Gynecomastia is the condition in which men develop breasts. This may be caused by medications or a hormone imbalance. In me it was because I was morbidly obese.
In elementary school as my weight burgeoned so did my breasts. It was around 3rd grade or so that I began to become self-conscious about them and was constantly reminded of their girth. Why? Because of the bane to all with large breasts, whether it be boy or girl: the titty-twister!
So far most of my confessions have dealt with my name, “Fat” Albert, or experiences in gym class. Now let’s return to the classroom. A typical day at school would be a cornucopia of projectiles hurled at me (spit wads, crumpled up paper, airplanes, etc.) sprinkled in with some disparaging comment. Moreover, the kids around me would make marks on my shirt and arms with their pens. They would also slap my hand with a ruler.
The titty-twisters normally happened in the hallways. My school had separate elementary and middle school wings. In each one, when class was dismissed, you had to walk in a counter-clockwise motion to get to your next class. (This was done to avoid the chaos of scores of kids crisscrossing the hallway.) There would be one teacher in the hallway monitoring the circular movement. This presented a perfect opportunity for the twisters or as I like to call them the “makeshift mammograms.” I would leave class and as I was walking kids from the other side of the hallway would jump across to squeeze and turn my breasts. I would on occasion evade them like a portly ninja, but sometimes the person in front of me would turn around a do it and so my meagre maneuverings were all for naught. If I had the “right quality” of student behind me, they would kick me in the ass and yell “Move it…fat ass!” Either way, a day of titty-twisters turned my breasts red and swollen.
As I ascended the ranks into high school and my breasts grew larger, the titty-twisters increased. Now, my breasts were not double DD-type female breasts but rather misshapen ones that veered to my armpit. When I would jump they certainly jiggled back and forth to the point where I could feel them brushing against my chest. I went to a private Catholic school known for rigid discipline and academics. (Think of the academic rigor of Dead Poets Society mixed with the sheer sadism of the dictator-in-training School of the Americas.) My parents knew of course that I was being harassed at school all the time that they broached the topic of getting a bra. A bra for a boy? “I couldn’t wear a bra!” But upon cogitation I considered the pros and cons.
- No titty-twisters
- Ample support for my saggy cleavage
- Pretty lacy and floral arrangements
- Everything under the sun.
I dithered when they brought up the subject. I knew that wearing a bra would elevate me to the top of the ridicule chain. The future Jerry Seinfelds would have a field day with this one! I even broached the topic with my fellow outcasts and they thought I was a f*cking moron if I did it. One of them even told me it would be good for me to do it so my ranking would fall and he wouldn’t be most-ridiculed one anymore. I vacillated. I was at my wit’s end, for my breast were always in pain and I really couldn’t think of anything else to do.
I asked my father about it. My dad was an overall good guy and would only berate me on my obesity when he was drunk or frustrated at my mom or eldest brother. I remember him distinctly telling me (in his Mexican-tinged English accent) “You do what you want, but if you do this it will haunt you forever.” Ironically in an effort to cheer me up he would then say “Albert-ote (big Albert) let us go to Swenson’s Ice Cream.” Classic parenting…Luna-style.
One day, I went with my parents to the mall. Normally, we would split up: I would go to the arcade with the $5 they gave me, my mom would go purchase clothes that she would never wear only to have her surreptitiously stockpile them in every closet in the house, and my dad would go to the mall’s bookstore (yes, malls once had bookstores) to “read,” which we all knew meant falling asleep. One day, my dad come to me with extra money and said “Here is some extra money if you think you want to buy a bra. Your mom has a lot from J.C. Penny’s so I guess they are good.” (I thought to myself she probably has bras from every department store in Houston but most are still packed in the attic.)
Anyway I went to the store and perused the bras. I had no idea what to do or what type of bra should enclose my lopsided, fat, man boobs. I went to the lady and told her sheepishly that I was thinking of getting a bra. She gave me this look of part-amusement and part-disgust and uttered “We don’t sell bras for boys.” I thought “No shit, lady, I know that. Cut me some slack!” I’m coming to this store hanging my head down low, for no boy would ever happily say to a clerk “Hey, I am so stoked, I’m getting my first bra today! Can you hook me up with a nice purple flowery one?” After my Rosa Parks-eque moment with the lady, I slunk out of the store, never contemplating again to buy a bra. I decided it would be better to “take it like a man” and be tormented to titty-twisters my whole life then wear the accouterments of a woman.
Now going back to school..you might ask. “Why didn’t you tell the teachers or administrators?” I thought about this one. I never did, my sole protestations were a meekish “Stop…please.” I think the main reason I never told the authority figures was because I felt, not too deep down, that I deserved to get picked on. I was fat…I was a waste of space…and I deserved all the vitriol that was piled on me. I felt it was my lot in life, akin to a leper, to be the fat kid and to be the whipping boy for the insecure bullies. I deserved to be laughed at. I was a vile creature. I had as much self-loathing as the amount of M&Ms in a large bag (three of which I could consume in one sitting.)
In retrospect I wonder if my life would have been different had I began wearing bras. Would it have precipitated a quicker change in my conviction regarding losing weight due the even more ridicule to which I would have been subjected? Would it had led to an even deeper depression? Who is to say…but what I can say is that Kramer from Seinfeld stole my idea. I should have marketed a male bra or “bro” back in the early 90’s and could have been a millionaire. We all need a little levity, right?
A. Gregory Luna, double-certified health coach
(I would greatly appreciate it if you could share your personal stories in the Comments below.)