Hello Everyone! Today marks the first of three guest posts this week, all by men. I guess you could sing “It’s blogging men!” Yes, I am a sucker for bad jokes. Anyway, today’s post is from a client suffering from gynecomastia who wrote a lovely article about his experience growing up as well as what to expect if you shop with us. I always mention how we are an open, judgement free space, but sometimes it’s good to hear about it directly from a client. As a side note, now that I am back to work full-time and catching up on the myriad of projects on my “To Do” list, I want to announce I have plans to create a specific section for men in our Bra Naked Truth series! The articles will feature practical advice on bra fitting tailored to male clients and based on several years worth of experience and feedback. I’m very excited to start writing it and filming the accompanying videos because I think they will be more helpful for men than the female-centric articles we currently have available. Truthfully, I’ll be rewriting the original articles too as well as incorporating advice for trans and nonbinary people. This is just one of the many projects on the horizon for our shop and part of my plan to continue making the store a safe, inclusive space for everyone.
Gynecomastia and the Fitting
I was the typical boy growing up. And now, the typical man. Except for one thing. When I hit puberty, something happened. When I was about 14 I started budding. By 15, I was being “teased” about my chest from other kids. At 16, contact sports were horror shows, with me as the star, being picked for the skins team and then during contact play being groped and just inappropriately touched. By 17, I had stopped playing sports altogether and did everything I could to not have to participate in Physical Ed in school. And if I went into the water, I always wore a shirt to hide my chest. College wasn’t that much better. A recurring theme throughout those years were the nasty chorus of “What size bra do you wear?” or “You need to get a bra.” and other even more vile things I can’t repeat here. I was well into my early 20’s before I stopped developing. Dating was difficult but I did eventually find a loving lady who loves me and doesn’t care about my chest. Later I found out what caused my breasts. I had gynecomastia or female like breast development.
But even in adulthood the struggle continues. Some males and even females too, think my chest is open season doing everything from commenting to inappropriate touching to downright groping. As you can imagine, the shame, embarrassment and declining body image over my chest has festered for years.
I don’t know why I was endowed with a chest. For some reason my body has had a lifelong hormonal war between estrogen and testosterone where at times, estrogen has won. Not enough estrogen to cause dramatic physical change mind you, but just enough to cause problems like develop a chest and keep my voice slightly higher where some people would mistake me for a woman if they could not see me. Other than these obvious symptoms, I am just like any other male. This has left me introverted and shy and always protecting my chest and trying to hide my D+ sized breasts with over-sized shirts and trying to stay under the radar.
But then a fungal rash developed on my chest. The doctor suggested wearing a bra to support my bust and help keep it from rubbing. Wow. Just wow. Had to let that one sink in for a while.
I eventually searched the Internet about men wearing chest support, and then coming across the website The Breast Life by Elisabeth Dale. In a post she was explaining why men wore bras and defending men who wore bras due to a developed chest. One of the people she quoted in the article was Erica of A Sophisticated Pair. Erica talked about how she helped gynecomastia customers find the right bra. Later, I came across a podcast with Erica talking bra fitting. Both times she was very open and outspoken about helping women, and men, find what works for them. Both opened my eyes to a world only I thought I existed in.
After all the research, I finally went to Walmart and just picked out some bras I thought that might work and got out as fast as I could. I never tried them on at the store or asked for help because I was just too afraid of what someone would say or do or worse; recognize me. Most of the bras I bought just didn’t work for me. Eventually I got tired of cheap bras that didn’t fit or didn’t last and I decided that I needed to just go get a real bra fitting and stop messing around. But the old feelings of shame and embarrassment were very strong. I really didn’t want to have to ask a woman could they help me find a bra. That just seemed too weird. And why would they? What would they be thinking my motives were? But then I had never heard of a male bra fitter. I was just going to have to suck up my pride and try and find a fitter that would agree to fit me.
Then I remembered Erica from the Elisabeth Dale post. But not being exactly local to Erica, I had not really considered going to see her. I went to the website, and I read her blog. Within the blog posts it was obvious Erica walked the walk. If you had breasts, woman or man, she felt she could help. I hadn’t seen anything like that anywhere locally. While A Sophisticated Pair is not close-by, it would be a reasonable drive. So, I began to consider going to see her for a fitting.
I finally called to see if Erica would be interested in setting an appointment. Erica herself answered the phone and immediately made me feel comfortable. I explained what I wanted and a date and time for an after-hours private fitting was set. At the fitting, Erica made sure I was comfortable with what she was doing and why she was doing it and she asked me questions that were relevant to me. She showed me bras I would have never thought of trying myself and explained why this particular style or this material or manufacturer would work or not work for me in a very honest and straight forward manner. I was just another customer. Nothing special. Nothing different. And to my amazement, the bras were comfortable, fit me and offered great support without making me look ridiculous. Or breaking the bank.
Did I have what I needed for support? Was it comfortable? Did I look appropriate? Yes, she was concerned about how I looked in a bra. As I looked in the mirror I couldn’t believe how well I looked. Yes, I do have breasts. They do need supporting. I can’t get away from that. But I don’t have to look stupid or inappropriate doing it. She got it. She knew how to make it work. And I was a person. I was more than just a sale or worse, a punch line.
I admit I went to Erica’s shop a little ashamed, embarrassed and somewhat intimidated. But because of her kindness, understanding, compassion to help and a seemingly endless knowledge of bras, I left with a renewed self-confidence and body image. But the biggest thing is, Erica treated me with respect and she welcomed me. I wasn’t some kind of interloper intruding on the “inter-sanctum” of womanhood. There was no judgement about me. I was just a person with a need. And she helped. And that is all I was asking. Nothing more. A simple thank you doesn’t seem right though. But that I is all I got. Thank you, Erica.