But always, it is heartfelt.

Sometimes, it is all I can do.


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