I’ve never had a nickname, except for “mosqueets,” a not-so-subtle ode to the meagre A cups resting on my chest that, some would say, resemble mosquito bites. The name was bestowed on me during a lunch break in Grade 9. I was wearing my fave, skin-tight Hollister shirt that accentuated my non-curves and a bra that was more padding than boob. I felt delusionally skinny-thicc. That’s when one of my (former) guy friends pointed at my tit, snickered, and said, “What up, mosqueets?” Nice.
The encounter sent me down a spiral typical for women: about 70 percent of women feel dissatisfied with their breast size, which likely accounts for climbing rates of boob jobs. If I never developed a chest, I thought, would anyone ever find me attractive? Devastated, I vowed to grow bigger boobs, spending my remaining teenage years chasing any and all pursuits—save for implants—that would turn my kiwis into grapefruits.
My first move was to try birth control, even though, as a late bloomer, I really didn’t need it. I dated a guy in junior high for, like, two weeks, before ending it when he tried to hold my hand. As if I’d have sex. But some of my friends who were already using birth control claimed their ta-tas e x p l o d e d, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. My family doctor prescribed Yasmin, a low-dose birth control pill that, I’d later learn, was featured in misleading advertisements claiming the medication acted like a catch-all against pregnancy, acne, and PMS. (Later, reports detailing 23 deaths related to Yasmin and its sister pill, Yaz, surfaced.) It took six months before a frustrated, 15-year-old me conceded that the pill would not kick-start my puberty. It turns out that the idea that birth control increases breast size stems mostly from myth and carries unnecessary risk if you don’t need contraception. So, I got off the pill, even though my story was only just beginning.
A quick Google search will pull up a never-ending list of pseudoscience for women looking to grow their breasts “naturally,” including eating foods high in estrogen, like lentils, yams, and soy milk. Do you know how much soy milk you need to drink to get tits? This guy who drank three cartons of soy milk per day developed gynecomastia and breast tenderness, but his chest didn’t suddenly sprout voluptuous moobs. VICE looked into the ol’ soy-causes-boobs theory in 2016, which I happened to read in Polish during a trip to Warsaw. To my dismay, the piece concluded there’s basically no way a normal person can develop breast tissue from diet.
Not to brag, but the writer should have saved his time and just asked me. As a lifelong vegetarian, I’ve been drinking and eating heaps of soy products since childhood and—I cannot stress this enough—still don’t have boobs.
Trust me when I say I tried nearly every titty-triggering strategy I could find online as a teenager. A few scammy sites advertise expensive ointments and lotions for their almost mythical ability to make bosoms swell. I can’t even remember the name of the oil I repeatedly rubbed around my bust, but it obviously didn’t work.
Around the time I tried rubbing cream on my chest, I also hit the gym. The one semi-reliable tip online recommends women with small nubs build their pecs. That way, boobs appear fuller, even if breast tissue doesn’t develop.
To be honest, the most realistic strategy—building muscle—was too much work and I didn’t commit enough to determine whether stronger pectorals would make my boobs look good. I’m a millennial. I wash the feet of Immediate Gratification with my tears.
Fake-It-Till-You-Make-It seemed like my only realistic remaining option.
I lived out my high school years in a Victoria’s Secret push-up bra that increased my cup size by two letters. You know, the type that basically screams “spend $80 and you can have a bigger teat, as a treat.” I also cried a lot. Then, at 17, I met my mom’s massage therapist, a Dutch woman over 50 who owned a series of 70s-era massage tools.
“I can give you boobs,” she said, deadpan.
Every week for months, I’d lie down on her massage table, nips out, and she’d get to work using “The Hammer,” as she liked to call it. She’d draw the figure eight—or an infinity symbol—around my hoo-has with a Wall-E-looking machine that pounded my chest. She’d exercise laser focus while gabbing about her cats during each 45-minute session. She’d commiserate with me about being flat-chested. She’d assure me I wouldn’t be for long. I easily spent hundreds of dollars on what I can only refer to now as unnecessary medieval torture.
The Hammer didn’t work because, well, duh. But the whole ordeal, which lasted about a year (embarrassing!) was so unpleasant, it snapped me out of a multi-year-long, tit-insecure frenzy. I accepted my asparagus body, graduated from the hellscape that is high school and read enough “8 Reasons Why Your Itty Bitty Titties Are Litty” think-pieces to rewire my brain.
In reality, nothing and no one will give you boobs if you’re not meant to have them, unless you pay a surgeon handsomely, get pregnant, or gain weight. I can’t afford (nor want) implants, I’m not ready for kids, and the only time I managed to gain weight was during graduate school when I took 3,000 steps per day at most while writing my thesis. My thighs grew; my boobs didn’t.
As I scanned the internet to write this article, I was reminded that most women have, at some point, felt insecure about their breasts, regardless of size. Studies show teenagers who develop large breasts early are more likely to suffer from depression and body dysmorphia, adolescents who have asymmetrical boobs struggle with low self-esteem, and research from 2007 found women who go under the knife to change their breast size and shape are five times more likely to commit suicide.
In a Splinter article, psychology professor at University of Chapman California David Frederick explained that because female bodies are objectified in media, we are “encouraged to view [women] only as something that can be used for sex.” That’s a pretty fucked up double-edged sword if you think about it. Women with boyish frames like me feel like they’ll never live up to the very problematic role women are expected to play in society, while large-breasted queens often face rampant objectification starting at a very young age. “My sister’s boobs came in earlier—middle school—and she remembers feeling super self-conscious because the boys would make little comments,” one of my best friends told me.
If women despair over their sexual value before they get their first period—so much so that I had a middle-aged masseuse thumping my chest while I ate tofu in fistfuls—what does that say about how we’re collectively raised?
Follow Anya “Mosqueets” Zoledziowski on Twitter.