While my mother was pregnant with me, my parents were convinced I was a boy and had already named me Gabriel after the manliest of all the angels. But when I came out with a vagina instead of the requisite Vienna sausage dangling between my chubby little legs, they randomly called me Laura. That is, until my mother settled on the old fashioned, hard to pronounce, impossible to spell, Dorothea. Having been mistaken for a boy in utero I must have clung to a Y chromosomal swimming by, as it took me a good ten years to be seen as anything other than a male heir. Back then there was nothing as wonderful as an obscure, Victorian surname and a distinct masculine appearance to make any social situation confusing and terrifying.
This was not helped by the fact that boobs did not come into my life early on. My appearance throughout elementary school was that of a hungry, below average, dwarf boy pick pocket, someone Fagan would have walked over and kicked in the ribs with someone else’s boot. I had short, mousy hair that swerved unevenly to one side and a set of pearly whites only a garden tool could mimic. Sports were my life, as was pining over the soundtrack to Grease, reading at a toddler level and disappointing predators who mistook me for a little boy while I rode my bike home, a house key dangling from my freckled neck.
Years went by as grocery clerks, crossing guards and close relatives mistakenly referred to me as young man. Anytime a parent saw me on the soccer field they immediately assumed by my deft ball handling, lopsided bowl cut and concave chest cavity that I would go on to have a very successful career in the fields of physical education, university administration, dog grooming or the clergy. When sixth grade finally arrived I was blessed with a budding set of tater tots, two little friends that I knew would change my lunar landscape. They were nothing much to look at in the beginning. Just two puffy saucers that seemed lost on a journey outward. The moment they sprang up my mother dragged me to our local Sears to outfit them in the latest in pre-teen apparel. I settled on a Playtex training bra no bigger than a shoelace that promised to hold up my breasts for an entire eighteen hour workday, something I knew nothing of then and have yet to experience, due to my inherent laziness and well-honed napping skills.
But, by the beginning of high school, my hair was a bit longer and my knockers had grown into, what I saw as, two handfuls of ripened fruit, ready for the picking. No longer mistaken for a youthful janitor or a paperboy, I wore clingy sweaters and tight t-shirts, hoping to get attention from the hot boys with surfer shirts and low ambitions. One day, I was walking with Dalia Weinstein near the bike racks, enjoying an in-depth conversation about designer jeans and marijuana. Suddenly, I felt eyes on both of us. I turned around with misguided confidence to find Buddy and Barry, the most popular boys in our class, getting eye boners over Dalia’s healthy D cups. I was still struggling for a C, much like my grade point average and felt naked and invisible all at the same time.
Ignoring me the entire time, the three of them had a heartfelt chat about the science midterm while the horny twins leered at Dalia’s massive jugs and not at my sad, little juice glasses. They then turned and left, leaving me feeling as deflated as a beach ball in a hot garage. I knew then that size mattered in all things sexual and secretly wished that the boys would pull down their pants and try to discuss the periodic table while I took copious notes on the length and width of their one eyed wonder snakes. It was, at that moment, that I decided to never again put stock in my breasts, pledging to simply enjoy whatever the universe decided to stuff into my bra.
That is, until last week when I found a lump in my left breast and proceeded to have a shit fit, a cow and a bottle of Xanax with a salty tear chaser. Whatever my parents gave me, they gave to me in spades and hypochondria was their most generous and plentiful of all the gifts. The moment anyone is my family suspect they may have a serious medical condition they drive straight through multiple red lights to the doctor’s office and dramatically whimper in the waiting room until they are seen. If the news is bad, they have the comfort of knowing that they already alerted all the family, friends and local shopkeepers that, indeed, they have cancer, Lupus or a rare form of ADD. They are ahead of the game and now get to retell the harrowing experience while eliciting massive amounts of sympathy from people that they would normally never call back. On the other hand, if the news is good, they are secretly disappointed that they have to go back on their very dramatic and unnerving word to tell everyone in the surrounding county and beyond that they indeed, will survive this near miss of nothingness and live to see another eight thousand days of good health.
After five appointments, a fourth opinion, three ultra sounds and a very long, hot drive to get a biopsy, I was told that, in fact, I simply had a lumpy mass of breast tissue and nothing more. The doctor said he could not insert a needle because he would have no guarantee of retrieving anything and that that anything was nothing. He showed me the ultrasound screen and described how my lump was a blurry, grey bump of hormones, while a worrisome lump would look like a black marble with hair on it.
After throwing up in my throat, I left the building a little softer from my pain go bye bye pill and drove straight to Reseda to eat a hot dog, even though I had just eaten breakfast. When I had swallowed the last bite of my $3.50 rolled mystery meat, I proceeded to text everyone that knew of my condition and assured them in trendy teenage text speak that I was totalee fin, the lump was nutin and I wuz gr8t. I am only half way through my address book and my thumbs are killing me. I suspect it may be the early signs of Carpel Texting Syndrome.