“My Eyes Are Up Here”

Alexandra Gray //

Ever since fourth grade, I’ve been well developed. I was the first in my class to get a training bra (something I was distinctly not happy about). Even back then, I remember the boys in my class staring at my chest. 

My discomfort with my body only grew once I reached middle school age. I told my mom my boobs were uncomfortable, that they hurt my back, and I didn’t like them. “Yeah, but boys will like them when you’re older.” Twelve years old and I was already being told my body’s primary reason for existence was men’s pleasure. 

Of course, prepubescent thirteen year old boys were no better than the nine year olds back in fourth grade. They were worse. Much worse. I endured teasing and stares throughout middle school, even after I opted to wear baggy band tee shirts formerly belonging to my dad and brother. My science teacher, a fifty-something year old man with a wife and children, pretended to read my shirt’s lettering for a few seconds too long. I was tempted to speak up then, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. 

High school was somewhat better. At least then the boys were mature enough to keep their comments to themselves. The staring was still bad. More than once I was tempted to call them out. But that would have disrupted class. Instead I turned my chair, wrapped my jacket tighter around my chest, and prayed they would look away. 

Though my encounters after high school have been limited (global pandemics tend to put a damper on socialization), my chest has still been the object of men’s gaze. Simply passing by on the sidewalk, sitting down in the park for a socially disanced picnic, even just making a quick trip to the dollar store, I’ve had to endure men staring. They were complete strangers; I had never seen them before and would likely never see them again. Maybe that’s why I didn’t feel the need to say anything.

My mother’s words from so many years ago have stuck with me. Boys will like your boobs someday. And she was right. They do. So much so that at times, they forget that I’m a person and not just a pair of floating breasts. I’ve always wanted to say the iconic phrase but have been too scared, too shy, too anonymous. 

The teasing doesn’t happen anymore (other than good-natured ribbing from my closest friends), but the stares continue. And after a decade of being the unknowing exhibitionist for an ill-mannered population, I’m tired. I don’t want to be scared, shy, or anonymous. I don’t want to exist only as an object of men’s desires. 

I exist as the sum of all my parts; my chest is not the entirety of my being. Though some men might say differently, I am more than just my boobs. Down here, below my chest, are my legs. To the side, my arms. And my eyes are up here.

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