Grapes to Grapefruit
All of my childhood friends were boys, boys that beat me at everything we did. They were always faster, stronger and more learned in the world of Matchbox cars and Erector sets. Often after beating me in a bike race or catching me in a game of Tag, they would taunt me, telling me that I would never be able to beat them at anything. I remember one particular occasion when a pair of brothers moved into the neighborhood. As usual I was tagging along with the neighborhood boys trying to prove myself when the new arrivals appeared on the scene. It was customary to for us kids that had been in the neighborhood for awhile to make the newcomers feel as unwelcome as possible.
The local gang of boys began circling the nervous brothers on their bikes hollering and honking their various bike horns. I thought that this was my moment, I could prove to the boys and the newcomers that I was just as tough as any boy. I hopped off of my purple bike while still in motion allowing it to roll into a nearby ditch and began to pace back in forth in front of the two brothers. The local gang stopped their hollering and slowed their circling enough that they had to put a foot down periodically in order to keep from tipping over. Now with all the boys’ attention I knew that I had to act. With very little thinking I snatched up a large dirty stick, half rotten and damp and chomped a bite out of the soft, rotten part. I glared at the two brothers and between labored chews, garbled out, “Newcomers ain’t wowcum awound here.” The brothers eyes widened, but more from disgust than fear. The gang who I thought would back me up by saying “yeah, what she said” , simply rolled their eyes, called me weird and rode off on their bikes leaving me alone to pull splinters from my tongue. Eventually the brothers would be accepted into the gang while I continued to follow at a distance. Soon after this occasion I started to realize that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t do everything that the boys could. I knew that one day I was going to have boobs and they couldn't compete with that. I thought that it was a given, when I turned thirteen I would get my boobs like an angel getting her wings. I would earn them just by being a girl. I didn't want for anything extravagant, since my desire for boobs began in the late eighties, Madonna was my world, and I really just wanted a pair that looked great in a cone- shaped bra.
Unfortunately thirteen came and went, to my dismay, without developing anything of significance. I remember standing with my best friend as we took in our profiles in her bathroom mirror. "It's not fair Allyson, you're younger than me and you've almost got full grown peaches!" I always measured boobs by fruit, watermelons being the ultimate followed by cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, plums and grapes. I barely made it on to my own scale, registering in somewhere between zero and grape. I knew that I didn't have much chance genetically to surpass my mother's plums, but I clung to the hope that my grandmother had passed along her watermelon gene. Yes, my grandmother had honest-to- god watermelons and she wore starch white blouses that hung squarely over them giving her the appearance of a washing machine (on gentle cycle.) I was jealous of Allyson as we took in our reflections. She didn't need boobs, blonde hair and blue eyes, she was already beautiful. I was plain as it was--why must I also be cursed with a fruitless chest? I secretly wished that she would get a pimple.
She would tell me that she didn't care whether she had boobs or not, that in fact she would rather not, that they got in the way of her gymnastics anyway. But that was easy to say once you already had boobs, besides I knew that she was secretly pleased with them. She got to buy pretty pink, satin bras in the women's department, while I found my "Lovable" training bras in the girls department somewhere between Barbie nighties and day –of- the week underpants. But I lied to Alyson and told her that I didn't think that boobs were worth the trouble and I made my case by telling her how my aunt, who had inherited my grandmother's watermelon gene, had slammed her boobs in the trunk of her car and was bed ridden for days with ice packs and heating pads.. I suffered through my teenage years with mere buds of a fruit that refused to take form. I ultimately resigned myself to the fact that I would never have boobs and that I would simply have to buy a pair when I had the money. However, I still tried to squeeze the little that I did have together whenever a cute boy might be in cleavage shot. (It was more a shadow from my shirt collar than it was cleavage, but I was in a bit of denial. I long succumbed to my fruitless fate, by the age of eighteen, so I was quite surprised when at seven- months- pregnant and though huge everywhere, I found that I finally, undeniably, had boobs. In fact, I nearly had peaches! The day that I brought my son home from the hospital, my milk came in and my peaches were promoted to grapefruit. I soon found out that my new boobs had strings attached. First, they were temporary and for the short time I did have them, my son was perpetually clutching one or the other or crying for them when he wasn't. On one occasion they sprung a leak in the checkout line of the local grocery store when my son began to cry. My milk sprayed through my sweater at least a foot onto the conveyer belt lined with the groceries of another shopper. To the horror of those around me, I panicked, turning in every direction becoming a spontaneous, pivoting sprinkler. I grabbed my son out of the cart and pressed his body to my chest corking further disaster as I pushed past the shocked customers and power walked out of the store leaving my groceries behind. Ironically these trophies of womanhood that I had coveted my whole life, now sprung leaks in the grocery store and left my skin marred with unfading stretch marks. Instead of pretty satin bras, I wore itchy, white support bras with accessible Velcro flaps. Over ten years have passed since my son was born and I have returned to my old self (minus a prior sense of modesty) and have found that I don't feel any less a woman. In fact, though I sometimes miss the small wave of satisfaction that I got whenever I glanced down to find real cleavage, I now find myself content knowing that although my grapes may someday be mistaken for raisins, I won't be tripping over them in my twilight years.