What's Happening to My Body Book for Girls was very clear about the stages of breast development. There are five, and the last one, in the illustrations, is full and complete-looking.
I was pretty excited about getting there. When I read the book, I was 12, and my body was full of secret promise. I might grow up to be a supermodel! I sometimes sketched myself as the adult I imagined I'd be. In these sketches, I had long, straight pale hair, even though my current hair was tangled and dark. It just seemed like things would be really different then.
But after I went through puberty, things … weren't. Where were my breasts? I had been promised some breasts! God clearly owed me a couple, in exchange for the raging period that menaced my favourite white pants and the horrifyingly uncool world of extra-thick sanitary pads.
Instead, God, or perhaps it was the boob fairy, passed me by and awarded a magnificently extravagant pair to my best friend, who had until then resembled a delicate blonde pixie. Now she was alluring and irresistible to boys.
"So," said a boy I had a crush on at camp, after we'd escaped together into the night to sit by the moonlit river and bare our teenaged souls, "are your boobs, like, really little? They look kinda little."
But I'll have you know that despite all this, I managed to marry, and as I twirled in romantic slow-motion in front of the fitting mirror in my billowing wedding gown, the saleswoman remarked, "We're going to need to do something about the chest." She stopped me mid-twirl and gave it a poke. "Are you actually wearing a bra right now?" she said, in disbelief. I was.
One bra, as it turned out, was not nearly enough. Two sets of cloth chicken cutlets were inserted into the bodice, and by the time the seamstress was done, my dress, when I stepped out of it, had a truly impressive figure. Sort of a Marilyn Monroe va-va-voom! We looked nothing alike, actually, my gown and I, and I felt a little self-conscious in its presence, as though it might be eying me sceptically, as I shivered in my underwear, and feeling that it deserved better.
"What should happen," said the saleswoman, making a little joke and looking at my maid of honour (that same best friend from childhood), "is she should give you some of her breasts! Right?! She doesn't need all of that, and you sure do!"
It is maybe interesting (if you're interested in stories about other people's boobs, or lack thereof) that I didn't develop some sort of complex, based on all of this. I attribute the fact that I didn't almost entirely to my big Jewish nose, which I spent most of my body-image energy worrying about.
I didn't agonise over the size of my breasts, but I was always vaguely disappointed about them: this didn't work out optimally, I thought. I always sort-of hoped that things would improve. I gained some weight, and my breasts made a valiant effort to fill a B cup, without success.
And then I got pregnant. And of course, I wasn't thinking about my breasts, I was thinking about the fact that my entire life was going to change. But then, in the midst of all the existential inquiry, as I started reading about the changes my body would experience, my heart soared. I was slated to gain two whole pounds of boob weight! This was going to be epic!
On the pregnancy messageboards, women were already complaining, midway into the first trimester, about how huge their breasts were getting. "Ugghhh … I had to buy ANOTHER bra! They are SO GIANT now. My cleavage is out of control!!”
I had never been fortunate enough to experience cleavage of any kind, let alone the kind that had gone wild. I couldn't wait.
"Your breasts are definitely bigger," said my husband, who knew this was how pregnancy worked and was dutifully watching my body change, with maybe a hint of gentle eagerness when it came to the breast situation. But his comment had that tone people use when they say to each other, "It looks like you've lost weight!" when, really, you can't even tell and they probably haven't.
I barfed my way through the first trimester and emerged into the second full of hope. Onward! The months flew by as I hurried to assemble a nursery and get my career in shape. My belly expanded enormously, and suddenly, I desperately needed maternity clothing. I needed pants with those extremely high secret waistbands that reminded me of old Jewish grandfathers who have moved to Florida and now belt their sporty white pants just below their nipples.
What I didn't need was maternity bras. Nope. My old, ratty, padded ones fit just fine. Well, not just fine. There was still a gap there, where my boobs could not fill the whole cup. My cup STILL did not runneth over. It ranneth significantly under.
I'm in the third trimester now. My belly is bold and proud and round. Inside it is a little girl who will probably experience some disappointment when she hits puberty one day. The women on the pregnancy messageboards are very upset about how colossal their boobs have become. And I am thinking that it's probably about time for me to get over these little boobs of mine.
They seem to like being the way they are, and honestly, I have to give them some credit for that. There are many advantages, of course, to having small breasts. I know, I know, I've written before about the perks, shall we say, to remind myself and everyone else.
But I'm not going to sit here and give myself a stern lecture about gratitude and the subtle joys of small-breastedness. Instead, I'm going to throw in the towel and simply acknowledge that my boobs have won. Their will is stronger than mine. Not even pregnancy can shake their persistent commitment to being exactly who they are. And come on, that's pretty impressive.
So I'm willing to call it quits, on the condition that I can feed my daughter, which, I hear, is the point of having breasts in the first place.
Still, I hear that when the milk comes in they get suddenly very large … No. I'm not going to think about it. It's about time I stopped.
Kate Fridkis blogs about body image issues at her blog, Eat the Damn Cake.