The Measure of a Man

Hey Drew,

Before I start this story I’d just like to say that I am not a tit man to the exclusion of all else, Okay? That’s it. Just so we’re clear. I mean, sure what’s up front counts for something but everything counts for something. I guess I’m kind of a head, shoulders, knees and toes man. In my eyes it’s all good. I like everything about women from vocal characteristics to the fine grain of their skin. Also I like a nice ass but I think that’s universal. Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. Just so we’re clear.

Now, as you know, I’m in heavy construction and as a rule construction work starts early. Most jobs start at 7:00 and mine is one of those. Every morning I get up for work at 4:45. No big deal, I wake easily and I’m in a good mood. I like the morning. I like it so much that I get up before morning so that I won’t miss any of it. I’m not a minute man, jumping out of bed, wolfing down a breakfast, running for the subway to get to work in the nick of time. I can’t handle that kind of anxiety.

After I wake I head to the bathroom for a quick brushing of the old pearly whites and a putting on of the old work clothes. I go downstairs for a bite and a write before leaving at 5:30. I work in a secured area so we have biometric scanners that read something about my hand. I have to palm in, as we call it, by 7:00 but I arrive between 6:10 and 6:20 everyday unless I’m sitting in for the foreman in which case I get up earlier and arrive at about 5:30 to palm in by 6:00. Like most heavy construction workers I’ve seen thousands of sunrises.

Sunrises are one of the few things that don’t get old with familiarity. They don’t become invisible. There is something in a sunrise that registers deep with the animal instincts.  It’s just a theory but I don’t believe we wake to eat, I believe we wake to avoid being eaten by the early risers. Big and soft and weak and slow, we must have been the catch of the day every day for ten million years. The early birds among us dodged the predator, only then did we get the worm. With that kind of victory, I’m sure more than one caveman decided to sleep late the next morning.

My morning, like most everyone’s, is a routine with little variation. But yesterday I happened to notice myself in the mirror over the sink before getting dressed. The mirror sits on a ledge above the sink. It’s 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide so you’d think it would command a lot of attention but it’s only a mirror. If you don’t put anything in, nothing comes out. I only rarely look at my face and almost never review my person. I don’t have the kind of doubts that translate into vain musings.

So there I was, looking at me from the waist up and I noticed that I don’t have a chest. No surprise, I’ve never had one. It’s kind of disappointing because, as a Dockbuilder, I’m in a very physical line of work and I’m always among the hardest workers out there. And it’s not that I’m weak. I’m no powerhouse but I can hold my own in any gang. I do try to work smart to keep myself out of situations that require brute strength but I would do that anyway. Strong men have bad backs and terrible knees because they do before they think. I’ve watched so many injuries happen because of a misplaced can do attitude that I’ve developed a no way, ask somebody else attitude. The simple fact is, I just don’t have mass. So me and the mirror are eyeing each other up. We’re looking at our sternum and ribs and by this time the gears are turning and like any good carpenter I’m wondering about dimensions and from the look on his face so is the guy in the mirror.

I guess you can see where I’m heading with this.

This chest. Flat and undefined. I decide to calculate my bra size.

I went on line and there is no shortage of sites that do the calculation for you. I decided on because the name made me laugh but it didn’t give me the all important cup size. On the upside, for purely illustrative purposes I’m sure, they have pictures of breasts from 30AA to 42DD laid out like baseball trading cards listing the only stat that matters. Say what you will about the analogy it’s a roster with all my favorite players.

For your own edification and in the event you’d like to do the math yourself the following formula is the Unified Theory of proper fit for undergarments designed to cover and support the breasts. Taken directly from another web site you can see that the formula requires only two measurements.

Subtract your band measurement (step 1) from your cup measurement (step 2). Generally, for each inch in difference, the cup goes up by one size.



Step 1: 34″ under measurement +4″ = 38″ band

Step 2: 40″ over measurement

Step 3: 40″ – 38″ = 2″ or Cup “B”

Your size would be 38B


Simple right? Correct me here if I’m wrong but doesn’t this seem like the kind of formula that was conjured up by a chinless, second year, math intern with instructions from some dirtbag CEO to “keep it clean but somehow make the numbers bigger, a little more, shall we say, fulsome. Add 4 inches. The ladies will love that!”

Just to clarify, the first number, the band measurement, is taken across the ribcage under the breast. The second number, the cup measurement, is taken across the nipples. What a great word! Nipple.

Onomatopoetic means the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it. Hiss and Boom are the usual examples. And while I’ve never heard a nipple make a sound unassisted it seems like saying the word nipple mimics the suckling actions of the infant mouth. Try it. Mouth the word slowly and silently and tell me I haven’t given this subject a little too much consideration.

More than that, it seems to me that the forming of the word with the mouth instantly conjures up the whole picture with a special focus on size and color and texture. Naturally there is more of an intimate connection, a genuine survival instinct, between the nipple and the mouth than almost any two other parts so this kind of visualizing shouldn’t come as any surprise. In truth it’s less of a mental picture and more of a mental movie in 3D because the images are so exquisitely varied and detailed. Closeups, angles, lighting, mood music, all that.

It seems likely, however, that everyone’s mental picture of nipple is as different as every ones mental picture of skin color. It goes back to the issue of preferences doesn’t it. My world looks different than your world because we’re looking at the world with different biases. In that respect we all inhabit different worlds. Is it any wonder we find each other so baffling?

They say, that when asked to think of a particular color, no two people are thinking of the same one because no two people are referencing the same highly personalized cranial database. Or maybe it’s just because no two people can agree on anything. And in any case as the experts will only too gladly tell you “Color is often mistaken as a property of light when it really is a property of the brain”, and unless you find two people sharing a brain you’re not going to find two people agreeing on the qualities of a single color.

Testing that theory was pretty easy. A quick perusal of the literature suggests that the human eye can discern between 100,000 and 10 million colors. The literature obviously has some kind of commitment problem but with the worlds population just a hair shy of 7 billion it seems probable that the skin color I’m thinking of is the same skin color that at least 700 other people on the planet are thinking about.

And while it may seem like a small, somewhat excited leap of logic I think that the nipple of my dreams is very likely shared by an equal number, male and female alike. On the other hand it’s hard to think, looking at my own chest, that any one of those 7 billion is thinking to themselves, “These! These are the perfect nipples!” Maybe I’m the exception that proves the rule.

So I take the two measurements. In my case the numbers are 33″ and 34″ respectively. Tap tap enter and I’m a 38AA. It doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s out of context information. I don’t have anything to judge it by that has meaning for me because let’s face it I’m not comparing myself to a woman. Like my hat size. I don’t know what it is and it’s not a measure that rings with harsh judgement or erotic undertones. Until I see the note below. “No bra is needed if these measurements are correct.” If these measurements are correct?” What’s with the doubtful tone? I’m not really digging the questioning of my honest input of data. And “No bra is needed?” I don’t know, I feel kind of slighted. Like what; I’m not good enough? I’m undeserving? It feels a little personal. I’m feeling a little judged here. If I was a girl with a lot of my self-esteem invested in my headlights I could see this being a real blow.

Now, I’ve been eye to eye with enough breasts to know that there is a terrific amount of variety out there and whatever a girl’s got is perfect for the girl whose got them and for the one who loves her. Love is not a matter of crass accountancy and beauty is not really in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is often mistaken as a property of the subject when really it is a property of the smitten. Beauty is in the heart of the beholder. And ugly, as they say, goes right to the bone. Another thing I know about breasts is that pretty much all of them appreciate a little attention, a little care thrown in their direction. Breasts are kind of suckers for attention but they can also be surprisingly temperamental. This is especially true when they are fully operational.

I think it’s fair to say that a nursing breast is a whole other beast attached to what appears to be a whole other animal than one’s wife. After determining my bra size it got me wondering about that. My wife is a lactation consultant which is a profession that on the face of it, would seem not to have a clientele. I mean, what on earth could be more second nature than a mother feeding her newborn? I don’t believe there is a single instance in nature where squeezing one’s breast into one’s offspring’s mouth is outsourced. Come to think of it you never see anything on the animal shows about breast fondling either. I guess animals aren’t really into groping or a bit of friendly molesting. If that’s the case, I don’t even know why we bother calling them animals.

But the instinct to nurse and the actual mechanics of nursing are separate things. The presumption that nursing skills are automatic makes some assumptions about how nature works that ain’t necessarily so. Naturally, much of what goes on in nature is instinctual. But what does that mean? Instinct is, according to Webster “a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason.” In other words it’s automatic behavior that replaces the need for learning. Behavior is internalized as a default setting. The down side of instinct is that judgement calls are completely out of the question. Instinct does not accommodate change or variability. I think we’ve already touched on the variability of human breasts and it is this variability along with those of the infant that present potential complications. But something better than instinct, something with better survival value, had to replace instinct.

Social grouping is instinctual and here’s where it gets interesting. The existence of extended families, sisters, mothers, grandmothers neutralized the need for the default settings of instinct. Their accumulated experience is what makes instinct unnecessary. Their knowledge is able to accommodate variables on both sides of the mother infant relationship to a point that exceeds the survival advantage of instinct. The behavior has become externalized but the success of learned behavior was dependent on a network of social interactions that largely do not exist anymore. Enter the lactation consultants who are really just stand ins for ones missing extended family as well as the discontinuity of experience brought on by the advent of formula.

In the end it all came back around to my wife, as everything always does. Her job really is incredibly interesting and the knowledge base is expanding very quickly to refill the void left by broken families and miserably deficient industrial substitutes. It almost goes without saying that hospitals which are now hospital corporations do not place a lot of value in this service. Why pay a lactation consultant when you can plug a baby into a bottle; a bottle paid for by a corporation hoping to capture a new mother in chemical dependence and be done with it.

We were talking about work and she’s passionate about what she’s learning. About the qualities of mother’s milk that cannot be reproduced not the least of which being that mother’s milk is alive. I think that’s an unbelievably cool factoid and I’m a huge fan of factoids. She talks about the mothers and how vulnerable they are and of course the babies. You would think that everything surrounding birth would focus on the baby but in fact everything seems to conspire against them. Hospital practices, doctors hours, administrators, pain management, the whole thing. It’s all really interesting and so I have to be careful about the sensitivity I show when phrasing questions. Especially questions that may have the appearance of prurience. Phrasing is all important. Whatever the question it cannot be delivered in a crude coarse crass dirty lewd obscene perverted profane raunchy skeevy smutty or vulgar manner or with a smirk. No smirking! In fact, steer clear of smiling altogether. Which of course I would never do but you know, it’s so easy to be misunderstood.

When, for instance, I ask her “By now you’ve seen thousands of breasts. Does anything about what you’ve seen stand out, so to speak.” she is immediately on to me. Still, I know her so well, I can see that there is something. A little bit of nudging and the assurance, now substantiated, that I need this information for a story I’m writing brings me to this; many Asian women have nipples that are so large the nipple does not fit into the baby’s mouth. I know instantly that I will never be able to look at an Asian woman again without wondering what’s going on under her bra. And while that may not be a significant difference between how I look at other women it certainly places an image in my mind. A starting point, if you will.

There is so much uniformity in nature. Birds and fish and lizards and insects, lions and tigers and bears. You really don’t see a lot of variation among individuals until you get to domesticated animals. Variation among domestic stock is entirely due to the tampering of humans and the same can be said for humans themselves. It’s little wonder there is so much variation among us and our chests. The reason breasts look the way they do is the reason that everything looks the way it does. Natural selection. Because, among these women, the size of the nipple doesn’t best serve the baby there has to be another motive force. If that motive force is not the end user, the baby, then it can only be the prime mover. That prime mover was men. Plain and simple men were choosing women with larger nipples to mate with. There are only two scenarios here. In that region of the world either women were producing larger nipples to attract mates and men were responding positively by choosing large nippled women to mate with. Or men preferred large nippled women and chose them as mates more often. Either way there was upward pressure on nipple size.

That observation did not necessarily endear me to my wife. For reasons that I can’t fathom she found that bit of information demeaning. To me it’s just an acknowledgement that, first and foremost, we are animals. Personally I find that comforting. Being an animal provides a lot of cover for behavior that otherwise might require a lot of explaining. In fact she wouldn’t even believe it but hey I says to her I don’t make the rules, I just report the ones that piss people off. I mean sure I’m making this up as I go but it is worth mentioning that I was always good at staying within the lines of the coloring books.

Returning to the subject of my own nothing of a chest I have to ask myself why? What possible survival advantage was gained by this genetic trait? Let’s call it the psychology of anatomy. Or is it the anatomy of psychology? What I mean is we look the way we look because this is what we wanted to look like. People mated with people they found attractive but what was it that some troglodyte chickadee found so hot about my scrawny ass ancestor. It grieves me to say that it wasn’t penis size but if he was anywhere near as romantic and sentimental as I am he probably just sweet talked her hairy ass into his cave for a tumble on the rat skin rug and that may be a clue. The need for brawn abated as the skill of bullshitting evolved. The weaker specimens among us were forced to use our brains to survive and that meant that physique was less important, all of which propelled human intelligence forward. Although I’d like to think so, I’m probably not the first to say that our weakness is our strength. And at the end of tens of millions of years of evolution I applied what little strength I had to determine my optimal bra size, 38AA.

Naturally this isn’t the kind of information you would want to keep to yourself. I mean on the one hand it’s not like I had discovered a new continent but, I felt, it was a discovery of a more modest dimension. Like the Spork. It wasn’t a paradigm shifter but it did capture your attention for a second. And while I’m sure bra sizing is common conversation among transvestites it exceeds rare among my circle. I can’t think of another heavy construction worker who has ever even posed the question to me never mind done the math.

I texted my 38AA information to my Dockbuilder friends around New York. A little tree shaking for the sake of seeing the leaves fall. The responses ranged from a simple though emphatic WHat!?! to a texted photo that would do any disgraced congressmen proud. It just goes to show you that the personal really is the universal, especially if you broadcast it all the hell over the place.

4 Responses to The Measure of a Man

  1. Sean says:

    My mother has been a senior rn in ob’s for quite a long time. There’s a very understanding, human, and personal touch that comes with that territory. I’ve known this as long as I could understand a conversation i’ve overheard over the family phone.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of lactation consultancey, but probably the first time I’ve read about it in this context. Especially in the way you’ve written about it.

    I appreciate your voice on the matter and am hoping to read more of your content soon. Seems prescient.


  2. I love this writer’s voice!! Fresh and honest. Can’t wait for the next installment!

  3. Your Muse says:

    I told you somebody would like this guess who

  4. Greatly written post, thanks!

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