The closest thing I had to body awareness during my adolescence (which lasted roughly 34.5 years, wait make that 38, I just found a zit) was when I wrapped my entire torso in an ace bandage in the hopes of not growing boobs. Currently supporting a double-D (of which at least a D and a half is back-fat), I can assure you that when boobs sprout you’re probably better off ignoring them in hopes they go away on their own. The bandage suppressed nothing, but it did allow me to continue my decade-long affair with the fashionable “hand-me-downs-from-my-brother” look. I rocked the brown Toughskins, plaid shirt, and originally-white-but-now-brown Converse sneakers with an abandon that left many referring to me as “son,” “little boy,” and as I got older, “young man.”
The reason I wanted to maintain my charade as “Pat” stemmed from multiple encounters with those who could most appreciate my awkwardly budding form — teenage boys. It wasn’t a Jodi Foster moment where I transformed from a dirty Tonka-Dump-Truck riding tomboy to a delicate flower of femininity glowing under the soft moonlight. You know that scene, where the cutest, nicest boy in school suddenly sees his tomboy friend as a … ~gasp~ … woman. Or at least a shorter, zittier version of a woman. In that scene, the female gracefully slinks through puberty and into full-blown woman-hood with nary a bad home perm or facial blemish. That didn’t seem to be happening to me, so I strapped my boobs down until I could figure out an alternate way to deal with what was happening.
Besides that, it is just mind-blowing to me that you start out life with one body, and just when you think you have that one all figured out, IT GROWS MORE PARTS! Seriously, what the fuck is that about? And, frankly, I didn’t do a great job of managing the parts I already had. Something was always getting scraped or skinned or damaged. I wasn’t even sure that a rack would survive my lifestyle of dirt-biking, horse-riding, or constantly tripping.
The scene that actually prompted the boob-strappage involved me, 3 boys, and the neighbor’s red pinto. I was about 12. The only reason I even hung out with those boys is because we were sort of neighbors living sort of close to each other on the outskirts of a small town. I didn’t particularly like the boys, but, like the last malformed Cheerio in a bowl of milk, I clung to whatever other Cheerios were left. These Cheerios had a Pinto and were going to town to buy a Slurpee with the oldest Cheerio who, at age 16, had a license and probably at least one DUI.
I sat in the back seat, slumped down, barely able to see out of the tiny triangle of a window. I tried to make jokes, to engage in conversation with these guys. I thought maybe we could all be a little gang of friends who bonded over this car-ride to town and formed a super-popular clique when school started again. In Teresa-land we were the perfect cast of characters — the career sophomore with a driver’s license and encyclopedic knowledge of the band Van Halen, the career 7th grade spin-the-bottle champion, the bad boy in a leather jacket who cheated off the homework of the nerdy-yet-surprisingly-pretty-if-you-caught-her-on-the-one-day-of-the-month-when-she-brushed-her-hair chick. (This misunderstanding of popularity speaks volumes about why I WASN’T popular in school, probably. There may be other reasons.) I thought my Jodi Foster moment was probably scheduled for sometime around Christmas. Of 2024.
Just as I imagined the dress I’d buy myself with the money I made from selling all of my Tonka trucks and G.I. Joe figurines at a yard sale, we approached a female riding a ten-speed. She clearly already had her Jodi Foster transformation, and touted it with impractically short shorts that show-cased her long, tan legs. Her blonde, professionally-permed hair fluttered behind her as she pedaled along the street ahead of us. Immediately, my cast of “the most popular clique known to all” was rolling down their windows. Initially I thought it was to get rid of the smoke that had accumulated in the car from the joint they were passing around. However, as we drove past the girl, the Cheerios hung out the car windows, beating on the sides of the car, and alerting her of their approval with shouts of, “oh yeah, baby!” and “OW!” and “HOT!”
“So”, I thought, “That’s where the Jodi Foster Transformation leads, huh?” Being a stress-eater, immediately jammed the last 3/4 of my Snickers bar into my mouth. Or maybe I just had the munchies from the second-hand smoke.
Three things became clear to me. 1.) I was invisible. 2.) invisibility seemed a better option than the kind of attention the cyclist garnered, and 3.) I was the captive member of a clique of dicks.
Honestly, I found it terrifying.
The only thing worse than being rejected by a clique is being rejected by a clique who you have already rejected before you told them you rejected them. We returned to the Head Cheerio’s step-mom’s house and tumbled out of the car. I walked the remaining quarter mile to my house, checking out my shadow for any attention-garnering lumps or bumps.
When I got home, I rifled through my make-believe veterinarian kit and pulled out a long bandage. I dusted off the dog-hair and introduced the bandage to my regular rotation of Toughskins and flannel shirts.
I also quit eating Cheerios. Yuck.