I distinctly remember, as if it were yesterday, lamenting about boobs at the tender age of four. It was an insanely hot summer day, and my mom was sweating like a whore in church. She mumbled something about having to take her bra off because it was so unbearable to wear in the heat.
“But Mom!” I was aghast. “What if some boy lifts your shirt up! He’ll see your boobies!”
She laughed and told me we’d have bigger problems than that if there were little boys invading the house, lifting up people’s shirts. Truth.
“I don’t want mine to get big,” I said.
“My boobies. I really hope they never get big.”
She laughed again and shook her head. “Well, maybe right now you don’t want them to get big. But some day, I think you’ll want them to be.” Even then I realized how awkward this conversation was becoming. I hoped it wasn’t about to turn into a birds and the bees conversation, because I wouldn’t stand for that shit.
I ended up “developing” early, or so it seemed. When you’re a fat kid, people always think you’re developing boobs, even if you’re a boy. The only difference is boys don’t have to start wearing training bras at the first sign of fat boobs, but girls do.
My mom tried to force me into wearing a bra starting in third grade. I cried about the evanescence of youth, but she assured me that I still had a lot of childhood left to enjoy. So I reluctantly wore the thing to school the next day. It was the most uncomfortable day of my life. It’s what I imagine being in a full body cast feels like. Usually when something is touching your skin, your body tunes it out and stops noticing it after a while. For instance, I’m not conscious of my pants being on every minute of the day. But that bra was a constant reminder that my days of playing with dolls, watching cartoons, and crying to get my way were numbered.
My school uniform involved a see-through white polo shirt. I was terrified that everyone would see my bra through my shirt, so I left my sweatshirt on all damn day long, even during gym class when we went outside in the hot sun and ran laps.
Now I know why Mom had to take hers off that one day, I thought. Seriously, how could people wear these things day in and day out for the majority of their lives? It had been five long years since I’d decided never to grow boobs, and I was sticking to it.
After school that day I ripped my bra off with the zeal of a man-hating feminist and shoved it in the back of a drawer, never to be worn again. I didn’t care if my boobs wanted to fly free every damn day. I didn’t care if they wanted hang low, wobble to and fro, etc. Anything was better than wearing one of those unbearable contraptions! Anything was better than losing my youth!
Two years later, when I was about ten, a friend and I were playing in the sprinkler, which was really a designated play sprinkler shaped like a fire hydrant that shot water out. Why was it shaped like a fire hydrant, you ask? I’m not sure, other than that kids=dogs, and dogs inexplicably love fire hydrants. Our parents tricked us into running around a plastic fire hydrant like damn dirty dogs by making it into a sprinkler and providing us with dollar store water balloons.
We went outside in our swimsuits, she looking like a string bean, and me looking like a lima bean. She had on a sophisticated two-piece while I was wearing an ugly, floral one-piece with “extra room in the tummy area,” as my mom had called it when we went swimsuit shopping.
The fire hydrant sat in the middle of the driveway in all its glory, already spurting water and whirring around. We squealed with excitement. This sprinkler sesh was going to be the shit!
We immediately began preparing the water balloons. My friend had a little brother, so naturally there was some terrorizing to attend to. We filled them up one by one and deposited them into a bucket.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea!” I said. Then I took two of the biggest, roundest balloons and stuffed them down the front of my swimsuit. “Boobies!”
She looked horrified.
“Look!” I said, strutting around with my chest pushed out. “They’re like breast implants!”
Just then, one of my bulbous breasticles burst, soaking my swimsuit. She cracked up and put some in her own swimsuit top.
I tried replacing my implant with smaller, more realistic ones, but I was having trouble getting them to stay in—the problem with water balloon implants is that you can’t actually show any cleavage, since your boobs are made of brightly colored latex. So we had to wear them low, like saggy old boobs that you can throw over your shoulder like a continental soldier.
“Yours look better than mine!” I whined.
“No way, yours look great too!” she said.
“Mine won’t stay up! They’re either sliding down or falling out. And they’re deformed. Yours look like real boobies.” Once again, my body had let me down. Was it too much to ask to have a body that would take kindly to water balloon boobies?
“Yours won’t stay up because you—” she lowered her voice and leaned in a bit—“have real ones underneath.”
My jaw dropped in shock and awe. How dare she! How could she? What an accusation! “I do not!”
“You do too. I have nothing.” She looked down to double check. “Nope, nothing.” She thought I was playing the self-deprecating card and it was her job to build up my confidence.
“No, I really don’t.”
“It’s not a bad thing,” she added. “I’m jealous!”
We eventually removed the boobies, relieved to not have to lug them around with us all day like real boobs, and decided to just chuck the remaining balloons at the driveway so they’d burst. Playing with water balloons no longer seemed fun. Our day in the sprinkler had ended prematurely, just like our childhood.
It was almost poetic, or maybe symbolic, the way we responsibly packed up the fire hydrant and unused balloons. We both knew it was the last time we’d ever play in the sprinkler. There had been a fundamental change—our spirits had been broken. We’d confronted our emergent adulthood and looked it square in the eyes that day. We couldn’t go back to playing with childish things after wearing boobies in our swimsuits all afternoon. We were adults. From now on we’d have to only do constructive things when we hung out together. We would no longer have playdates, but “meetings” instead.
We’d never prance around a plastic fire hydrant, or anything else, like damn dirty dogs again.