It was a joke that stuck around just a bit too long. I remember exactly when it started - that's how much the experience affected me at the time, and still affects me occasionally today.
We were in a free period at school, sitting at a circular table doing homework. I assume Madeline Smith* was pretending to do some sort of Maths work, because she was playing around with her calculator and suddenly discovered the hilarity of being able to write "BOOBLESS" on it (55318008 for those of you who don't know this trick). This was then brandished at me for the rest of that hour with a lot of sniggering.
I suppose I laughed it off initially. But when the joke persisted, and was shared around our friends for several weeks after this, I couldn't laugh it off anymore. Bullying is classically excused as "just a joke". But this joke got to me, and stayed with me, and has stayed with me ever since. Eventually I realised the stupidity of the whole thing - although it took moving schools and finding better friends (ie, nice friends) to reach that point.
I was a whopping twelve years old - plenty of time for my boobs to start growing (the fact that they didn't grow much is beside the point, because they couldn't have predicted that at the time). And I was allowing myself to feel victimised about something to do with my body, something that was completely out of my control, and something that just didn't matter. My body is just fine the way it is, and I don't need double Ds to be beautiful and happy. In fact my life is a lot lighter, literally, because of it. And it was actually flipping through fashion magazines like Elle and seeing the amount of beautiful women who were just as small-boobed as me that helped me realise this.
This hindsight knowledge doesn't help twelve-year old me, though. I can't save her from that experience, or give her my twenty-two year old wisdom and strength to get through it. She will go through years of insecurities before coming to these realisations. After years of extraextraextra padded bras, extraextraextra push-up bras, serious thoughts about buying breast enhancement creams/pills, and other drastic measures, I reach eighteen and come to the conclusion that my boobs will get no bigger and I'm just going to have to learn to love them the way they are.
By this point, I've also thankfully realised that life success is not hidden in your boobs - I've had just as many boys fancy me and just as many good grades and just as many opportunities as the next girl. Twiggy's estimated $50m dollar success was definitely not hidden in her boobs.
So I ditch all of my stupidly enhancing (and usually uncomfortable) bras. I stop finding silly unrealistic solutions online (because really, they don't work and you just pay extortionate prices for exotic ingredients like donkey faeces). I start going braless every once in a while, because I can actually get away with it. I find sexy bras that are also super comfortable because I don't need wiring and extreme support - those Brandy Melville one size bralettes are a dream on me.
And I also force myself to have "naked time", just before bed, where I chill in my bedroom with no clothes, and learn to be comfortable with my body just the way it is. Not slimmer, or more toned, or with a longer torso, or with bigger boobs. Just the way it is. So when a (gorgeous) uni boyfriend told me I was the fittest thing he'd ever seen, I believed him, because I'd learned to believe it myself. I didn't need Colin Firth to tell me I'm perfect just the way I am - I heard it from me first.
Of course, I still have body insecurities. I doubt they'll ever fully go away, because that's just the world we live in. But I've learned from that experience. I don't resent the girls (and boys) that did that to me anymore - I'm grateful to them in a way, because I'm so much stronger for having gone through that. I know that I come out of that brilliantly because while some stupid kids were learning to be horrible people, I was learning that being nice to everyone and never treating others the way they treated me was what I wanted to aspire to.
So while Madeline was clearly not doing homework and steadily staying at the bottom of the class (despite her big boobs), I was doing my homework and going on to get a First Class degree from King's College, London and pursuing my dreams of being a writer (despite my small boobs).
And I got a great alliterative article title out of it too.
* names have been changed
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