His head rests on my chest. We are naked, but he is unaroused. My push-up bra with extra padding lies on the floor. Was it a form of womanly deceit to hoist my small breasts up in cushioned cups, a bit of self-promotion to the coveted size C I’ve always longed for? Earlier in the evening when I tipped back a martini with extra olives, his eyes locked on my falsified feminine pillows. Now in bed together, I think of signposts, yellow and black, which warn of wet, winding roads ahead. But mine bears a straight line.
I turn to the window. The moon, like my heart, is almost full, but never quite. I’ve been single for three years now. When I first moved to Hollywood, I dated a TV showrunner. Accustomed to giving feedback against an audition line of beautiful actresses, he immediately saw my issue. “You’re not a girly girl,” he pointed out. “You know what you should do? Go buy some sexy nighties. Get in touch with your femininity.”
My heart wanes a little just remembering. I had taken his advice and gone to Victoria’s Secret to face down my insecurity over lingerie. Teenage girls ran through the store, giggling and laughing. They hurried back to try on bright pink bras and lacy hip huggers.
In the fitting room, it wasn’t long before the attendant knocked. “Need anything?”
“I have the smallest sizes. They just don’t fit.” I cracked the door to pass her items.
“Did you try on any push-up bras?” Before I could reply, she’d gone and come back with one in leopard print, the other a sultry shade of lavender. The Miracle Bra — the name held promise: make me more, maybe enough. But the showrunner didn’t notice. As he wolfed down yellowtail from a sushi platter, he simply said, “You’re more a guy’s girl. We should just be friends.”
His guy’s girl comment might not have bothered me so much, except it was true. I was raised by my father. He taught me to shoot a rifle and hunt wild boar. I can bait a hook and gut a fish with two precisely placed slices at the gills. He often took me to the driving range and snuck me into the clubhouse for a Shirley Temple. I loved this time with my father, but he certainly didn’t give me any helpful hints on how to be a woman.
My strategy of supplementation began in preparation for the eighth grade spring dance. My stepmother, who had large D-size peaches and an apple behind, took me shopping. I hoped that by some miracle of lighting or by finding the right dress my body would become more like hers, but the dressing room mirrors magnified my bony, flat body from all angles.
The first dress fit like a burlap sack. Where the cleavage should be framed, my ta-tas like tadpoles swam laps and poked their heads out for air. The dress I loved most was a blue-and-white strapless. It had a white slip beneath and an underwire that ran against the ribs and extruded out to make room for the womanly wonders I did not possess. Looking in the mirror, I was curvaceous; peeking beneath, two dirty pennies lay atop my flesh.
At the dance, the tissue I had used to stuff my strapless bra became loose and smashed, so I was forced to take breaks and repackage. The dress wasn’t my fault; the stuffing wasn’t my fault. I didn’t have a mother.
When a slow song came on, a cute boy named Marlon asked me to dance. We swayed as one that night, but when Marlon made eyes at me the next day, without my toilet tissue titties, I didn’t think he’d really be interested.
I hold on to this idea of a girl at spring dance made desirable by augmentation.
Over the years, my collection of push-up bras has grown to include many different colors and cup sizes to wear beneath various types of blouses. I’ve dedicated an entire drawer to them, lined in a row so the bras gently cup one another. I take great care to preserve the miraculous padding. I hand wash them with gentle detergent, massage the cushioning to maintain their shape, and lay them on a foldout rack to dry.
In a push-up bra, I am no longer just a tomboy with knees scarred from running after my father, and of course, falling. I catch a glimpse passing a mirror, surprised by my hourglass form. My shape is pleasing to the eye, even if it’s only my own. With one on under my business suit, male executives seem to smile more, want to discuss my ideas for their division over coffee or lunch. Dinner, if I’m available.
Some might say the solution to my lack of lady lumps is easy — a boob job. But I feel like I’d be giving something up. I enjoy my natural beauty and athletic body. My make-up bag is untouched most days of the year, and I don’t wear my push-up bras when I work out or play sports. I go flat-chested for a better chance to pummel buddies at racquetball or best them at the batting cages. There’s nothing like taking off my bra and going for a seven-mile run unencumbered by the weight of being well endowed.
But being addicted to push-up bras presents challenges in dating. Back in my bedroom, the moon is obscured by clouds, but I can still make out my lover’s profile. He nuzzles against my flatline.
After the first time we had sex, he asked, “You do like to take your clothes off, don’t you?”
“Of course. I just didn’t this time,” I said as if I had forgotten to brush my teeth.
The second time, I took them off, but I remember a laugh. Was he laughing at my breasts? The laugh bounces around in my head like a ping-pong ball tonight.
“Do you like my body?” I ask.
His head rises off my chest, surprised at the question. “Of course, it’s beautiful. Your legs are tone.” His hands caress the sides of my thighs. “You’re fit. Sexy and curvy.” His fingers travel the high and low of my back.
Curvy? Now I know he’s delusional — or maybe that’s how he really sees me. And perhaps a man could accept me for both my flat chest and cushioning. He kisses my nipple and lays his head in the middle of my silver-dollar-sized pancakes.
“This is nice,” he sighs.
The moon comes out. It seems larger now that it’s taken center sky and pushed the clouds from sight. My eyes eye him, as eyes do. I know his body well, waking up to it, studying it while he sleeps, using every inch of it as a text for arousal, remembering back to that first night when his body was a verse not yet read. I am looking at his strong shoulders as if they say, never mind the moon or open window. I imagine tadpoles shimmying toward the moonlight, and the sounds of our lovemaking as if in a dream in which I am enough.