facebook twitter youtube tumblr share this

The Right Stuff

September 15th, 1997

I used to like to make my softball team laugh with a little shtick I did about wanting to have different breasts for different occasions. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I’d say “if we could have all different breasts to use as we need them? We could have sports breasts and evening breasts, breasts for nursing or for wearing lingerie, perky little breasts for going bra-less! Some days we could just go without them altogether!” We’d all laugh our heads off as we each conjured up the possibilities in our heads.

“BUT!” I’d shout, “Don’t lose one! Think of getting ready to go out, throwing fake breasts over your shoulder from the closet yelling “what did I do with my other evening breast?! I can’t go out with one evening and one bathing suit breast!”

What fun. At some point, I think we all wonder what it would be like to have breasts different than the ones we have. I would love to spend a day (and night!) with large breasts. What would I wear?! But I never thought that having fake breasts — whether inside or outside your body — would come to be a viable option. Oddly, it has. And oddly, they are a version of the very joke I used to make.

I was flipping through Cosmopolitan magazine the other night looking for more images for our Gallery of Offenders and I found ads for four different companies advertising these new plastic breasts. I think they started out as a product for women who had had a mastectomy, but now they appear to be big business, sold to the masses in Cosmo so a girl can go around pretending to have the breasts she wishes she had. They come in a little box; each pale, pink, gelatinous breast (do they come in different shades for different ethnic groups?) in its own little cubby hole. They’re called Stuff! or Padz or some such catchy name intended to make it seem cool to share the cup of your bra with a pale pink gelatinous breast with an alert nipple molded onto the front of it.

I’ve seen them up close. In fact, I’ve held one to my own pale pink breast (I wasn’t wearing a bra so didn’t get to see the full cleavage-creating phenomenon.) One of my sisters bought some before I had ever seen them in a magazine. I was quite surprised that she did. I didn’t know that anyone would actually buy such a thing. And, you know, actually wear them?

Look, stuffing is a joke. It always was and it still is. Wearing fake breasts out in the world is like wearing a toupee. You may as well hang a sign around your neck that says “I am more embarrassed with my real breasts than with wearing plastic ones into the world. Isn’t that embarrassing?” I stuffed my bra with toilet paper one night when I was about 13 for my evening art class. Granted, I probably didn’t have the fortitude to pull off such a charade and indeed, the damned things felt way conspicuous to me. A quarter of the way through the class, I pulled my shirt open over a trash can and let the tissue fall in. I JUST COULDN’T DO IT I TELL YOU! I am a pretty lousy liar too. Truly the key to a good lie is your confidence that no one will ever uncover the truth and catch you in the lie. Now I ask you, how are you suppose to keep some stuffed-up boobs a secret? I mean honestly, people are going to notice the rise and fall aren’t they?

I always thought that things that were fake were automatically worse than the real thing. Products base their entire sales pitch on what’s real about them, not what’s fake. The popcorn has real butter, not butter flavoring. It’s real cheese, not pasteurized processed cheese food. The juice drink stresses 10% real fruit juice. If someone complements you on your vinyl jacket, you don’t say “Thanks -100% vinyl.” You let them think it’s leather.

What could be more embarrassing than gaining a man’s attention with a falsified front and then having to come clean? “What do you mean you thought I was bigger? No, this is how I’ve always looked. Yes, I’m quite sure.” And if you’re wearing the falsies on your first few dates, how do you later pull off the statement that honesty is very important to you?

I am frankly too blunt and straightforward to pull off fake breasts or colored contacts or even a perm. I’d have to come clean on any compliment I received. “What nice curls you have!” “IT’S A PERM!” I’d declare. “What a nice blouse!” “Thanks, it’s not mine.” No one actually compliments you on your breasts; it’s more of a stare that you get (they get) that tells you they’re noticed. If I borrowed the Padz from my sister and someone seemed interested in them, I might say, “cool, huh? They’re actually not all mine, they’re my sister’s. Well, they’re not really hers either. Well, I mean, actually they came in a box. Do they look all right? I thought I might have put the right one in on the left?”

But really, how in the world do you gracefully sneak out of your plastic breasts when in the first intimate moment with a man? You never know when this is going to happen and men like to touch your breasts pretty early on. I mean what do you say? He starts to slip his hand into your bra and you fumble, “Oh, uh, yeah, um, that’s not all me…just a second, I’ll take them out…” with a thwak! And another thwak! “OK! So!” you say in your best perky “there’s nothing strange about having pale pink gelatinous breasts lying beside me with alert nipples pointing to the ceiling” voice. “Where were we?”

I know that would never happen. In reality, the confession would be unspoken. He’d be staring at your great cleavage all night and suddenly they’d be gone. A quick trip to the bathroom or maybe an early exit. Making out just isn’t what it used to be.

Why are we women such insecure suckers anyway? And why is our memory so short? I am only 35 and yet I remember when small breasts and going bra-less was the sexy thing. I remember when larger breasted girls confessed that they wished they didn’t have to wear bras under tank tops. Breasts come in all sizes and one size isn’t better than another. All breasts are good breasts. Breasts are good by definition. No single body part (or set of) on men or women is as damned cool as breasts are. I don’t care if penises move up and down; breasts are still cooler. They just are.

Breasts are everywhere now, pushed up and out for all to see, and I think that the more we see them, the more we want them. We all feel at times that our breasts are too this or too that. An actual need was created in the last few years and a market sprung up to fill it — literally. The Wonderbra and other push-ups, this new plastic falsey and of course a thriving surgical breast augmentation market have all jumped in to help assist women feel better about an insecurity that was created in the first place. It’s really smaller breasted women that are the target market for plastic boobs. Larger women don’t need to stuff their shirts, they’ve already got the goods.

In a few years, small breasts will come back in. Of course they will. Everything, and I mean everything eventually comes back in — look at those ugly orange and brown striped shirts being sold at Urban Outfitters. Perky breasts have their place in the world and I wish we hadn’t forgotten it. The A and B cup crowd has got to be a little more assertive. Ditch the underwire, you don’t need it in the first place. Buy yourself one of those sweet little undershirts with the scalloped edges and tiny bow in front. Go on out in public. If wanting people to notice your breasts is what you seek, you don’t need cleavage. Leave cleavage to the big girls. We’ve got freedom. Freedom of movement, and freedom to wear next to nothing without feeling obscene. The small breast is discreet. It is allowed to be lightly clothed on the street, out in the world. It doesn’t create a huge stir but it never goes unnoticed.

I, too, sometimes wish I could get some height out of “my girls.” But when I push them up, a void is left below. There’s only so much there. The time I most want them to be larger is when I go to the Renaissance Faire, a veritable Breast Fest. The Renaissance Faire is the one place in our society today where the large woman looks more at home than the thin woman. Heaving breasts come up and threaten to spill over the top of the bodices. I made a bodice a few years back and put it on once a year. I lace it tight in an attempt to create two rounded half spheres above the laces. “Hmmm,” I say each year. This year, I called my sister. “Could I maybe borrow those fake boobs?” I say in a question I thought I’d never ask. “I loaned them to Carrie”, she says. “Oh,” I say, realizing that if I really want to borrow them, now I’ll have to make the admission to sister #2 as well. “No can do,” says sister number two, “we’ve got a date.”


Kathy Bruin is the founder of About-Face and has never worn a Wonderbra. She hopes these confessions haven’t pissed off her sisters.