Listen to this essay read by the author.
When I’m ten or so, my brother appears shirtless at the dinner table. Ever the eager disciple, I follow his example without a second thought. It is a sweltering January day, and our bodies are salt-crusted from the beach. Clothing seems cruel in these conditions.
As my brother tucks into his schnitzel, tanned chest gleaming, I grow conscious that the mood has become strained. Across the table, my parents exchange glances. The midsummer cheer of recent evenings is on hold.
I look down. Two small nubs peak from my ribcage, barely the beginnings of breasts. My torso is white and soft, a reptile’s underbelly to my brother’s hard brown exoskeleton. I realise: this chest of mine does not belong in public. It is somehow obscene, something to be hidden rather than flaunted. My brother and I differ in this crucial respect.
Excusing myself, I flee upstairs and don a T-shirt. Back at the table, there is a palpable sense of relief. Chatter resumes. All is well with the world.