- denoting or exemplifying an ostentatious or flamboyant lifestyle or style of clothing of a type associated with the hip-hop subculture.
The cap was my last birthday present from Dee. She once called my style, our style, Ghetto Fabulous. I’ve got kicks in every colour: bright red, pure white-as-the-driven-snow, gold, jet-black. I’ve even got a pair of yellow ones that glow in the dark. I call them my sunshine shoes. I fucking love them. Dad got me all of those back when I was good.
I may not be much of a girly girl, but I love me some accessories. I’ve got big gold hoops for each day of the week. I’ve got gold rings on almost every finger. I mostly wear tracksuit bottoms or jeans. And hoodies. Always hoodies.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like hoodies and everything, but I have to wear them, and they have to be large. I’m gonna tell you why, but you can’t tell anyone.
It’s because of my tits. To be honest, they’re fucking huge. I’m not exaggerating. And trust me, I’m not boasting either.
Everything was fine until these big knockers came along. As a kid, I was always running around, always climbing stuff, playing with the boys. I guess I was kind of a tomboy, really. I’d always be coming home with battle scars, and I’d talk Dad through the story behind each one. I’d been the first to stand up on my skateboard as we raced down this almost vertical road. I’d gotten to the top rung of the climbing frame and deposed the kid at the top who lobbed stones at any other kid trying to climb it. I’d smashed a boy’s conker to bits, even when he was just trying to smack my hand so I’d give up. And he’d listen, really listen, his blue eyes serene with approval, looking right at me.
But then, when I turned 10 (10!) these fucking things appeared. Like, years before anyone else. Now I’m fourteen and most girls my age now barely have any tits. But at the age of 10, things changed for me. When someone tackled me, it would hurt. If something got knocked against me, it would sting something awful. One of the boys I’d terrorised for ages realised and started trying to lob the ball at my chest when we played basketball. I told him that if he ever did that a-fucking-gain I’d tell his mum all about the porn he’d been watching on his phone, and while I was at it, all the porn his dad had been watching on the laptop in their study (didn’t clear his search history, silly man). The boy started begging and pleading, so that put a stop to that. But it’s true that I stopped playing as much sport, even though I really like it. And even though I was bigger than all the boys, I realised then that I was gonna have to assert myself some other way. And seeing that boy there, begging, offering me all kinds of things, I thought, well yeah. This was gonna have to be the way for me. Just like my dad said. It’s all about saying the right words at the right time. Learn them. Store them. Refine them. Sharpen them. He was right; my deadliest weapon is my tongue, so I’d better learn how to use it.
But words proved ineffective on the fleshy reality of my ever-growing tits. At night, I prayed. I don’t believe in God or anything, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Please, I’d say. Please take them away. I’ll do anything.
But there is no God, or if there is he already knew what a bad girl I really am because they kept getting bigger. I got backache. They bounced when I ran. They floated in water like two fat life rings with no hole in the middle. Small objects started orbiting them.
The worst thing was people noticing. Boys started nudging each other, talking in undertones. Even non-contact sport got ruined. When I ran anywhere now, they weren’t trying to keep up with me, they just stood watching the bouncing orbs, transfixed. They didn’t even care when I won.
Boys my age weren’t the main problem though. It was the men, the older men.
I mean, it happens to everyone. All the girls, I mean. It’s normal. It’s just … maybe it started happening to me a bit sooner?
You know what I mean. The usual. Like, you’re on the bus in London, and it’s rush-hour and you’re coming home from school and the bus is packed, of course, and you’re standing there, holding the rail and sort of jolting every time the bus moves and everyone’s ignoring each other because it’s London, even though you’re in one guy’s armpit and you’re smashed against someone else’s back. But we’re all pretending that no one else is there, of course, because those are the rules.
Except then you feel someone standing behind you, too close to you. When the bus rocks, he knocks into you, even though it didn’t rock that hard. And it’s funny how you just know, because everybody’s all pressed up against everybody else, but something about that touch is different, y’know? It’s got this dark fizz to it. The warmth of his forearm on yours, just for a second. A nasty fevered heat. And your cheeks burn and you wanna get away from him but you can’t so you just play this game of inching away from him in the tiny available spaces, and he inches after you and when you look up to find him still there he smiles at you and it’s a hungry, intense, meaningful smile that doesn’t want to be ignored, even though you look dead-eyed out the window and count the houses until the next stop.
Or like you’re walking past the offie and there’s a cute Labrador tied to a lamppost and he jumps and you bend down to pat him and you’re talking doggy talk to him when you feel your skin prickling and you look up to see a man standing right there, looking down your top, and you stand up quickly, angry with yourself for bending over and he says, still looking at your chest, Do you like dogs? and you’re like, Yeah, crossing your arms and looking away and he says, I’ve got all these puppies at home, you should come take a look, and you say, I’ve got to get home, and he says, Come on it won’t take long, you can see my house from here, and although it’s a different guy it’s the same hungry fevered look and the same skin-crawling feeling when he’s doing his X-ray eyes on you and it’s not even cold but you suddenly need way more layers.
So, you do what any girl would do.
On the bus, you wait till the next stop. I mean, you’ll have to walk from here, but who cares? And just as the bus is slowing down, and you can feel his hot stale breath pooling in the place behind your ear, it judders and you fall to the side, bring your knee up sharp and watch him fold. And you say, Perv! loud, so loud everyone can hear it, and you get off the bus and everyone is staring silently at him and suddenly there’s a big space around him and the bus driver says, Are you alright, love? as you get off and you don’t say anything, but you give the perv the finger through the window as the bus rolls off.
And you ask the man with the dog exactly which house because you might come later on and he writes it down, all eager with shaking hands, and he says you can bring a friend if you like and then you go get Dee and go to the park and get a few prezzies from the dog shit bin and then you creep onto his doorstep together and unwrap them as quietly as you can without touching them and you’re trying not to laugh too loudly and then you ring the doorbell and run and hide so you can see the expression on his face when he answers the door. Dee films it and puts it online so everyone from your school knows what the perv looks like.
You know, what any girl would do.
And yeah, okay. I got an attitude to match. But trust me, nice girls get eaten alive out there. They just keep smiling and it makes it worse and then they can say, Oh well, she was asking for it.
So now I just wear oversized hoodies, so people don’t notice. The only person I’d let see me in like a tank top was Dee. We’d sit in her attic room, on her bed, listening to music, smoking out the window in the sloping ceiling. She’d wear these cute little lycra bralettes in, like, bright shiny pink or blue, no underwire or nothing. She’d just pad around her room in them and a pair of jeans with her flat stomach and flat chest like it was no thing. Fuck, how I wish I could do that. She’d laugh when I’d say that.
I remember last year, after the bus incident, we got back to hers and were decompressing. She looked at me sideways through her curtain of red-brown hair and said, ‘You know, most girls’d kill for what you’ve got.’ She blew a long plume of smoke out the window.
‘You can have them.’
‘Seriously! I’d love to have big titties!’
I was getting a bit giggly. ‘Titties,’ I repeated.
‘Jugs,’ she said.
‘Knockers,’ I said.
‘Chesticles,’ she said.
‘Shoulder boulders,’ I said.
‘That’s not a thing,’ she said.
‘It is now,’ I said.
‘Fine,’ she said, ‘Traffic stoppers.’
‘Smother brothers,’ I said. She was laughing now. ‘You’ve got nothing,’ I said.
‘Wait, wait, you’re making me laugh …’
‘Bongos,’ I said. Her whole body was shaking. ‘Lady bubbles. Bouncy castles!’ I said, and she laughed so hard she fell off the bed. ‘Are you okay?’ I crawled to the edge, peering down at her with my small, stoned eyes. She was seized up, in a foetal position on the floor, laughing silently. She managed to whisper, ‘Bouncy castles,’ before contracting in a shaky ball of giggles.
‘I win!’ I said, sitting up on my knees on the bed, unsteadily, raising my hands in fists above my head. ‘I win!’
And it helped, it really did, and me and Dee laughed hysterically for a long, long time, until my stomach hurt, until we couldn’t breathe. But when I got home, I could still feel the man’s touch burning on my arm, on my back, behind my ear, the burn of his eyes like a rash on my chest. And I got in the shower and scrubbed and scrubbed, but I couldn’t ever quite get it off because it was like I was connected with him now in a way I never wanted to be.
So. Ghetto Fabulous looks great and all, but it has a purpose, y’know? I mean, it’s armour. Every time I’d leave the house, I’d ante up, I’d put my oversized hoodie and my trackies on and they’d be loose to hide my shape, and the colours would be grey and black and navy, the colours of the city, so we’d blend into the concrete, the grey sky, into the pollution and filth, like two urban chameleons. And the jewellery isn’t to make me look pretty, it’s sharp and bright and big and it says Try it, just try it. See what happens. The neon oranges and yellows and reds, those colours pop like the skins of poisoned berries, of forbidden fruit, and they say Stay away. Don’t touch. We would walk down the crowded, dirty streets of London like two warrior princesses, and we were ready. And in a city stuffed with people, suddenly, wherever we went, we had space.