So you're 13 years old, and one day you reach across yourself to grab a Coke and your forearm bumps into something soft, something that you didn't notice before. Or maybe you jump down the front steps of your grandmother's house, as you've always done after every visit, and there's a sudden pain in your chest that you've never felt before. And so you stand sideways in front of the mirror and bend over a little bit, and you notice that there's a curve that really wasn't there before.

Sure enough, those are breasts.

This is, on the whole, rather heartening, as many of the girls in your grade (including some close friends) have grown startlingly large bosoms, and while every sex-ed class you've ever had told you that different girls mature at different times, you were beginning to wonder if you would ever catch up. So, with the help of your teary-eyed mother, you head out and buy a training bra, quietly welcoming yourself into the ranks of bra-wearers everywhere.

Then one day you're sitting outside your school with your friends Erin and Joanna, and you're eavesdropping on a couple guys around the corner who are talking about who they think is pretty. You're desperately trying not to giggle, when one of the guys (you can't tell which) mutters your name. Your heart jumps, but another guy snorts loudly.

"She's flat-chested, man, she's got no tits at all!"
"Come on, she's got something--I mean, I know she wears a bra."
"Dude, that doesn't mean shit. I could wear that fuckin' bra better than she could."
"Don't tell me you wouldn't fuck her."
"Dude, if I wanted to rub my hand on a board, I'd go to fuckin' shop class."

Your heart plummets from your (tiny) chest down into your stomach somewhere. Joanna, who's proudly sporting a pair of magnificent 36Cs, smiles down at you. "We all start out wearing training bras. I mean, I did," she says primly, "when I was 11." Erin (34B) tells you not to worry: "They're just jerks. You'll grow out of it." She means well, she's a good person, but still you hear her thinking: "At least that's one thing I don't have to worry about. And she really is pretty damn flat. Maybe she'll never grow. What the hell, it's not my problem, I'm so glad I don't have to worry about that anymore."

And so an obsession begins. Chest exercises at the gym. Bras stuffed with tissue paper, producing a chest that changes size and shape from day to day and hour to hour. Underwires. Dreams of breast implant surgery. Because you can always hear the voices: A-cup? Flat-chested. A B-cup in a sweater? Flat-chested. B-cup lying on her back? Like fucking a table, man.

Most people stop using the term in late adolescence--most guys do, that is, shortly after they discover that a woman can have a gorgeous set of glands but still be completely unbearable. Women, on the other hand, seem to use the term all their lives.

There's something that Erin and Joanna won't tell you. There are guys who like big breasts. There are guys who think that anything more than a handful (or a mouthful) is a waste. (Heck, large mammaries haven't always been popular, and even now they're not as fashionable as they were in the 80s.) There are guys who just plain like breasts--big or small, perky or dangling, conical or spherical. Some guys like you regardless of your boobs.

Erin and Joanna don't know that. Or if they know it, they don't really want to admit it to themselves--after all, they get a nice ego boost from feeling well-endowed and well-liked. But it is true nonetheless. Not all of us are mammary-obsessed morons...just the loudest of us, I think.

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