There's nothing natural about "perfect" breasts
Second of two parts Americans love big breasts. And that's bad, because if you gain weight to get bigger breasts, you might get fatter...
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Second of two parts
Americans love big breasts. And that's bad, because if you gain weight to get bigger breasts, you might get fatter, and here in America, we hate fat.
That is why women look at other women's breasts displayed on fashion magazine covers. We look to torment ourselves. It's much more neurotic than erotic.
I began exploring this question last week but just scratched the surface of what might be a military-industrial-fashion-entertainment complex conspiracy.
"Our societal standard is a woman who's thin, toned and muscular, and has curves, mainly in the breasts," said David Sarwer, a psychologist at the Penn Med School's Center for Human Appearance. "That collection of features rarely occurs in nature."
Hollywood deceives us in many ways, he said, by carefully positioning, lighting, airbrushing and digitally enhancing women to look more like this ideal. So not surprisingly, about a third of American women report they are dissatisfied with the size and shape of their breasts, said Sarwer. Each year, more than 250,000 get breast implants.
Hundreds of before-and-after pictures are easy to find on the Web. What they make clear is we're already deep into the dystopian future predicted by movies like "Gattaca," in which enhanced humans run the world and marginalize the few remaining "naturals." How naive of those filmmakers to think we'd start by enhancing our brains!
Why do women do it? Ted Eisenberg, a Philadelphia plastic surgeon who specializes in breast implants, says many of his patients complain their breasts changed during pregnancy and breast feeding. Others are intensely self-conscious over their asymmetrical breasts. He doesn't treat 16-year-olds who get implants as a birthday present, he says. That situation is rare, at least outside California.
Other women, he said, want implants because they feel disproportional. Their tops are too small, they think, for their bottoms.
I could see that in maybe a few of the "before" pictures, but most of them looked fine. Why would they want to go under the knife? The clue appears a little lower, where the ribs jut out.
These were skinny women. They looked like they needed pasta, not major surgery. One was listed as 5'6" and 110 pounds. Breasts are mostly fat. How can the body maintain them when it's deprived of the vital building material?
The implants are more about looking better in clothes than looking better naked, says Eisenberg. Women who once had trouble finding flattering blouses suddenly can wear anything.
Of course, those fashion designers are in on it. They're giving us clothes that fit the enhanced and make naturals feel deformed and deficient or, in other cases, fat.
Even Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues," has fought the mind-infecting influence of the conspiracy. Though she's spent years raising consciousness and erasing shame over women's most taboo and secret body parts, she can't seem to deal with her own stomach fat.
Even as her play was demystifying the vagina around the world, stomach fat was always on her mind.
In her recent semi-autobiographical work "The Good Body," Ensler contemplates going after the coveted Cosmo cover figure from the other direction — maintaining enough fat to sport full breasts and then getting the rest liposuctioned away. Lots of women go this route, but thankfully she decides against it.
The biggest hazard of all this dismorphic body angst is it cuts into our precious time when there are so many important things to do. That's what Ensler concludes. If she really wanted to fit society's ideal, she says, she wouldn't be fighting against war, censorship, torture or rape. "I would be sucking, spending, scrubbing, shaving, pumping, pricking, piercing, perming, cutting, covering, lightening, tightening, hammering, flattening, waxing, whittling, starving and ultimately vanishing."
Faye Flam's Carnal Knowledge column appears Wednesdays in The Seattle Times.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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