My friend Rebecca is one of those direct types. I think it comes from years of nursing. All those hours of genito-urinary fun probably knock all the tact and discretion out of you.
“Your boobs aren’t that big!” She said as I entered her house for dinner one evening. “New bra?”
OMG. Rumbled before I’d even got my mouth round a filo prawn.
I nodded in surrender to her feminine powers of deduction.
“Ah!” she exclaimed, beaming with satisfaction. “You look like you’ve gone up two cup sizes!”
I am a small-breasted woman.
Well, small-ish. (Not surprising really, given that I am a smallish woman.)
Over the years, my relationship with my breasts has, like them, fluctuated.
Their arrival when I was around thirteen, was a massive inconvenience.
First, they made trampolining a lot less fun. And running. And dancing. And horse riding. Macrame was still ok.
Worse still, they meant I had to have another of those excruciating conversations with my mother which entailed her shutting all the doors and closing the piano lid to ensure that nobody – not even the piano – overheard the distressing news about my changing body.
“We’ll have to get you a bra.” She said tersely.
Her tone suggested this would not be a shopping trip to look forward to.
These days the ‘First Bra’ is a thing. There are Trainer bras and Starter bras, Teen bras, crop tops and… oh so much choice!
The commercial world has embraced pubescent boobage as a concept and banished AWKWARD from the deal. It’s a shopping trip to look forward to now, complete with a hot chocolate in Starbucks at the end.
Back in the early eighties, AWKWARD was the whole deal. And there was no Starbucks.
My shopping excursion to BHS was conducted in almost total silence. It appeared that not only were my new boobs an inconvenience to me, but they were a considerable irritant to my mother.
It took a long time to feel joy about my bosom, but eventually, with the help of a series of panting teenage boys, I decided they were ok.
More than ok, actually. At least that’s what the Cypriot waiter implied when he brought a drink over to the sun lounger on which I was recovering from A levels in Limassol.
“You have great tips,” he said.
Momentarily confused (I hadn’t even paid for the drink, let alone tipped him) it took me a moment to work out that he was complimenting my tits.
I was still getting to grips with feminism. I didn’t know what the right response was to this blatant sexism. Slap him? Report him to Germaine Greer?
I went with my British instinct and thanked him.
I took my sun kissed boobs (this was the era of topless bathing) back home where I did what many of my peers did and settled on a bra size. 34B seemed about right.
Going to actually get my bust measured seemed ‘de trop’.
A girlfriend conducting an affair with an American businessman told me I needed to take my chest more seriously. I was too casual, too British about my bosom.
In America, she explained, breasts practically underpinned the whole economy.
“Think Pammy; think Dolly!” She implored.
The way she described it, it seemed that ‘inflationary pressures’ related entirely to breast enlargements (please note the value of your cup size may go up or down).
By the time she’d taken me round Selfridges, I’d come out with two bras with varying degrees of padding, wiring and uplift, a bustier and something called a basque.
“I think this is serious enough,” I said, looking at the receipt. “I’ve spent two weeks’ wages on this stuff.”
I’ve enjoyed underwear ever since. A great bra can do great things for the most modest of racks. And my boobs have enjoyed the occasional reinvention.
They’ve met lots of interesting, highly stimulating people, they’ve peeped out and pushed up and had a grand old time.
And the thing about my smallish boobs is that, with a bit of exercise, they’re still up there, in roughly the same area they were twenty odd years ago.
And it turns out they’re not as small as I thought. At least, not in Victoria’s Secret.
They have magic tape measures in that shop.
Turns out I’m a 32D.
From a bland 34B to a 32D in the space of a few minutes and without surgery!
I skipped out of that shop feeling like a Page 3 model. (Apologies, Germaine.)
I may be in Executive Youth but I still have great tips.