The following is a "girls only" post; we'll have something for you later, guys!
Breasts, boobs, boobies, knockers, ta-tas, bosom, bozooms, ninnies, lungs, chest, jugs, bazoombas, etc., etc., etc.
As Yul Brenner said in the musical play “The King and I,” “Is a puzzlement.” Why do we have so many names for this portion of female anatomy? Do men prefer large breasts? Why do we use of these same terms when speaking of idiots? Is it societal pressure that causes sensible women to “enhance” their attributes? And, most importantly, what don’t I have big ones?
Okay, why do we have so many pseudonyms for these protuberances? Dr. Jackie Boles, Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University in Atlanta said, “Generally anthropologists have found that a culture has a lot of words for things that are important and few for those that aren’t.” If this is true, these outstanding female appendages must be intensely important to our culture.
GENTLEMEN PREFER BOOBS
Now, I’m not saying all men idolize enormous breasts. Obviously not – or many of us would have remained unmarried and virginal. And it’s not just a matter of some poor guys “making do” when all the C and D cup women are taken. My own husband said, upon intense questioning, “Oversized breasts are no more sexually appealing to me than oversized earlobes.” Is he sincere? Of course. Do I believe him? Of course. He married me, didn’t he? Isn’t that uplifting for those of us with a paucity in our statistics?
Still, I observe that “built” women command attention. Be it bikini-clad beauties on the beach or stylish ladies swathed in silk, let a D-cup appear and all male eyes go “boing!” These eyes are, as my father used to say, “run out on stems.”
“The female body,” Dr. Boling explained, “is shaped to act as a stimulant to men, both coming and going. That is, large breasts and rear ends attract men.”
I have personal experience in this realm. While nursing my daughter, my cup runneth over. Many people, from my father-in-law to my nieces, complimented me. My step-sons (both breast men) teased me, “You’re going to make that poor baby nurse until she goes away to college, just so you can have a big chest, aren’t you?”
Suddenly I was a star. My public consisted totally of men. Doing ordinary errands became an adventure, not unlike wading through a muddy pen of affectionate hound dogs while dressed in white slacks. One day I drove to the drug store, got out of my car, and hoisted my heavy, sweet-smelling infant to my hip.
“WHOA!” Someone yelled. I jumped and nearly dropped my baby. “WHO-EEE! Look at that pair!” A pickup truck cruised slowly by, the two men inside grinning, shouting, and whistling as I trudged, red-faced and perspiring with embarrassment, across the parking lot. “Have you no respect for motherhood?” I muttered angrily to myself, shifting the baby around and carrying her tightly against my chest.
Then there was the time in the elevator. I went to the hospital for a checkup and X-ray. I completed my checkup on one floor and was going upstairs, in my hospital gown and jeans, for my X-ray. Several people rode the elevator with me. One was a wormy little guy who slouched, needed a shave, and smelled like last week’s garbage. Well, he clapped those bleary eyes on my unfettered, milk-swollen mammary glands, and remained mesmerized, transfixed, and totally unmoving throughout the ride. Arriving at my floor, I sailed past him, preceded by my magnificent prow, and only his neck moved to keep his eyes plastered my mighty melons.
Of course, there was occasional flirtatious eyeballing from attractive men and I basked in the realization of my childhood dream. All of this admiration, both the welcome and the unwelcome, ceased abruptly after weaning. But, for a year, I possessed the build I had looked forward to so expectantly when I was a child.
CUP COMPLEX, OR, MUST I WEAR A TRAINING BRA FOREVER?
When I was a child, during the 1950’s, buxom women were the ideal. Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Sophia Loren are just a few stars whose titanic “headlights” highlighted the silver screen. Boys dreamed of marrying full-figured Lovable (bra) girls when they grew up. Girls dreamed of achieving glamorous dimensions one day. I did.
Thumbing through a Sears catalog, I noticed how pretty the models looked. In plaid shirts. In frilly blouses. In evening gowns and swim suits. I yearned for the day when I, not “June” would “be bustin’ out all over.” I dreamed and waited. And waited. If only I had looked at my mother and all her sisters, I would have surely suspected the dreadful truth. Put all five of them together and you couldn’t come up with a decent pair of breasts. And I mean if you put them all together. Cross my heart (“with a Playtex Living Bra”). If women had worn Living Bras back then, theirs would have starved.
When I was nine years old, my mother fed my dreams by casually saying, “Drinking lots of cream makes you have big breasts.” One day as I ate breakfast at our chrome-and yellow Formica table, she asked, “Why did you flood your oatmeal with cream?”
“I always put lots of cream on my oatmeal,” I replied, skimming the slightly congealed top off with my spoon.
“But why do you use so much?” she persisted.
“I want to have big breasts,” I answered nonchalantly.
“You mean,” she sputtered, “that you put all that cream on your oatmeal because you think it will make you have big breasts?”
I felt the sweet hot cereal turn to ashes in my mouth. “That’s what you said!”
“Oh, ha, ha!” she shouted. She held her middle with both arms. “Ha, ha, ha!” She staggered to a yellow plastic-covered kitchen chair and collapsed into it. “I was just kidding, you nut! Ha, ha, ha!”
Well, I was devastated. As Mama laughed herself silly, I thought of the pounds of oatmeal, the gallons of cream, all for nothing.
Beneath my lashes I directed a venomous glance my mother’s way. She’s also the one who told me the hole in a doughnut is poisonous, causing me to leave a safety ring of doughnut around all those “poison” holes for years. But that’s another story.
To add to my mortification, as I grew up skinny and flat-chested, my next-door neighbor and best friend wore a 36D by the time she was 13 years old! I ask you, is that fair? I never will forget the day she started “growing”. I was eight and she was nine. As we walked home from church, she complained, “My nipples burn.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked, squinting at her. The sun beat hot on my head that summer noon, blinding me with it’s glare.
“They’re growing,” she answered. “That’s what happens when you start to develop,” she answered smugly, flicking her eyes over my concave front.
I was eaten up with envy.
“But it burns. I want to go home,” she said fretfully. Before long, she was running. I followed her breathlessly into her home, where she rummaged in the pantry. Grabbing a large can of Crisco, she scooped up some and, jerking up her blouse, rubbed it tenderly on her chest. “Oh,” she exclaimed. “That’s so cool!”
“What in the world are you doing?” I squealed. “Why don’t you use Noxema?”
“Because this feels good!” she snapped.
“That’s foolish,” I thought, but I kept my mouth shut.
Maybe it was foolish to use Crisco – still she ended up a 36D and I . . . . well, I didn’t.
IS THAT A CUT?
Speaking of foolish, booby and ninny both mean a foolish person, according to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. I wondered whether women’s primary recognizable physical trait is called by these terms for unflattering reasons. I mean, is this a put-down?
“I suspect so,” said Dr. Boles. “Check the derivation of the words.”
So I did. “Ninny” could be derived from the Spanish “nino,” meaning child. “Booby” is guessed to come from “bubby, perhaps an imitation of the noise made by a sucking infant.” I checked several dictionaries. These were the best explanations I could find. They seem to give ninny and booby a legitimate, non-denigrating derivation, separate from the “foolish” meaning. But I wonder.
GUILDING THE LILY
Maybe the “foolish” labels fit, though. What haven’t we done to enhance our bustlines? Falsies (store-bought and imaginatively home-made), padded bras, underwires. Now it seems surgery is commonplace in our quest for bounteous beauty. Ah, the stories I could tell . . . . Okay, if you insist.
In the early 1960s, padded bras were stiff enough to put a crease in your blouse. At 14, I wore an A-cup padded bra with little to put into it. One autumn night I attended a dance. My boyfriend and I danced very closely to dreamy romantic music. The first song ended and we smiled as we stepped away from each other.
My smile died when I glanced down and, to my horror, the dim light revealed, instead of two points against my white cotton blouse, I had two circles! With nothing to fill the cups, they had dented inward, resembling volcanic craters.
Whipping around so my back was to my friends, I frantically pressed my arms against the bra. “Tock, Tock,” the padding popped out, cone-shaped again. I spent the evening “tock-tocking” my bra, desperately hoping no one, especially my boyfriend, noticed my affliction.
Three years later when I visited relatives in Florida, we went to the beach. I had carefully sewn my soft pink foam falsies into my bathing suit, having learned my lesson a year earlier when one escaped and floated to shore. The sun played hide-and-seek behind the racing clouds and the wind blew relentlessly.
Swimming in terribly rough seas with my male cousin and his friend, I eyed the stripes all over their torsos where jellyfish had stung them the day before. Nervous, I closely scrutinized the water about me constantly for the tell-tale pastel blobs carrying the noxious tentacles. The much bigger boys dragged their rafts out past the breakers and enjoyed thrilling rides to the beach on that stormy day. But I just couldn’t fight my way past the breakers. The boys even tried putting me on my raft and pulling me out, but the surf was too strong.
So, while they were far out, bobbing on the swells and awaiting their next ride, I paddled around by myself in waist-deep water. A huge wave knocked me over and rolled me along the sandy bottom, while the surf roared in my ears. I burst from the water like a blowing whale, coughing and blinking the burning salt water from my eyes.
There, between my upper arm and my breast floated a pastel blob! Too terrified to touch it, I screamed and splashed at the creature hysterically. Expecting the stinging tentacles to assault my legs at any moment, I whirled, crying and splashing, trying frantically to get away from that terrifying thing which stayed despite everything. Hysteria abated shortly and I realized it was not stinging me. After my tears had diluted the sea water in my eyes, I stood still, panting, and looked carefully at the blob . . . .
Yes, it was my falsie, tenaciously clinging where I had sewn it, but plopped out by my wrangle with the undertow. Mortified, I looked around hastily, plunged under the water, and deftly stuffed my stuffing back into place. No, neither my cousin nor his friend witnessed or I wouldn’t be alive now. Do you doubt embarrassment can be fatal? To a teen?
Later in my life, my husband told me of seeing a lovely girl stroll down to the water at a beach. As she waded into the surf, nylon stocking began floating from her bikini top. “What did she do?” I gasped, cringing empathetically.
“She stuffed it all back in and came out of the water,” he replied matter of factly.
I guess men just don’t understand. To be deficient is bad enough. To be caught bluffing is unendurable. Still, a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.
Then came Twiggy – a pretty, big-eyed face attached to a skeleton barely covered with skin. Even more flat-chested than I. And proud of it! Women burned their bras, and we moved into a very comfortable period. Sure, sure, politically there was world-wide upheaveal, wars, death, and destruction, etc. Who cared? We were braless! No sliding straps. No tight bands around our bodies. No digging, strangling foundations garments. With small, firm breasts, I was in style. I was happy with myself – adequate at last.
THEY’RE IN AGAIN
So finally women were “politically aware” and physically free. We learned to accept and respect ourselves for who and what we are.
But are we allowed to age and die happy? NO-O-O! Busts are back. Everywhere you look, mountainous cleavage, billowy breasts bulging from décolletage. An ad in a department store reads, “Increases your bust by a whole cup size!” Do you know what they are selling? Little satin-covered half-pads to put under your breast. A rolled up sock would work just as well! A friend complained, “You can hardly buy a bra without underwires or padding anymore.” Yes, even the plain bra, uncomfortable though it may be, has given way to torturous devices. Wires to squeeze and poke you, padding to swelter you in summer.
What next? Where did this all start? Perusal of the fashion pages blames it all on the rock star Madonna. Madonna of the outside underwear. The pointed breastwear that reminds one of the opera soprano wearing braids and armored breastplate. We’re back to the beginning, with the pinching, cutting, slipping “cheaters” that promise to make us feel adequate. Well, all I can say is, “Thanks a whole heap, Madonna!”