After a surprise diagnosis, Ben Shaberman found himself making the most of a nice pair.
When my cardiologist ordered a CT scan of my chest to check out the health of my cardiac arteries, I thought, “Bring it on!” I was skinny, athletic, and had been meat-free for more than two decades. My cholesterol was in the 120s. I was certain he’d find nothing remarkable. Furthermore, the test would take only 12 minutes and cost $75.
The preliminary report from the radiologist was shocking, even though it said absolutely nothing about my arteries. Instead, it stated that I had “bilateral gynecomastia,” a condition otherwise known as man boobs.
I must admit that I have an active and sometimes paranoiac imagination and have thought of all sorts of ailments and maladies that might afflict me, but sprouting guy knockers was not one of them.
Shortly after reading the report, I ran into the bathroom to look in the mirror and realized that I was indeed not entirely flat-chested. “Wow,” I said to myself, “I do have some boob action going on.” I stood there for a few minutes, gazing at myself like a 12-year-old girl debating about whether or not to get her first bra.
It was the first time in my life that my manliness came into question for me. I’ve always liked girls, naked girls, pictures of naked girls, baseball, football, and growing out my beard. I’d felt in command of my manhood since the sixth grade, when I read a story in Penthouse Forum about a pizza delivery guy who walked in on a college lesbian sex party. Turned out all the coeds were bisexual, so the story had a really happy ending ¾ for the pizza guy and for me. I thought The Beatles were wrong. All you need is porn.
But having boobs — what I perceived as a distinctively feminine quality — flew in the face of the stereotypical guyness that I had so cherished. Though I only spent a week or two at the beach every year, I was always proud to prance around with my shirt off. I was never chiseled, but I always thought I looked pretty good. Losing that perceived manliness was horrifying for me.
After contemplating my diagnosis for a few minutes, I did what any inquisitive journalist would do in that situation: I went to Victoria’s Secret to determine my bra size. I just had to know how big they were. Was I just a bit curvy, or was I carnival freak-show big? Had the goddesses of undergarments seen many cases of man boobs before? Maybe they’d find my love jugs to be a little sexy. Perhaps what I was hoping most was that my chest wouldn’t register on the store’s boob-o-meter, and I was just blowing this whole thing out of proportion.
So, my grand tetons and I hopped into the car and headed over to the mall. I made sure to bring my radiological report and writer business cards to back up my story. I didn’t want the store clerk to think I was too wacked out when I explained my mission.
A lot of good that did. I was barely past “I’m a journalist…” when I could sense the pervert alarm going off in the sales girl’s head. “Too small,” she replied to my request to have my chest measured. But I knew she wasn’t taking me seriously and just wanted me out of the store. What was most maddening is that she had a measuring tape right there, hanging around her neck. It would have taken her 10 seconds to do the deed. But she was primed to contact mall security. “We’ve got a man boob situation over here at Victoria’s Secret,” she’d say, “Bring reinforcements.” So I backed off, and dejectedly made my way out of the store as the newest addition to the mall’s most-wanted list.
Not to be deterred, I loaded up on caffeine from Starbucks — my preferred form of liquid courage — and made my way to the lingerie department at Nordstrom’s. I decided there’d be no dilly-dallying, and I walked into the opulent store, the elite of retailing, with my chest out and head held high.
A nice young woman named Rebecca listened intently to my plea to be measured, and without hesitation, took me in the dressing area to size me up. “38AA, maybe A,” she reported confidently, “but it is really just muscle.”
“You know it, girlfriend,” I replied giddily. I was ready to rip my shirt off and strike an Adonis-like pose, but thought better of it with mall security on my tail.
As we walked out of the dressing area, Rebecca told me that a lot of men actually come through lingerie for fitting — mostly trans-gendered guys. I don’t know if she was trying to make me feel better, but I did take satisfaction in having completed my mission of mammary measurement and figuring out that all I had were speed bumbs.
In the coming weeks, I became more proud of my distinctive chest, especially after learning that some of the manliest of men have man boobs, including Jack Nicholson, Vladimir Putin, and Harrison Ford, who was once voted the sexiest man alive. And, of course, there’s Frank Costanza, co-inventor of the mansierre (aka the bro), and perhaps the most heroic of all mammarily endowed men.
True, I may not exactly give any Hooter’s girl a run for her money. After all, I’m only a 38A on a good day. But stack me up against any guys, and I’ll go nipple to nipple with the best of them.
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