The Usual Suspects or a Chronological List of the Ways Men Have Referred to my Breasts:

by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

1. Look at them jiggle, the boys
would say in middle school gym, before
I learned the art of sports bras.

2. They shrunk! Those same
boys whispered when I stopped
eating in high school and spent
lunchtime running the outdoor track,
still a stranger to under-wire or Armor.

3. Is she the one who talks a lot
and has those big boobs? A guy asked
my college boyfriend, who nodded
proudly and cupped his hands
around invisible breasts as though
they grew from his chest.

4. Beeeee Beeee, a drunk and lonely poet
trailed the air fingertips away
from the rhinestones on my shirt
as we left whatever bar we’d lingered at
too long. You want me looking at them,
he said, otherwise you wouldn’t dress like that.

5. I don’t see them as saggy, my husband
said once, meaning this as compliment.
It’s probably because of all the running
without a good bra. I appreciate the way he tried
to make my body less my fault.

6. I feel like I can say this to you, the 70-year-old
search committee chair put his hand
on my shoulder just after I finished
meeting with the faculty but before
the elevator doors swung open.
You are looking a lot bustier than this morning,
so we best get you to the pumping room.
He was kind enough to check
if I was comfortable with people knowing
I am nursing, and when I said I was,
he introduce me this way at my job talk,
no bio, just gratitude to the administrative staff
who got up early that morning to tape paper,
just for me, over the windows facing the hallway,
transforming a man’s office into my own
private room. Julia could pump in peace and is now ready
to share her work, he said. This event wouldn’t be possible
without them, meaning the staff
but also breasts.

7. They’re my favorite part of you, Mama,
my son says, pressing into them hard,
with hands or head or even knees. They’re just
so soft, he repeats. Years since he’s stopped
nursing, I am still teaching him
to ask permission for such touch.

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