Do Your Breasts Have A Nickname?

Or are all my friends just enormous weirdos?

Apr 8, 2014 at 1:30pm | Leave a comment

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Selfie, Conway-in-high-school style. Pay attention to that shirt; it will become important later.

The thing about going to all-girls' high school is that it's hard to tell which aspects of your adolescence were relatively typical, and which were a consequence of cramming approximately 800 hyper-competitive teen girls into each other's company for nine-odd hours a day.

For example, until recently I definitely lumped "the anthropomorphization of titties" into the former camp. Because of the boxiness of our uniforms, most of us spent the majority of high school with the impression that we were all not so much "apple-shaped" or "pear-shaped" as "Big Gulp-shaped," leading in turn to much awe on Free Dress Days.

The most notable of these incidents was with my friend Lila, whose surprise DD-cups were a shock to us all the first time we all met up at the mall halfway through sophomore year. 

"Lila!" one of my friends said. "Where did those come from?"

"Um," she said, looking down. "My parents? God?"

Nice work, Lila's parents and/or God. We all nodded approvingly.

Because our school environment (or so I thought) was so conducive to casually intimate conversation about our bodies, we all therefore thought it was perfectly natural for Lila to refer to her boobs as John and Charles. (If I recall correctly, these were the two stock figures in the scenes of the Acting 1 class a bunch of us shared, but it may also have just been us being weirdos.) 

Throughout the rest of the year, we would frequently reference "J and C" as if they were mutual friends of ours who happened to be absent from the conversation -- "Can you make sure J and C get an invite to Laura's birthday party?" -- and feature them as characters in the short stories we had to write in foreign language classes. They even got personalities: John was the "shy" one, while Charles was "more outgoing."

Lila was totally onboard, to the degree that she changed her AIM screen name to reference the two and often wore a shirt that one of us made her on Free Dress Days that read "JOHN AND CHARLES LIVE" across the top of them. I will reiterate, again, that we all thought the entire thing was enormously clever and hilarious.

Soon, though, those of us with less impressive décolletage demanded nicknames of our own, which eventually included "Hanz and Luther," "Gatsby and Nick," and "Jack and Algernon." Because I was knee-deep in Harry Potter obsession and liked the idea of the Marauders being nestled together against my heart, I named mine "Padfoot and Moony."

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I had this shirt custom-made and wore it under my uniform polo, close to Padfoot and Moony themselves.

 

As we got older, we ditched the nicknames, though I sometimes find myself worrying that the piercing I added to Moony circa 2010 would have been more in character for Padfoot instead. But I still always thought the whole situation was unique to my group of friends, or at least to all-girls' schools -- in other words, to an environment where we felt safe enough to talk about our breasts in ways that were completely divorced from them as potential sex objects.

For most of us, guys were who we invited to the "date-dances" and occasionally split an awkward frozen yogurt with, but girls were the only ones privy to our real-time angst, thrills and heartaches. Guys made out with us in our parents' cars, but we certainly didn't feel comfortable talking about our bodies in frank, honest ways with them. Only girls got to know our true breast-names.

Obviously, these kinds of strong female relationships aren't exclusive to all-girls' schools. At the time, though, I couldn't imagine reconciling the ease of those friendships with how much effort it took to make an impression on the guys we met at inter-school sports events or date-dances. If guys were around all the time, I reasoned, we'd be expending our energy constructing facades for them rather than lying around on the ground talking about anime and fan fiction (and, yes, our boobs) all the time.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the Daily Mail ran a piece revealing that around a quarter of women -- not just those of us briefly ensconced in single-sex education -- have nicknamed their breasts at some point in their lives. I know the DM isn't exactly a bastion of scientific inquiry, but it is interesting to me that the majority of these nicknames are simultaneously affectionate and personal. This 25 percent of the population prefers monikers like "Smidge and Smudge" or "Owl and Pussycat" to more generic nicknames like "fun bags" or "knockers."

Which makes sense, I guess. "Fun bags" and "knockers" remove the person attached to the boobs from the equation; they're objectification in the basest definition of the world, because they literally make body parts into objects. By contrast, actual nicknames, however silly they might be, make it impossible to forget that these lumps of fat and tissue are stuck onto actual human beings. At the same time, though, they completely desexualize those lumps, which can be nice. Sometimes I like that my (admittedly minimal) breasts can be a "hotness" signifier; other times, I just want to regard my chest as nothing more complex than skin over cells.

It also follows that it wouldn't just be students at all-girls' schools who would create these nicknames, though it seemed at the time like one of those conversations that would be harder to enact with dudes present. Part of it is bonding, sure -- "We have boobs! We're not sure what to do about that situation!" But for most young women, too, the line between one's own body and the rest of the world can seem increasingly blurred, particularly the bits of that other people supposedly find "sexy."

Nicknaming my boobs, and participating in the nicknaming of others, seemed like a way to re-stake those claims, if only for a little while. Again, as I've gotten older, I've found other ways to delineate my boundaries, with varying results. I sometimes miss how easy it felt, though, to reassert that my body belonged to me in possibly the goofiest way possible -- like having an inside joke always on hand, even if you're the only person in on it.

Just like in fairy stories and Genesis, naming something gives you power over that object. They weren't yet the property of other people to stare at or to talk about, the way I saw people do about women characters' breasts in movies or on TV; they were mine, however I chose to present them to the world. Even if that meant naming them after two dead fictional characters from a young adult book series.

Do you guys have nicknames for your boobs? Are they literary? (Titerary?) Tell Kate in the comments or on Twitter: @katchatters.