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.