I WAS WALKING in a friend’s house with my shirt off. It was early 2007 , less than a year after graduating high school. My friend pointed at my chest and said, “hey, you have a man boob.”
I stared at my swollen left pec. It was true. I screamed at the monstrosity that was part of my chest while he laughed.
Fair enough. I’d screamed like a girl with a sore throat.
And once I’d seen the boob I couldn’t ignore it. It ached. It hurt. I couldn’t mark a football without me clenching my teeth.
I began to hate boobs. Overrated, I say.
The condition is Gynecomastia. I went to the doctor to see what we could do about Bob. One bo
ob. Get it? Doctors would hear about my symptoms and say, rather bored, “It’s quite common among men. Lift up your shirt.” I would take a seat and remove my shirt. Then they’d see the boob and poke at it, disbelieved. “It is massive, isn’t it?”
It was normal size for a fat man. But it was attached to a young man who barely weighed 67 kilograms.
And the doctors hinted their accusations. “Sometimes cannabis causes this.”
I didn’t take pot. Why did everyone believe I was on the wacky-weed?
I didn’t drink back then.
“Do you have private health?”
“Ooh boy. Well, we’ll put you on the waiting list.”
I’d been on the list about a year when I moved to Melbourne. When you’re a zealous Christian teenager and you aren’t cured through your doctor, then you focus on prayer. I always walked to the front of the church every Sunday to have someone’s hand laid on my chest in the hopes that the fat would disappear somewhere. Their hands would burn – even tingle, I’m not bullshitting.
But burns did nothing. I used to mutter to myself at night KNOWING Bob would disappear the next morning because believing with no doubt in what God would do only made it so. Or so was my logic.
I was embarrassed to take my shirt off through my late teen years. I went swimming with my shirt on at parties and walk out with my hands wrapped around my chest.
I dreaded the pool parties. I went to the 18th of a girl I liked. It was Hawaiian theme which meant I couldn’t wear a jacket. After careful thought I wore my white shirt, kept a folded towel down the left side of my body, and pretended I had something better to do than swim.
Yes, a shirt wasn’t enough. In all seasons of humid Queensland weather I would wear baggy jackets or jumpers to uni to cover my man boob. I was scared thin material of a shirt couldn’t disguise it. I slouched. And when anyone touched me near the chest I flinched.
Dating in uni when you had a man boob? Sure, being 19 or 20 living two hours from your uni when you had no money was obstacle enough.
One time in Melbourne a strange woman was in the Order 614 kitchen (sort of like a soup kitchen for those who haven’t followed this blog). I walked into the kitchen as she was being asked to leave.
Before she passed me she stopped and stroked her hand down my chest.
She’d felt me up. And in doing so felt my boobie. She gaped at me. Served her right. She strode out without another word while the others laughed. They did not understand the real situation.
In June 2009 the Order members went on a retreat for a few days. We were supposed to go on a bonding camp in February but the black Saturday bushfires burnt out our camping ground. So it was delayed to June.
The retreat followed one of the tougher times of the year. The Red Shield Appeal and the long hours that came with it was finished with. The retreat was one of the happiest times during the year for all of us.
Except for MF. She missed out because she hit her head on the wooden cross kept in the church and needed stitches at the hospital.
That first night most of us went in the heated spa. It was a winter night in Geelong. The pool was freezing. But one of the idiots jumped in anyway. I can’t remember who.
I stayed in the water a few minutes before crawling up the side and into the spa with the others.
When a gathering of young adults of mixed gender share a spa there is the urge for games such as truth or dare. Heated water seems to make us relax. It was a time we learnt more about each others sexual histories.
That’s when I took my shirt off and showed them my boob. It seems silly I could be embarrassed about it. Their reaction was not what I expected.
“Can I touch it?” one of the girls said. And when I let her, she laughed and said “wow, it’s so perky. I wish mine were like that.”
I was grateful for her risque compliment.
It’s just one lump of flesh and somehow knowing my friends knew made the difference. They didn’t care. They never thought less of me. Coincidentally, this was the time I opened up more to them. Before that I kept closed about anything from the heart.
God didn’t heal my boob. It feels like blasphemy writing this. It sounds accusing. It’s not. It’s a fact with no religious ideologies seeking an explanation.
I suppose letting my friends know, the “it’s so perky”, played a big part in trivialising Bob the boob. I joined the world of stand-up comedy a year after I finished the Order. My fashion was still baggy jackets but at least I was in the spotlight. I stopped letting the boob interfere with my persona.
I suppose performing stand-up comedy was my way to become somebody else, my way of fighting a lack of confidence. I could influence a room of people with words and not by the shape of my body. After 100 gigs I forgot about my boob. My audience cared if I was funny.
In 2013 (five years after I first noticed) I received surgery in Bunbury Hospital, WA. The surgeon left a curved scar line under my nipple.
Bob was dead. It is strange how much this has changed me, but not necessarily in a good way.