Back in high school, a friend painted a portrait of me for her art class. It was based on a photo she had taken of me where I’m dramatically posed with my arms flung outward. The portrait was hung on a wall in our high school, along with other paintings by her fellow students in A.P. Studio Art. She was a pretty good artist, and I thought it looked like me, but the girl in the portrait had rosier cheeks and slightly rounder facial features. On one side of the portrait was a card that said the name of the artist, and on the other side, a card read, “Portrait of DeeDee.”
After the portrait went up (I didn’t really mind, because it didn’t look too much like me, and anyway, I came out looking okay), I asked another friend — “Mitch” — what he thought of my portrait. Did he think it looked like me? He replied that as soon as he saw that my friend had painted it, he immediately knew it was me because he recognized the nipple that was poking through my shirt.
A point of clarification: Mitch had never seen me topless, nor had he ever felt my breasts, so he shouldn’t have been too familiar with my boobs, but I guess, unbeknownst to me, he stared at them a lot.
I was kind of weirded out that he was so familiar with my nipples. I also feared that after realizing that it was a portrait of me, horny teenage boys would point and nudge, and bitchy (and perhaps jealous) teenage girls would poke fun at my exhibitionism. In a very watered-down way, it was the equivalent of showing up to school naked.
Because Mitch was really a generally freaky person to begin with, I decided to try out someone else. “Kevin,” I asked, “did you notice the portrait Michelle painted of me hanging in the corridor, the one where I’m posed like this,” flinging out my arms to demonstrate.
“Uh, yeah, I think so.”
“Could you tell it was me, because Mitch said he was able to recognize it based on something really weird. . . . It’s kind of embarrassing. Never mind, I shouldn’t tell you.”
“Did he mean your breast?”
In fairness, I basically led Kevin to the right answer, and he didn’t really even give the right answer anyway. But, still, it got me thinking. Do all nipples have a distinct shape such that they can be used as a means of identification, or are mine just particularly distinctive? In a criminal trial, could the key witness say, “I recognize the defendant by her nipple?” Or is the point of the story that Mitch, and all teenage guys, are really just a bunch of horny freaks?