The Big Leagues

hard goodsI am temporarily bringing back Off-Topic Tuesday, because there’s some stuff in my archives, my journal, and other places that deserves better than an audience of one. As always, you’re not obligated to read any of it.

(Optional soundtrack for this post.)

The album is a promotional disc from Warner Brothers called Hard Goods, and the cover features a woman, blonde and heavily made up, in a sparkly evening gown. The gown is actually two pieces—a long skirt and a low-cut, midriff-baring top. When I dug out the album recently, I flashed on the number of times I had examined it closely as a kid. Honesty compels me to report that I did not examine the whole cover, just the model’s cleavage. It was the only picture of breasts I could keep in my room at home without repercussions.

Not that I hadn’t noticed breasts before. In the latter years of grade school, which girls wore bras and which did not need them yet was widely known and discussed. This was the age at which girls are self-conscious about their development, and we boys didn’t make it any easier by noticing, one way or the other. The boldest boys would even snap the girls’ straps—an act which might get you suspended for sexual harassment today, but was just another way of teasing back then. Most of us, however, looked at the girls and their breasts in the same way that a puppy chases a car: we had no prayer of catching one, and if we did, we wouldn’t know what to do with it.

By the time we got to junior high, breasts were everywhere, like light and air, and by that time, we had learned enough science to know that we needed light and air to survive. But at the same time, breasts were as mysterious to us as were light and air to the ancients. Their true nature was hidden, and in the absence of actual data, we had to theorize. About all we could say for sure is that they came in all sizes and shapes. Whose were real and whose were “stuffed” was a subject of great fascination, and the grapevine would burn whenever new information was available.

We will call her Robin, because that is not her real name. Few who were there could ever forget the day circa 1973 when Robin provided what was for most of us our very first look at live cleavage. Although it seemed like a sexually provocative act, if we could go back and see it as it was, it’s likely that she simply shucked one button too many and nature took its course. Nevertheless, the die was cast, and we all became breast men.

Next to your parents’ social position and your athletic prowess, the greatest indicator of social status in junior high was, in fact, breasts. The alpha males were like hunters who measured the success of the hunt by the size of the buck they bagged. While there was little a boy could do to move up the social ladder—the hierarchy was fixed and immutable unless you were a late-blooming jock—a girl could jump several castes if she developed the breasts to play in the big leagues, as some girls of my acquaintance did.

Just as baseball is played below the major leagues, dating took place below the upper castes, and so it was about this time that everyone learned the concept of baseball, dating style. And the grapevine always kept us posted regarding which of our fellows had reached what base, and with whom. This was of particular interest to those of us who were still puppies chasing cars. When somebody would regale us on Monday morning with tales of having gotten to second base over the weekend, we all shared in the accomplishment. Especially those of us who were still puppies chasing cars.

It was not true that every girl with big breasts played in the big leagues. I, a minor-leaguer if ever there was one, had a couple of dates with an extremely well-built girl I had known since kindergarten. But she wouldn’t go out with me any more than that because, as I learned later, she thought the only reason I was interested was because of the way she was built. I maintained that this wasn’t true, although later, after I saw her one summer night in a revealing top, it occurred to me that if I hadn’t been interested in her shape in 1973, I must have been crazy.

But at age 13, all of us were nuts in one way or another.

13 thoughts on “The Big Leagues

  1. Such smut. Cancel my subscription!

    Seriously, I enjoyed this, and I’m glad you brought it out of the notebook.

    I have long been fascinated by the age (I’d set it roughly at fourth through sixth grades) when the adult world is starting to filter through.
    We’re picking up what scraps we can about things like social coolness and sex and rock n’ roll music, and some of it is contradictory and some of it makes no sense at all and some of it later turns out not to be true, and yet we filter and file it and go about our business as best we can.

  2. Steve E.

    Beautiful. You captured an awkward, painful, mysterious, wonderful age quite well and in doing so brought back memories both glorious and horrifying. What a strange time for boys. Just as you were entranced by one aspect of this album cover, I confess to being similarly entranced by Carly Simon’s “No Secrets” cover (and I’m confident that many others did the same).

  3. This post has left me all a-titter, JB. It informs me that if I ever write a memoir that encompasses my adolescent years, as well as the more ro-bust show biz era, I will have to be candid about my teenage breast obsession as well. This may be the only milieu where the word “obsession” is an understatement.

    I’m reminded of the day in fourth grade that my dad took me to a music shop to purchase a used trumpet for my first year in grade school band. ‘Racked’ across from the cash register was Nancy Sinatra’s latest album, “Sugar,” featuring a full-color photo of the singer in a skimpy pink bikini. I literally was rendered speechless, and promptly dissolved in a puddle.

    That was the defining moment of my sexual orientation.

  4. Kent

    The comments are just as good as the article and caused me to laugh out loud. Yes, Steve E., No Secrets is still one of my favorites after 40+ years for more than just of couple of reasons.

  5. How adroitly you have captured a seminal era in heterosexual male development! Well done, sir! Have always been a “leg man” myself, but as a sophomore in high school, actually (at long last) seeing the breasts of that flute player I thought was so cute remains an enduring imprint on my memory. She was a farm girl, who understood that boys were fascinated by breasts, but didn’t understand why.

  6. Steve E.

    Naturally, all of the comments here are from guys, but that’s to be expected. And you HAD to know you’d get this kind of response by rerunning this column. We are all grateful for the chance to be 13 again, however briefly. And by the way, Beavis, Tim M. said “seminal.”

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