I hoist myself up onto the scanner. All four-foot-ten inches hang precipitously atop the desk, big toe barely touching the “Scan Now” button. My heart is pounding fast, and I keep one eye fixed on the door as I set to work on my task, not wanting my parents to barge in and ruin the moment. I can’t even get my whole upper body on there without the lower half dangling over the floor, so I push my chest as far as it will go onto the unpleasantly chilly glass.
I’m beyond nervous now. Will he like what he sees? What if he doesn’t? What if I get caught? The questions race through my mind as I finish the deed, a paragon of 15-year-old focus. The kind of focus that accompanies desperation and loneliness and an overwhelming, gnawing need for acceptance, affection, and love.
I jaw and ramble to him on a nightly basis now, my awkwardness spilling through my fingers onto the glaring, white screen in front of me. He can’t see me, and therefore cannot judge me. I will have his love, his affection, his acceptance, and all of the joys and dreams come true listed on the outside of the package.
He has promised me all of these things, and more, if I do him this small favor. How can I refuse? Nobody’s ever wanted to see this side of me. Maybe nobody will want to see it ever again. I have to do this while I still have the chance. Before I go back to where everyone thinks I am ugly. My true side. No girl looking like this could ever be pretty, at least not to the pubescent hormone bags running around the high school hallways.
So I have to do this for him.
The monotone hum of the scanner subsides now. I pull my bony frame from the machine and slump back down into the chair, satisfied with the job that I have done. My eyes dart back and forth across the screen as I ready the image to send to him. A click here, a click there. One e-mail composed, one attachment. Finished.
It’s in his hands now. I can feel my pulse inside my wrists, blood beating rapidly through arteries and veins and all of the other hidden places. I wait. And wait. What will come now? What will his response be? I want it, no matter what it is. Just as long as he says something to me. Anything.
The next day, Callie sends me an instant message. We’re in a chat room together, as per usual, along with our other friends—Marsha, Carrie, Brianna, Dana, and Sally—all fellow Backstreet Boys fans. This is my refuge, my safe space amidst swirling hurricanes of hostility and depression. I have them and only them to talk to, to laugh with, cry, commiserate.
We begin with our usual banter, talking about the day’s goings-on, leaving behind (albeit temporarily) all of our real life problems. I am anxious to tell them what I’ve done, and my hands tremble slightly as I type the details of the pictures I scanned and sent to “A.J.”
Their gasps of shock are nearly audible, but they applaud me for being so bold and having the guts to go through with it. A flush of warmth rushes through my body, something like empowerment, but I can’t be sure.
“Wait a minute,” says Callie. “I got an e-mail from him with a picture in it. He said it was a picture of you.”
Wow, I think to myself. He liked my picture so much that he sent it to Callie! Some pride in my chest sends it swelling, and a smile grows on my face in the dark of the computer room.
“I can’t tell what it is, though,” she continues.
Wait…what? I wonder. They’re my breasts, of course. How can that not be obvious? I chuckle quietly at her naiveté. The others in the chat room can’t answer her, but I do so readily, explaining that “A.J.” asked me to scan my breasts into the computer, and that’s what she was looking at in that picture. She responds a moment later:
“Oh. I thought that they were ears. Lmao :|”
Ears? Why on Earth would I scan a picture of my ears? That’s absolutely ridiculous. I mean, who would want to see them? I can’t believe her. Doesn’t she realize that ears are probably one of the least sexiest parts of the human body? That’s just crazy. Wait a minute… She thinks my breasts are ears? She—not that—SHE THINKS MY BREASTS ARE EARS?! How do they even closely resemble ears? Are they seriously that small?
I flee into my bedroom next door, flinging up my shirt and examining my body in the mirror. I’m dismayed to discover that my ribs are protruding farther than anything else on my torso. I inhale and exhale rapidly, trying to push my breasts out further. Why don’t they stay put? It’s like trying to inflate balloons with an empty helium tank.
What is that old mantra--I must, I must, increase my bust! I must, I must, increase my bust! I repeatedly chant the phrase in my head, rhythmically (or, well, mostly rhythmically) pushing my torso back and forth. My movements are so rough at one point that I nearly fall backward onto the floor.
I dash back into the computer room and ask Callie to post the picture in the chat room.
“Okay, please, please tell me the truth: Do my breasts REALLY look like ears?!” I frantically implore my cyber cohorts.
But no matter what their answers are, I am despondent. It’s useless! My breasts really do look like ears! I have orecchiette tits! I wail inside my head. I fume and cry silently, wanting to be enraged but too overwhelmed by the sensation of crushing failure. Once again, I have failed to be normal.