I 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.
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.