I have invented one thing in my life, and at the time, I thought it was a phenomenal idea. The idea didn’t come to me until my late twenties, though the seed was planted years earlier.
7th and 8th grade were the worst two years of my life. Even in retrospect, after nearly two decades of active alcoholism, clinical depression and the harrowing days of early recovery, I can say with conviction that not even a four-day hangover can compare to what I endured as a tween.
For starters, I was almost twice the size of the other kids my age, a couple of inches shy of where I stand now, 5’8”. I grew so quickly, my joints ached and sometimes, without warning, my knees gave out and I fell, for no apparent reason. The boys spoke into my belly button, if they talked to me at all. I felt like a big lurking monster, bobbing along in a sea of normal-sized children.
I was also lucky enough to get my period for the first time at the ripe old age of eleven. God deemed it appropriate for me to be able to bear children in the 6th grade. And, along with my period came acne and a mustache. That’s what happens to hormonal Italian girls. We get mustaches. Since my Irish / Norwegian mother didn’t have facial hair as a child, she convinced me to bleach my mustache. And, I was left with a bright platinum blond mustache laying like a glow stick on my olive complexion.
To add insult to injury, this was the 80s, a time period that took anything that already looked bad and made it look worse. Framing the train wreck on my face, was a rather unflattering short, feathered haircut.
My only friends were characters from sitcoms. I couldn’t wait to get home from school, so I could hang out with Jo, Blair and Tootie. At least things weren’t as bad for me as they were for Rerun. I thought Arnold was the cutest thing I had ever seen and joined the Gary Coleman Fan Club. I hung his signed headshot on the wall in my bedroom.
I decided to grow out my hair and get a perm, so I could look like my bestie, Valerie Bertinelli. At the salon, ready for my transformation, I asked the beautician, “Do you think I should grow it out first or get the perm first?”
The hairdresser, likely interested in a more expensive service, replied quickly and confidently, “The perm! Definitely the perm!”
She was the expert, so I let her have at it. She wrapped my hair in tight curlers and doused me in chemicals. After she dried and styled it, she turned me around in the chair for the big reveal. I fought back the tears as I examined my reflection. I looked more like Little Orphan Annie on growth hormones than Barb from One Day at a Time.
Oh, and did I mention, also at age eleven, I grew enormous breasts. I was a large, busty, voluptuous eleven-year-old woman. What I absolutely wasn’t prepared for was how my breasts refused to work together as a team. They each had a mind of their own. The left one was more ambitious and eager to take up space. The right was shy and not in any rush to fill out a D cup by the end of 7th grade.
No one ever told me this was a thing! These two, who I just assumed would work in partnership, barely even talked to each other.
If I were a young girl now, I’d simply google, “left boob is larger than right” and quickly discover more than 50% of women have breast asymmetry. But, without The Google Machine, “freak of nature” was the medical diagnosis I came up with on my own.
In school, I was already teased relentlessly and was sure if the kids noticed this new lopsided development, they would never let me forget it. The boys were finally growing, and soon would be at eye level with my fraternal twins. In the cafeteria, I always sat with my chin propped on my palm and my arm crossed across my chest, so the smaller one was covered, and the larger one was judged on its own merit. I hated looking for bras because if one fit perfectly for the big girl, it was too roomy for her little sister.
Some people even out as they mature, and others, like me, live with asymmetry forever.
(If I’m reading this piece live, this is the moment when I look at the audience and say, “STOP LOOKING AT MY BREASTS…. Perverts.” It gets a good laugh.)
Hey! Remember, this isn’t about my breasts? It’s about my invention.
In my late 20s, I was putting on a bra that clasped in the front. It dawned on me: if I invented a bra that clasped in the front and in the back, women like me could buy separates and could mix and match sizes. A D cup for the left and a C Cup for the right. Each of the girls could have a home that perfectly housed their unique shape.
I even thought of the best name for the line: Tit Bits!
Tit-Bits! Made for women, just the way they are.
Once I looked into it, I discovered the obvious reason this line would never sell.
Purchasing a Tit-Bit Bra would mean admitting, and accepting, being an imperfect woman. Capitalism thrives on the eternal quest for the illusion of perfection. Botox, Spanx, butt pads, make-up, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, hair dye, anti-aging cream. None of these embrace imperfections; they hide them. Drag Queens aren’t the only people who get made up to look like women. Women spend time and money to look like the women we’re expected to be.
The bra for uneven breasts had already been invented. It had the same size cups on both sides with removable pads. You could take one out or double up on one side if need be, and present your uneven breasts to the world as being perfectly perky and beautifully balanced.
Meh. At long last, now, in my 40s, “perfectly” anything bores me. I’m interested in the not-perfect, the so-called flaws that make us human, and individual.
I accept both my girls now. Even though they’re different, I love them both the same.