The first rule of man boobs: Don’t talk about the man boobs. Following that: Don’t touch the man boobs. And like a lackey on a Nicholas Cage set, do not look the man boobs in the eye. Errr, nipple.
In my decade and a half experience negotiating male bodies, I have seen some things. Male genitalia obviously comes in all shapes, sizes and easterly orientations. Y chromosomes often cause their carrier vessels to have hair in the strangest of places (and shapes).
But what I had never encountered until age 31 was the man boob — until recently. I may be an anomaly. None of my friends were shocked when I told them I chanced upon a man with breasts. There is even a slang for them. The gays apparently call them “moobs.” Of course in that community, they are shunned and sentenced to the David Barton Gym for immediate alteration. Doctors, I have been told, refer to it as gynecomastia. It’s the abnormal development of larger than normal mammary glands in men resulting in the appearance of breasts. The terms literally comes from the Greek, gyne, meaning woman, and mastos, meaning breasts: men with lady breasts. It often happens when men past 30 let themselves go. Meaning it often happens to men past 30.
My first man boobs came attached with a surreptitious spare tire. I didn’t think things were terribly off when he kept his shirt on the first couple of times we rolled about in bed together. He wore a shirt and nothing else. It was like Elliot Spitzer in reverse.
Now, I’m not sizist. I’m cool with a little fat. David Beckham might be delightful to look at in all his man muscle-y glory on a 30-foot billboard, but women have enough insecurities about our own bodies and sex to be faced with perfection when we’re trying to have an orgasm.
After several sleepovers, in an attempt to ease any insecurities he might have had about his body, I took the initiative and removed his shirt.
And then there were breasts in my face.
Large, downy, pillowy, slightly-larger-than-my-own-B-cup-but-a-tad-saggier-breasts were in my face. The nipples were puffy with a dome-shaped areola, also slightly larger than my own. In between those blouse brothers was a tiny tuft of hair — the only reminder that this was a boy chest.
My breath caught for a moment in my throat. I had to remind myself to continue doing the things we had been doing the way they had been done. I closed my eyes and turned my gurgle of awe into a “mmmmmm” of delight. I bit my tongue, until it bled a little.
I really wanted to touch one. But how? How do you negotiate a man’s breasts? Like any red-blooded heterosexual girl, I’m into boobs. I’ve never been a fan of vaginas, even my own, but boobs are fun for everyone! My gay best friend will motor-boat me each and every time he has more than three glasses of chardonnay. I touch my friends’ breasts with regularity and in public.
But a man with breasts is different. They shouldn’t be there. You can’t stroke his chest, exactly, because you would have to run your hands up and over those mounds of flesh. To get into it you have to employ the cup and squeeze and without permission that seems quite rude. There can be no southward action of your mouth along his chest lest you end up accidentally suckling. Awkward! So I had no choice but to declare the region between this man’s shoulders and waist a dead zone. It was my North Korea. We would not negotiate.
And then I did. It didn’t happen during any kind of sexual act, but rather in a kind of post-coital embrace where I was big spoon. Proper hand position for spooning a man in my book has always been one arm near the belly and the other on the chest. To avoid the chesticles I reached higher putting him in a near strangle hold. I became less cautious as I drifted off to sleep and my hands roamed downwards. My somnolent self gently cupped one of his breasts, then the other. It felt nice. So soft and vulnerable. I squeezed. He moved. He cringed and gulped. I got to second base and things got weird. I pulled a cough and roll, dislodging myself entirely from his body without consequence. He did the requisite yawn. He rolled. Big spoon became little spoon. We pretended it never happened.
He was never really comfortable naked around me after that. There was a quiet return to T-shirts. Had things continued beyond our run of a couple months, maybe we would have gotten into running or yoga or kickboxing together. Doctors say that the condition lessens with weight loss.
The man boobs didn’t bother me as much as they intrigued me. I don’t know if I will encounter another pair again and if I do, I still don’t know if I will be ready to negotiate. I will just follow the rules.