In high school, for whatever reason, my friends were especially huggy. Some might have even called us handsy. I always assumed this was because we were very close and, well, in our school’s Gay Straight Alliance – all our frank discussions about sexual orientation and equality made us feel safe around each other. However, I often sensed a slight hesitation when it came to addressing my chest.
Yes, in high school, my friends and I were physically very comfortable with each other. Some might even say this was a part of our sexual awakening, or “spring awakening,” if you will. I, however, always felt a separation from the marathon of free hugs. I was convinced that my friends were uncomfortable with the idea of getting too close to the elephant in the room. Well, on my chest. Eventually, I even started blaming myself. I was convinced that my own discomfort with my size was resulting in my friends’ distance. Once I was certain of this hypothesis, my own unease only magnified, resulting in an endless cycle. That is, until I met Carl.
Now, Carl was someone who never quite understood the concept of boundaries. Carl was extremely comfortable in his own skin, and he operated under the assumption that everyone else was just as confident. He was my Rickie Vasquez, the flamboyant yet down-to-earth friend from Winnie Holzman’s “My So-Called Life” who didn’t think twice about hanging out in the girl’s restroom with his female friends. While Carl never hung out in the bathroom with us, he might as well have. For all intents and purposes, he was one of the girls. Yet, he had an odd fascination with the female anatomy, one that only a gay man can have: he was intrigued and yet completely bewildered. When it came to boobs, he had what you might even call an obsession. It was a topic he never even thought to consider taboo. He even went around hugging his girlfriends in such a way as to, well, squeeze their boobs. Don’t worry – this was only with his closest of friends. Including me.
Yes, even my forebodingly large chest did not scare off Carl. Of course, he was intimidated at times, but not any more so than he was by any other woman’s chest. He hugged me suggestively like he did the other girls, and he had no issue mentioning my boobs casually in conversation, even if he was going completely off topic. He treated me like every other one of his female friends, but that didn’t mean he just lumped me with everyone else who had boobs. On the contrary, he always made a point to recognize my extreme size. He almost seemed to say, “What’s the point in ignoring your size? It’s not like no one can tell.”
Carl did something that no one else had been able to accomplish – he treated me like everyone else and yet also recognized me for my uniqueness. He made me feel special and yet also part of the crowd. He treated me like a human being. Carl’s candid nature made me realize something about myself: I hated that my breast size had become a taboo subject. Now, I don’t know which started first, my discomfort or that of those around me, but I was tired of it. I didn’t want to ignore my size, I wanted to embrace it, even honor it. I wanted people to joke with me about it, just as my other friend, Nick, did. In high school, he had been directing a play which involved a pregnant woman, and he wanted his lead actress to stuff her bra in order to appear more realistic. She retorted that he should have cast someone who was bustier. At that, Nick turned to me and said, “Would you like the part?” Believe it or not, that is one of my fondest memories from high school.
When I first started considering getting a breast reduction (my back pain was becoming unbearable), I decided to schedule a consultation with the surgeon. The moment she saw me, the surgeon said, “Oh! Don’t worry – we’re gonna take care of you! Insurance is definitely gonna pay for this!” At first my mother was horrified; she was afraid that the surgeon’s forwardness had offended me. In fact, I had the complete opposite reaction: the surgeon’s comment instantly put me at ease. She, like Carl, respected me enough to be straightforward and honest with me. She didn’t see the need to be politically correct or dance around the subject. I was busty, and had been for many years at that point. My bust did not deserve to be swept under the carpet.
I have since had the surgery, and I will never regret it. I am still busty, but now I feel an extreme sense of pride in my size. I am not afraid to share my story, and I will continue to thank Carl for his support. By simply kidding around with me, he had one of the most lasting effects on me. I will be forever grateful.