My Battle with Man-Titties: One Man's Quest to Curb His Cup Size by Nathan Graziano

 My battle with man-titties began in 2003, shortly after my daughter was born.

My wife and I had just finished taking her new IUD for a test spin, and I was completely nude, which was strange for me, seeing nakedness—especially my own—terrifies me, so I try to stay clothed as often as possible. With my back to my wife, in a reversal of post-coital spoon roles, she draped her arm around me and cupped my chest.

I shrieked. “What did you just do?”

“What do you mean?  I was just touching you,” she said, nestling her face into the back of my neck.

“You grabbed something.”

“What?”

“What did you grab?” I sat up and flicked on the lamp on the nightstand. Feeling filthy and violated, I reached for a t-shirt on the floor and covered my chest.

My wife pulled a pillow over her eyes. “What’s wrong with you now?”

“You just grabbed my boob.”

“Turn off the light and go to sleep,” she said. “I promise I won’t touch you again.”

“No,” I wailed, “you don’t understand. I’ve grown man-titties! Oh my God! Man-titties!” I snapped off the light and flung myself dramatically onto my back. Then I began to sob. I knew I had gained some sympathetic pregnancy weight, something I’d have to address, but I had no idea it had gotten so out of hand.

“It isn’t that bad,” my wife said. “You don’t have breasts.” I knew it was lie by the way her voice hiccupped on bad. While it was a kind and noble attempt to soothe me, she couldn’t quite conceal her disappointment with the pile of weeping neuroses who had manacled her “till death do [us] part.”

“This is worse than bad,” I said sharply, curling into a fetal position at the corner of the bed, squeezing my breasts.  “This is devastating.” 


Like most heterosexual males, I love breasts—on women. As my friend Daniel Crocker wrote in an ode to the female breast—and I’m paraphrasing him here—I love small teardrop-shaped breasts, and I love large, pendulous breasts. I love medium-sized breasts and bras, young and old breasts, real and augmented breasts. I love them all. And, as Crocker writes, “Even the most dilapidated titty/ is better than a poke in the eye.”

I do not, however, like breasts—or fat in general—on me.

Now I’ll admit to having an unhealthy aversion to fat on my body, and perhaps, I have a distorted self-image because of it. I’ve always had a propensity to put on weight easily, so I tip-toe through my life in fear of awakening the fat inside of me. While I’m consumed by vanity, at the time when I first noticed the growth of my man-titties, it was a conditional vanity. Although the concept of fat terrified me, this terror was complicated—more accurately, contradicted—by the fact that I did nothing to prevent fatness. In fact, I did the opposite: I drank excessively, ate fattening processed foods, and slept after large meals like a plump nursing child.

Upon first discovering my man-titties, I began jogging regularly and adopted my wife’s hippy bird-food diet—she’s a rail, so I figured it must work. In a year or so, I was able to reduce my cup-size from a solid-B to a small-A.

Then, without my knowing, they returned last fall.

In November, at a doctor’s visit—as a hypochondriac, and with the help WebMD, I self-diagnose a new fatal disease weekly—the nurse asked me to step on the scale before going into the examining room to see if I, indeed, had Lupus. It’s routine to check my weight, along with taking my blood pressure and pulse, to assure there are no radical weight gains or losses, a potential symptom of something serious. Due to the weight check, I refuse to eat the day of a visit, thinking I might suck a few pounds and feel better about myself.

So I stripped off my shoes and sweatshirt—although I still added five pounds in clothing weight—and gingerly stepped on the scale, watching as the nurse ominously continued to slide the lever to the right then heaved the next lever over as well, a cha-chunk sound that echoed throughout the office. When she finally stopped, the whole horrible truth was revealed.

Somehow, despite the fact that I was exercising regularly, I was back to my sympathetic pregnancy weight. Thus, I reasoned, the man-titties had returned as well. 


Fatness has not always been an obsession for me. A little over decade ago, I wrestled at a lean one-hundred and sixty pounds. I was a trim, fit profile of the human form—a young man plucked from a Whitman poem.

Then something happened: college.

After joining a fraternity, I ballooned my way toward the Mendoza Line—for those who aren’t up on baseball terminology that’s two-hundred, named after Mario Mendoza, a journeyman ballplayer whose career batting average hovered around .200—for the first time.  By the time I graduated, I was toeing The Mendoza Line but I wasn’t quite there—yet.

In my lifetime, I have reached The Mendoza Line twice. The first time was when my wife groped me in 2003, and the second was last fall’s debacle at the doctor’s office (I don’t have Lupus, by the way).

If you’ll allow me to digress, along with my obsession over The Mendoza Line and man-titties, I have another obsession that is almost as consuming.

Long before The Mendoza Line, and before my budding man-breasts appeared, I was a sufferer of FFS, or Fat Face Syndrome. As far as I know, I was the first person to identify FFS as a disease. I coined the term following an unfortunate incident involving myself and a wedding photo. The remarkable thing about getting fat, I’ve found, is that most people have no idea how fat they’ve become until confronted by a photograph, until the empirical evidence is there and incontrovertible and in front of them. One day you see yourself in a photograph and say, “Holy crap, I got fat!” While certainly digital photos have made denial easier by allowing you to delete the picture or remove your tag on Facebook from offending photos, still, in your heart of hearts, you know you saw it. You know the truth.

Yes, there will be people in your life who offer hollow solace—like my rail-thin wife—by saying things like “Oh, it’s just a bad picture” or “The camera adds ten pounds.”

But that’s skinny-talk.

According to my own definition, FFS is identified by the following symptoms: an unnatural width in the face from cheekbone to cheekbone; a lack of a definable profile due to excessive flab under the jawbone; additional chins; and the appearance of what I’ve labeled “the jellyroll,” or a thin roll of fat that circumnavigates the neck. In the offending photo, which was a candid taken at a wedding, my face was wider than an industrial skillet, and with my head turned at a slight angle, my profile looked like a bullfrog’s.

Since early-adulthood, I’ve being growing facial hair as a means of diverting attention away from my FFS; however, each time I trim my goatee, the true Kurtzian “horror” rears its ugly head. Therefore, these days, in order to avoid FFS in photos, before a picture is snapped, I try to stretch my neck and point my chin slightly upwards. If I’m fairly warned before a picture is taken, I’ll also try to discreetly suck in my cheeks.

I’ve also found that cell phone and digital cameras are helpful in treating my FFS because it allows me to photograph myself an unlimited amount of times and keep deleting the pictures until I have one where I’ve managed to mitigate the FFS. It usually takes somewhere between twenty and seventy-five photos to get a good one.

But this is not about my FFS—see how easily I’m derailed when I get worked up—this is about the abominable growth of my man-titties in winter of 2003, there re-emergence last fall, and my ongoing battle to obliterate them.

***

When you’re fighting to get rid of man-titties, holidays are a bad time of the year. First, the amount of food I generally consume from Thanksgiving to Christmas, alone, could potentially crank up my man-titties by a cup-size. Then there’s the second predicament, which has to do with the photos and videos taken at holiday gatherings. While I’ve come to expect some level of FFS in candid photos—I hate it when I don’t have enough time to stretch my neck and suck in my cheeks—I was not prepared for what would happen last Christmas.

About a month after my doctor’s visit to check for Lupus, my wife and I hosted a Christmas Eve party at our house. After opening presents, my daughter, who is now nine years old, wanted to perform a couple of songs—“Jingle Bell Rock” and one she wrote herself. It was cute and sweet, and I’m telling you, the girl can already write some formidable lyrics. The problem wasn’t her. It was the fact that I’m her guitarist; therefore, I would be in the front of the room performing with her while family snapped photos and took videos.

Now, I’m not a musician. I basically recycle and re-arrange chord patterns from Neil Young songs and let my daughter do her thing. But that is beside the point. The problem arose when my father and my father-in-law decided to videotape my daughter’s songs. Then, after she finished, she wanted to watch it, to critique her performance, so we gathered around the computer for a viewing.

In the foreground, my darling daughter—who is rail-thin, like her mother—sang her lungs out, and behind her, in a kitchen chair, sat a blob with an acoustic guitar. While it would be reasonable to surmise that was either BB King, or the late-John Candy playing that guitar, it wasn’t. It was me, and not only was the FFS in full effect—exacerbated by a bevy of stupid faces I made while playing—but my man-titties were all but falling out of my shirt. I looked like a plain-clothed Santa Claus strumming a Christmas song.

This was the proverbial last straw.


While Christmas is a terrible time for man-titties, the New Year—and all of its resolutions and new beginnings—gave me the fortitude to fight my man-titties, once and for all. My battle to obliterate my boobs began with an application on my Android called MyFitnessPal. The application had me put in my current weight, which at the time was at The Mendoza Line, and then it had me enter my desired weight, which put in as 135 lbs. My wife thought that 65 lbs. was a little unreasonable, so I modified it—slightly.

I wanted my man-titties gone!

Over the next four months, I tracked my every meal and became vigilant of the number of calories I was taking in, as well as the numbers of calories I burned from jogging and doing my wife’s yoga videos. In April, I went back to the doctor’s office to have some staples removed from my head—another story entirely—and I knew my day of reckoning had arrived. I do not, for obvious reasons, keep a scale at home, so this was it.

The nurse asked me to step on the scale. After taking off my shoes, I closed my eyes and remembered the advice from the 1985 Matthew Modine movie Vision Quest: “Think light.”

I didn’t look at the scale. I didn’t want to know. I got off it and went into the examining room.

Poker-faced, the nurse took my vitals then started entering the information into the computer. “Have you been feeling all right?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said. “Why?”

“You lost a ton of weight,” she said, but to my ears, it was as if she sang it in sweet, dulcet operatic voice. “You lost 17 lbs.”

Seventeen pounds of straight-up titty gone!

I cupped my shrunken chest and blinked back tears. “No,” I said, my voice cracking, “I’ve been on a diet.”

I haven’t been using MyFitnessPal as much as I should during the summer months, so I’m still not ready to burn my bras. That type of hubris can come back to bite me. It’s important for me to remember that I will always be a few steak and cheese subs away from another grope, a quick squeeze, a snicker.


Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. He is the author of three collections of poetry—Not So Profound (Green Bean Press, 2003), Teaching Metaphors(Sunnyoutside Press, 2007) and After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009)—a collection of short stories, Frostbite (GBP, 2002), and several chapbooks of fiction and poetry. He has an MFA in fiction writing from The University of New Hampshire and teaches high school. A chapbook of short prose pieces titled Hangover Breakfasts will be published by Bottle of Smoke Press this summer. For more information, visit his website at www.nathangraziano.com