Monthly Archives: May 2012

HAVING A FIT!

Every time I see one of Miley Cyrus’s breasts fall out, or nearly fall out, of her low-cut dress, I am moved to tears. I also feel the same way when I see the exposed breasts of any number of great dramatic actresses like Tori Spelling, Selena Gomez, Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj and Khloe Kardashion.

I understand their passionate desire for breasts dangling free from confinement. I, too, have actually liberated my breasts at times

 I remember, as a flat child resembling the neighborhood boys, I was alarmed when my mother pointed to her chest and promised, “Someday soon, you’ll look like Mommy.” I didn’t want that to happen because as a vigorous, athletic youngster who preferred pants to dresses, I didn’t want my running and jumping skills impeded by two giant pods growing on my chest. I’d seen what giant pods could do in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I didn’t want to find myself duplicated while I slept and left without enough emotion to punch out my sister.

And why, I wondered, did I have to wear a bra, that confining undergarment for the only part of a human body—or so I thought—-that needed support?

The answer was, genetics and environment: I’d come from a long line of big-busted women, such as my grandmother who grew up in Czarist Russia. She’d developed impressive pectorals running regularly from the murderous Cossacks. By the time Grandma emigrated to America, she was short, sturdy and compact, with a solid bosom that resembled a large loaf of Russian rye. Her “loaf” doubled as a battering ram when undesirables like landlords and relatives came to call.  

Eventually I developed my own small loaf of Russian rye (to continue a pitiful metaphor). While I had no choice but to yield to family pressure to encase my “loaf” in white cotton fabric, I grew up wondering if my chest could ever be free. That opportunity came during the 1960s when I was at college.

I knew that the students who marched and marched were protesting for freedom, so I took off my restrictive undergarments like bras and girdles. For several weeks I timidly walked around UCLA’s campus wearing a dark navy see-through blouse. Possibly I wore pants. I was “Free at Last!” (!)  from my bra because designer Rudi Gernreich had created a topless swim suit that was fashionable and being topless was “in.”

Within a short time, however, I restored my bra to its proper place on me because I tired of people, particularly men, failing to meet my gaze when I talked to them.

The other problem with bras, besides enslavement, was the fittings. When I was young, the department store bra fitter resembled a jail matron, but she knew how to fit women of any size and shape. She measured you with a tape encircling your waist and then across the chest itself. She’d select multiple bras, then follow you into a dressing room, adjusted the straps and the band, had you bend over (“Shake yourself into the cups, dearie”) and always reminded you to hook the bra on the middle hook. Those bras lasted for 30 years. If washed, probably one year.

I was recently reminded of my old fitter when I went to Snortstrum (pseudonym for a local department store) for a new bra. The contemporary fitters are an enormous improvement over the old fitters. First, most appear to be 16. If asked to fit you, they may stare longingly at your chest, either in admiration or horror. Frequently that visual assessment is all they need to bring you several bras with feminine names like “18722261D” and sizes like 32AAAA. When I asked my fitter to bring a tape measure, she travelled up and down the hallway to the dressing rooms, banging on locked doors to find an unoccupied room which elicited several shouts from inside the rooms such as “Occupied!,” “What?,” “Huh?” and “Quit it, Justin!”

 After doing a single waist measurement, she left me in a room and returned a few minutes later with a handful of bras that resembled training bras. After she agreed to adjust the first bra, she commanded that I bend over and then lift each breast into the bra cup as she hooked the band on the first hook.

 I am not used to lifting up each breast in this manner. While the breasts are used to being shaken into a bra—they’ve always enjoyed the exercise and the independence of dropping themselves in— I now have to privately speak to each of them and promise my assistance will be minimal. The smaller right breast will be particularly offended because it’ll hear me explain to the fitter, “I hope this bra fits o.k. My right side is smaller.” Hearing that, the smaller breast has been known to sulk, then move itself around in the cup in clever defiant ways, one moment making me look sunk in, the next as if it’s pouring over the top.

How lucky men are not to need fittings for undergarments! When I learned men also had bouncing body parts that needed support from athletic supporters aka “Jock Straps,” I thought for sure that males had to endure a similar humiliating custom of tape measuring. But no: Packaged jockstraps are fairly consistent in design with variations in width of waistband and fabrics. There are colorful swim jocks, hockey jocks, fashion jocks and minimal exotic jocks made from materials like leather, chain mail and dental floss. Instead of names like “18722261D,” men get to wear jockstraps that enhance their self esteem with names like “Male Power,” “Nasty Pig,” “Commando,” “X-rated Maximizer,” “Out Front,” and “Ballz-out.”

There are even bras for cars that don’t require measurement hassles—“Front-end bras,” including full, sport and T-style made of stretchy vinyl that attaches to the front of a car to protect the bumper, hood, and sides of the fender. Ironically, from some of these cars with front-end bras emerge great dramatic actresses like Brittany Spears, Bethenny Frankel, Sofia Vergara and—Miley Cyrus!—minus their underpants.

I detect a pattern here among the great young dramatic actresses. With all the pressures of stardom, they are clearly prone to “wardrobe malfunctions.” It would be much easier on them, much simpler, and more understandable to the public if the actresses would just arrive, wherever they go, totally naked.

 

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CRAMPING MY STYLE

I was shocked when I saw the following headline this week: “IBS Group Confirms its Leadership in the Russian Consulting Market.” [PR Newswire, Wall St Journal] I knew that IBS—Irritable Bowel Syndrome, in case you don’t have it—- is a popular disease supposedly shared  by one in five people. I never realized its members had clout in international affairs. Then I saw another headline that IBS was also appointed “as an authorized distributor in Egypt.” [AME Info, the Ultimate Middle East Business resource]

 I didn’t know that Egyptians now have IBS, although with their current change of leadership issues (riots, clashes, killings), they would certainly be worthy recipients of IBS. Indeed, IBS’s symptoms of abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation and diarrhea would certainly take the Egyptians’ minds off whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian army should rule.

When you have IBS, your biggest concern is not shooting someone, but where and how fast can you get to the nearest toilet. And is there enough toilet paper? What’s worse, singer Sheryl Crow insists people (including those with IBS) should use only one sheet of toilet paper in the interest of ecology. If IBS really has an “authorized distributor,” clearly someone should distribute IBS to Sheryl Crow. 

Other celebrities might be useful to do that: Purportedly Tyra Banks, Jenny McCarthy, Cybill Shepherd, Camille Grammer, Cam Ron and ball player Franklin Gutierrez have IBS. Lynda (Wonder Woman) Carter is the IBS Spokesperson, though apparently it’s her mother, not Lynda, who has IBS. The late JFK and Kurt Cobain had IBS. According to a physician-researcher, so did Hitler, although that would certainly give IBS a bad name.

It’s not difficult to become a spokesperson raising awareness for a malady like IBS and its treatment. Organizations such as Premier Entertainment Consulting and Celebrity Connection in L.A. specialize in linking up Hollywood stars to pharmaceutical companies. The president of Celebrity Connection insists “…celebrities will do anything if the price is right….,” but laments “I don’t think we’ll see [a spokesperson for] genital warts in my lifetime.”

People with IBS usually need more than a spokesperson. Medications are so-so useful, especially since one size does not fit all: people with constipation-type IBS (referred to as IBS-C) require one type of drug, while the IBS-D (diarrhea) people require an entirely different drug.

One of my physicians accidentally mixed up the two drugs although I didn’t realize that immediately. I rarely read patient package inserts any more since they all sound the same (“…may end in death”), but on this occasion I spotted an ant walking across the insert that was written as usual in 3-point font (the ant was larger). When the ant crawled away toward chocolate brownie crumbs, I read that this drug could cause diarrhea, bloating, gas and flatulence—the exact symptoms I was complaining about. I did not need a pill to do for me what I can do much more cost-effectively for myself. 

I’ve dealt with IBS symptoms since I was young. Apparently an IBS distributor visited my parents’ house as soon as I was born. By the time I was in grade school, I’d become aware not everyone walked around with a belly attractive for an eighth-month pregnancy. Years later, when I had a colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist using the scope found my large intestine a trifle tense. On the doctor’s video screen, the large intestine was seen grabbing onto the scope in a playful tug-of-war. As a result, for my next colonoscopy at its GI department, Kaiser Permanente (aka McKaiser HMO: “Ten Minute Express Care, In-and-Out!”) has suggested a non-invasive though equally effective procedure in which the physician will scrutinize my colon through an extra large (12x) magnification mirror with the view captured by a nurse’s cell phone camera.

One of the worst things about IBS is telling doctors or friends that we have “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”  Who decided on that gorgeous name?  If we have to have an illness, it should at least sound pleasant to the ear as well as earn sympathy. “Mononucleosis,” for example, is a pretty word. So is “Fibromyalgia.” A disease named for a color always sounds more cheerful: Yellow Fever, Pinkeye, Black Plague, Gangrene.

“IBS” itself is an over-used acronym—just ask organizations like the International Bible Society, the Institute of Buddhist Studies, and the Indian Basketball Society. The  “authorized IBS distributor” in Egypt turns out to be International Business Systems, which had the audacity to name their website www.ibs.net.     

If that isn’t sufficient chutzpah, another IBS company—-Interactive Business Systems—–stole the other website address that would’ve been more appropriate for IBS patients—- www.ibs.com. But Interactive’s hijacking of this coveted website address has led to startling and unwelcome incidents like this company press release: IBS Brings Cheer to Families at Ronald McDonald House.  Speaking from experience, I doubt that was the case.

The only justice for IBS victims is to re-name the condition. “Syndrome” sounds too clinical—why not a “Problem”? “Irritable” sounds like it relates to PMS, so why not “Testy?” Then there’s “bowel” as in “bowel movement.” I have never said to a friend, “May I use your bowel room?” or asked a restaurant waiter, “Can you show me where the bowel room is?” At least “colon” wouldn’t be ridiculed, not after “Colin Powell,” who would’ve had more difficulty growing up as “Bowel Powell.”

But rather than discard “bowel,” a messy prospect, we can substitute the Latin  derived Old French word from which “bowel” evolved—-“botellus,” that means ”little sausage.” Etymologists (word origin junkies) believe “sausage” was evocative of one’s intestines.

Indeed, I am comfortable with this newer medical term. And I’m certain any man, plagued by the well-known abdominal symptoms, can comfortably tell his primary care physician, “Doctor, I’m here to see you because I have a Testy Little Sausage Problem.”