My Chest by Davis Mathis

Tenth grade was the year my chest finally grew from a 34A to a 34B. Tenth grade was the year I got my first push-up bra. Tenth grade was the year I tried to hide my boobs. Tenth grade was the year I started noticing my boobs. Tenth grade was the year I started noticing other girls’ boobs.

Tenth grade was the year I had my first serious boyfriend. Sure, I’d had relationships and kissed boys before, but this was the first distracting, staying-up-till-1am-talking, kissing-in-the-stairwell, fighting-quietly-at-our-table kind of relationship. Me and Thomas broke up and got back together four times that year, each time with more tears and a more passionate reunion. Thomas was scared of becoming his father, and he used me to prove he never would. It was the perfect fuck-you to his dad, bringing home a liberal girl with a rainbow wristband from the pride parade who spent her time reading feminist essays. I remember one day when his dad picked us up from going to see Moana. The island melodies and striking blue hues danced in my head as I entered the car until his dad scoffed at us. He asked if we liked the movie. I gave a distracted “Yeeeeaaaaah” in response, still blinded by the magic of Disney animation. Thomas elbowed me sharply and tried to counter my enthusiasm. “It was all right.” He dad chuckled like he didn’t care, but later that night, Thomas told me his dad thought it was a waste of money for high-schoolers to go see a kids movie. It seemed after that, we started watching only kids’ shows and movies when we were together.

His father thought I was too loud. Too childish. Not Christian enough. Not feminine enough. His greatest fear was that Thomas would be gay. Thomas’s greatest fear was that he would be his dad. So he went out and found the most masculine girl he could. He found the girl who was the most independent and outspoken and different from who his dad imagined for him. His dad hated me. He told Thomas I was not good enough. He yelled at him for joining the gay-straight alliance with me and reading about rape culture when I talked about it. And Thomas loved it. He told me he loved me. But what he loved even more was the look on his dad’s face every time he saw me.

Thomas tried to love every little thing about me that made me different. He seemed to think that if any part of me was weird, it was even more amazing because it made his dad even more furious. But some things about me he just couldn’t understand. We laid on the couch together watching a silly kids’ show and he moved to put his arm around me. In a fumbling flurry of teenage awkwardness, I shifted at just the wrong time, and his hand brushed against my chest. We both froze and he glowed pink with embarrassment.

“Sorry, that was an accident,” he whispered.

“It’s okay,” I said. We sat there for a beat before he chuckled.

“Well, we’re dating so I guess it isn’t really a big deal.” I don’t remember what I said back. Probably a quick Yeah. But I do remember lying there with his arm around me and a pounding sensation creeping from the top of my stomach to the bottom of my throat. The silence grew louder and buzzed in my ears. Thomas didn’t feel me tense up. He didn’t even notice anything was wrong until something in me broke and I couldn’t hold in a gasp.

“Hey, hey, no, don’t cry. No, what’s wrong?” I moved out of his his arms and sat up, arms folded tightly across my chest.

“Just because we’re dating doesn’t mean it’s automatically okay.” I couldn’t look at him. He took my hand and assured me that I didn’t have to let him if I didn’t want to, and he wanted to make sure I wasn’t uncomfortable. He looked me in the eyes and promised me that he loved me whether he could see my chest or not. After an hour of sitting and crying, I finally let him put his arms around me again.

One month and at least one breakup/makeup later, we sat alone on a couch in the back room of a random pizza parlor downtown. I didn’t cry this time. I didn’t smile either. We discussed what had been left untouched after that first night. I looked down at my new 34-B bra under my thick sweatshirt. I wanted so badly to let him touch them, but when I thought about it, I just felt like something was collapsing in on me and filling my lungs. Thomas told me he didn’t care but I knew that wasn’t completely true. He kept asking me why I didn’t want him near my boobs. I trusted him right? He would never do anything bad to me. I loved him, didn’t I? Then why, he always pressed, was I so scared to let him do this. I didn’t know. I thought about it constantly, but I still couldn’t give him, or myself, a satisfactory answer.

I just…




I wasn’t ready. Maybe we can try it together, he suggested, slowly.


Thomas and I broke up for the last time before it ever happened. Maybe towards the end, I could have let him without crying, but things turned sour before we could even talk about it seriously again. And that’s when I started binding them up.




The internet told me the easiest way to do it was by wearing two sports bras and a baggy sweatshirt, so that’s how I started. I followed every rule. I never slept with them bound. I never left them bound while doing anything strenuous. I tended to avoid binding for more than a couple hours at a time. I took off one of the bras if my breathing ever felt restricted or my chest started hurting. Eventually, I transitioned from two bras to using a tank top. I turned it backwards and tightened the straps all the way, then folded the bottom up until it flattened my chest into a tight band. Sometimes I wore it longer than I should have. By the end of the school day, I’d have terrible headaches because I hadn’t been breathing at full capacity. I was still careful though. I’d heard the horror stories of broken ribs from binding with painters tape and scars from tying ace bandages too tightly. I knew how dangerous binding could be.

My mom found out three weeks after I started doing it. We were in the handicap changing room of Target trying on sundresses for some party I didn’t want to go to. I realized as I took off my shirt that I wasn’t wearing the padded 34-B bra she’d be expecting to see. She looked at my exposed form and asked cautiously, “Why are you wearing that as a bra?”

“It’s not a bra.” I told her, avoiding her eyes in the mirror. She was confused and slightly concerned. I tried to explain to her why my boobs were bound up like that, but I wasn’t sure how to express the way I was feeling without freaking her out. I ended up giving her a surface-level description of what was going on. It allowed me to avoid tearing up. She accepted my explanation, but eventually brought it up again later. We got home that day and I couldn’t breathe. The next day, I wore a normal bra again.

With my boobs free again over the next few months, I found myself able to ignore them again. They were more present on my body, but less present in my mind. Without my boobs to focus on, I found myself drawn to something else: other girls’ boobs. At first, I thought I was jealous of them. Those perfect C cups that were so properly proportioned with the full, curvy figures of my classmates. I looked at them and thought about them and daydreamed about them but for some reason, I didn’t want them. I had always wanted smaller boobs, not bigger ones. I never wanted a boy to fixate on my breasts. So why did I think about them?

In Mr. C’s English class that year, I was supposed to be reading a poem by Keats about the beauty of nature or something but all I could look at was this girl. She was not very smart and she was never very nice, but I always wanted to sit across from her so I could see her. She had these big brown eyes and a perfect white smile and a freckle just above her lip that looked like an old-timey beauty mark. Her laugh sounded like a puff of warm, dry air and her hair was black—not dark brown, fully black—and it shined like she had always just stepped out of the shower. I didn’t like her. I did like to look at her though. That specific day, when I wasn’t reading Keats, this girl was wearing a flowy shirt with a gray bralette peeking out underneath that I couldn’t help but stare at. I was busy looking at her while trying to pretend like I wasn’t, when a strange thought popped into my mind. I wish she’d push me up against a wall and kiss me. Sirens went off and my eyes felt like they were looking in different directions, and I felt very very cold but very sweaty all at once. I replayed the thought in my head. The more I thought it, the more I realized that it wasn’t a Straight GirlTM thought. Then, of course, came the question: Am I a Straight GirlTM? Evidently not. Straight GirlsTM don’t usually think about other girls boobs so much, and they definitely don’t want to kiss other girls. Mr. C always gave “brownie points” to someone who had a poetry epiphany during class. I nearly laughed out loud when I considered how many brownie points I would receive if I mentioned the epiphany I had had in class that day.

It wasn’t until the next year that I touched another girl’s boobs. They were bigger than mine and nicer than mine and touching them made me feel really good. They made me feel a type of good I didn’t realize I could feel. They made me feel warm and excited and happy and nervous all at once.

Later that year, I let a boy touch my boobs for the first time, but this time, I did not want to cry. I felt good. I felt warm and excited and happy and nervous all at once.

I wonder what Thomas’s dad would think if he saw me now.




Davis Mathis is a 17-year-old writer from Georgia who enjoys writing poetry and personal essays and hopes one day to enter into the world of spoken word poetry.



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