Happy to be a flatty: They endure years of sniggers – from both sexes. But women with small busts have the last laugh when others hit the floppy forties, says SUZANNE TAYLOR
Falling flat: Suzanne Taylor has felt out of style since she became a teenager and her boyish figure failed to turn into slinky curves
Ask a hundred men to describe the main difference between the sexes, and 95 would probably refer to the contents of women’s bras.
The other five, no doubt, were checking the football scores on their phones and didn’t hear the question.
Heaving bosoms have never gone out of fashion, which means I’ve been hopelessly out of style since my days as a scrawny teenager when, every morning, I would peer down my pyjama top hoping some miracle had occurred overnight and that my boyish figure had disappeared only to be replaced with a sizzling Jessica Rabbit lookalike.
As a fairly swotty child, I achieved a good mix of As and Bs at O-level, but that was precisely the moment when I realised that in the bra department, I would never be anything other than a straight A student (for gentleman readers, that’s the smallest cup size).
It’s safe to say that I have spent most of my adulthood dreaming of having the sort of fabulous curves that scream femininity and send men loopy with lust.
Flat is such a feminist issue. Consider for a moment the very word ‘flat’ and its negative connotations. A few choice phrases spring to mind: the party fell flat, I’m flat broke, I’m feeling a bit flat today. Even ‘flat-packed’ brings on feelings of inadequacy and doom.
So, imagine for a moment what it’s like to be small-busted, to feel a bit flat every day of your life!
The chest is the only area of the body where women desire more fat cells.
And, apparently, so do men, on our behalf. I have yet to see an online dating profile listing ‘flat as a pancake’ as a physical attribute sought after by potential suitors.
You have to learn to be incredibly thick-skinned and self-deprecating to go through life as a woman with a flat chest. Even though I’m in my 40s, I still have to put up with digs at my lack of boobage, as it is referred to among my circle of friends.
Just this summer, on holiday in Portugal and feeling comparatively tanned and attractive, I was swanning around, complaining vaguely about my itchy mosquito bites.
‘You have two more there,’ smirked my girlfriend, motioning to my bra-less T-shirt before bursting into uncontrollable laughter, quickly joined by the rest of my so-called friends.
Straight A student: Suzanne is now proud to be looking perky in a bikini in her 40s
I laughed along with them obligingly, but secretly wondered if they’d have been so mean to me if I had been missing a finger, or had been saddled with particularly voluminous thighs.
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted a bigger chest measurement. But it became a real preoccupation when, aged 21, I witnessed a real-life boob job.
At the time I was working on a health and beauty programme for a television company in the Midlands. The producer and I were researching a segment about breast augmentation so we went along to watch an actual operation.
Having scrubbed up, and feeling like extras from ER, we stood in the operating theatre as some poor, unconscious woman was wheeled in, mouth gaping, her sad flat chest covered in felt-tip pen scribbles.
Drawn this way: The longed-for Jessica Rabbit hourglass shape never materialised for Suzanne
The surgeon breezed in, whisked out his scalpel and pounced. The next thing I knew, the woman — who was now drooling slightly — had a gaping hole under each breast. I took a deep breath as the world started to go a bit spinny.
Next came a tool which looked like a red hot poker. It was thrust inside each breast to cauterise the open wound. A sizzling sound followed, accompanied by a vague odour of barbecued pork, at which point I had to focus hard on a pigeon on the window ledge outside to stop myself from passing out.
In went the silicone implants, followed by a bit of clever stitching. In less than an hour, the comatose woman was wheeled out to recover. She had no idea yet, but she was the proud new owner of the cutest set of boobs I’d ever seen. They weren’t Jordan-esque, just perfect.
Despite the horrors I’d witnessed, I wanted a pair of my own. I started saving, but everywhere I turned, people told me not to go for the operation. ‘Just be you,’ they would say, or ‘You’re beautiful, you don’t need it.’
Of course I was beautiful, every young woman in her 20s is beautiful. So I shelved plans for a bigger bust, spending the cash on sun-drenched holidays and vino instead.
But not having boobs still made me feel very unsexy. On beaches in the Med, I’d cover up — not because I was shy, but because every other girl seemed to have a bigger chest than me and I felt so inadequate.
It took until middle-age to realise thatmy sad little fried eggs do have a flip side and that anyone who has had to whisper ‘A cup’ in a lingerie department will have the upper handeventually
Fitted dresses would hang depressingly from my frame as though I were a ten-year-old girl tottering around in heels and trying to dress up like Mummy. I learned from an early age that strapless dresses, bandeau tops and silky lingerie were not for me.
I remember returning from Ibiza, aged 22, and actually being quite pleased with my holiday snaps. My then-boyfriend’s best friend looked at a picture of me and said: ‘You would look like a model — if you didn’t have such small boobs.’
Unsurprisingly, the compliment element of that passed me by. All I heard was ‘small boobs’, reinforcing the image of myself as a second-rate woman.
Boyfriends have always said they love me as I am. But being female in an image-obsessed world, I’ve always suspected they were possessive control-freaks who like my figure because no other man will look at me with my ironing board profile.
In 1991, the Wonderbra was relaunched into the Western world, and what a revelation that was. Suddenly, I could coax my minuscule boobs into some semblance of a cleavage. However, I did have to pop into the loos every half hour to hoik my little chest back up into a cleavage. I remember, with shame, how, aged around 23, I left a meeting with some cocky, red-braced stockbrokers, then looked down and saw the padded insert from my Wonderbra poking over my top. How long it had been there, I had no idea.
In my early 20s I worked for a red-top newspaper but whenever I was asked what I did for a living, the person quizzing me always answered their own question with: ‘Well, it’s not Page Three, is it’ as everyone fell about laughing. Hilarious. But it took until middle-age to realise that my sad little fried eggs do have a flip side and that anyone who has had to whisper ‘A cup’ in a lingerie department will have the upper hand eventually.
Implanted inspiration: Katie Price-style surgery was not the answer for Suzanne – although she thought long and hard about it
During our 20s and 30s anything above a B cup is a gift, and will be unequivocally loved by the male species. Some men can barely hide their adoration — don’t we all know at least one man who struggles to make eye contact with any female when there are breasts to be ogled
But it is in our 40s that payday comes for the flat-chested girl. This is when all bosoms of consequence go south and suddenly we’re the ones who look perky on holiday.
OK, I still can’t hold a pencil under my boobs but, frankly, unless I’m going on a topless sketching holiday, I can’t see why I’d need to. We ladies in the flat-chested club also escape stretch marks on our breasts as they’ve never expanded beyond our skin’s natural elasticity.
The benefits don’t stop there. We can also go for a run without having to strap ourselves into something resembling a straitjacket. And if we do manage to lure an unsuspecting man into bed, we can lie on our backs, confident our boobs haven’t slipped over the sides like half-set jellies.
OK, I still can’t hold a pencil under myboobs but, frankly, unless I’m going on a topless sketching holiday, I can’t see why I’d need to
Oh yes, your 40s is the decade to get even with those buxom lasses.
Going topless in the Med, we now look toned and sexy because our boobs are not like pendulous weapons of mass destruction. As a buxom friend of mine recently commented: ‘A big bust just becomes a frumpy bosom once you hit 40.’
Most importantly, in the same way tattoos and piercings have become so commonplace they have lost their original edginess, perfect beach-ball breasts no longer impress.
Most people can spot the fakes with a quick scan of the beach. These days nothing’s sexier than the real thing, whatever the proportions. Most men would always prefer a wet-haired, fresh-faced, real woman stepping out of the shower over a perma-tanned body caked in make-up and stuffed with artificial ingredients.
I am relieved (and rather proud) I never succumbed to vanity and that I am not now sporting a pair of surgically enhanced beauties.
The jibes, however, will continue until I’m well into my dotage.
Only last week a male colleague said he had a joke to tell me that was so funny I would laugh until my boobs fell off. He then looked at me dead-pan and said: ‘But I see you’ve already heard it.’