Sunday, July 7, 2019

Away from home in my own skin - a prose piece for Poets United Sunday Pantry

Breasts. Yearned for as a tiny girl and then, and then, they came seemingly overnight. Breasts had power over my life, like some slutty cousins who come unexpectedly to stay with you and end up following you wherever you go and leaving you with their bad reputation. For, as everyone knows, or should, girls with big breasts do have reputations, whether they have earned them or not.  Reputations, that are created behind bathroom doors, mostly by adolescent boys who want to get their hands on “them” and less often, but frequently, by girls who would just as soon rip them off for their own if they only could. They boys, I knew at thirteen, would gather in clumps around the water fountain in the hallway at school or more disturbingly after school in front of Joe’s Pizza Palace in the shopping center, thumping each other on the arm and nodding as though they all had some secret knowledge about me. When you’re a girl with big breasts you can either go with all of this, or retreat.  I favored retreat – under voluminously big shirts and after school days at home after homework, down in our cool, damp basement, curled up in a soft old velvet armchair that had been my grandfathers, sipping iced coffee which I considered very sophisticated and reading a Russian novel which I knew was. Sometimes, I’d cry into that tall tumbler of iced coffee, the glass pressed tightly against those two treasonous mounds – sometimes I’d convince myself it was the Russian heroine who was throwing herself under train tracks or some such drama, though I knew.  I knew. It all seemed quite dismal until I met Jerome Fitzmaurice in Problems In Democracy, and everything changed.   (298 words) 


  1. I appreciated this self-revelatory write. Honest and open. It is interesting, isn't it, how painful it is when one's body is judged in some way and conclusions drawn & reputations perhaps ruined by something one really has no control over. But now I do want to know about Jerome Fitzmaurice. That mention has really piqued my interest.

  2. Feeling like one doesn't belong in one's own body sounds like a terrible thing, especially if the feeling is birthed out of other people's reactions.

    The images are vivid. The single paragraph structure makes me think about how everything in the narrator's life was attached to her breasts.

  3. Interesting read as your words prompted me to recall my youth all those years back. Breasts, unwittingly sure had a power over most adolescent boys.

  4. This is such a sweet story, Pearl, even though the teenage angst must have been painful, you have written how girls so often feel not at home in their own skin, and how long it takes to grow into ourselves. I certainly made that journey and it took a long time. I loved the closing lines, when everything changes. Smiles. Loved this story.

  5. childhood home also shelters a disturbed child and gives sustenance in other ways. Memories remain though we are far away from the childhood home.

  6. Lovely write. I feel for you, though being small-breasted – called 'flat-chested' in those days, even though it wasn't – I didn't share that experience. (Rather, I felt condemned to be forever unattractive.)

    But oh, what a cliff-hanger ending! I now want to know ALL about Jerome Fitzmaurice!

  7. I enjoyed your prose piece very much Pearl. I had a similar problem, just that I was flat-chested until I had my daughter at twenty-four, and when I was a teenager was often mistaken for a boy! I also hid under clothes, long flowing tops, and never wore a bikini. I love the way you describe yours as ‘slutty cousins who come unexpectedly to stay with you and end up following you wherever you go and leaving you with their bad reputation’ – I had friends who felt the same way. I recognise a kindred spirit in the routine of ‘sipping iced coffee which I considered very sophisticated and reading a Russian novel which I knew was’. Did you also read French and German novels?

  8. How many of of us go through these pits of despair as teens as we convert from child to adult. Hopefully most of us finally accept the sex and body we have and make the best of it.

  9. OMG i never in a million years would have thought to juxtapose breasts with cousins.
    Enjoyed your tale thoroughly even though i dont not know the character
    Jerome Fitzmaurice or the book mentioned.
    Will look it up though


  10. Oh, I can relate. I blossomed breast wise early. It was so hard to be nothing but boobs. When the rest of the girls in my fifth grade class were wearing t-shirts, I was wearing an adult woman's bra. Not fun

  11. It is astonishing the change that occurs at twelve and, suddenly, we become so affected by how boys see us. It is a difficult passage. I favoured Russian novels too, and especially loved Wuthering Heights. In those days Heathcliff seemed a romantic figure, rather than a surly curmudgeon. LOL.

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