Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breast facts, by the book

We’ll deal with Hurricane Sandy tomorrow, but today let’s touch upon a topic aimed at giving those in distress some snuggling comfort.

We’re talking breasts.

“Funbags. Boobsters. Chumbawumbas. Dingle bobbers. Dairy pillows. Jellybonkers. Num nums.”

Those aren’t my words.

Those are the first words from the great new Florence Williams book called -- Ta! Da! -- “Breasts: a natural and unnatural history.”

Or should I say, “Ta! Tas!” 

I was in the library looking to stock up on books in case a tree branch knocked the power out. As is my wont, I was looking for war history books but went first to peruse the new releases.

Instead of bombs, I seized “Breasts.”

How could I resist?

The title grabs you even as you want to grab it right back. The cover art features two voluptuous clover-covered mountains -- Chia Tits! -- with a lush, dimpled cleavage running down the middle. It’s suggestive without being salacious.

I opened the book to read that first paragraph. I was hooked. It’s maybe the best opening paragraph in American literature and sure beats the pants off, “Call me Ishmael.”

Of course, as an author of so many failed book proposals I gazed upon “Breasts” with a critical eye. Authors craft what the industry calls an “elevator pitch,” a 30-second summation of why publishers should buy the book.

I thought of all mine and why next to hers mine failed and hers did not. My conclusion? I didn’t think to say, “My book is called ‘Breasts’ and it is about breasts.”


I’m being silly, of course, but “Breasts” is not -- and I’m wrestling with whether or not to refer to a single book called “Breasts” in the singular or the plural. I don’t think I’ve ever said “breasts is” in my life, but there’s just the one book so I think my old English teacher would approve.

It’s funny, I checked out “Breasts” with just two days left in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a topic I’ve derided in regards to unseemly NFL pandering. I contend the pinkening of October is more about selling football jerseys than doing any real good, like donating a portion of the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Society.

See, I’m already well aware of breast cancer. My mother lost both her breasts to cancer in 1983.

And like most American men I’m hyper aware of breasts themselves. They’re everywhere.

And, get this, they’re getting bigger and bigger; the average breast size has grown from B to C cup, and lingerie manufacturers are now offering cup sizes like H and KK. Any bigger and industry standards will cease referring to them as cups sizes and will instead adopt bucket measurements.

I thought I knew a lot about breasts. I didn’t realize how wrong I was until I picked up “Breasts.”

For instance:

• Breast milk contains substances similar to cannabis, which explains the dreamy look that descends on the faces of breast-feeding babies. I’m surprised I’ve never noticed babies flashing things like peace signs.

• Breast milk sold on the internet is worth more than 262 times that of the price of oil.

• Wonderbra sales in the U.S. top $70 million each year. 

• The designer of the first popular breast prosthesis was none other than Ruth Handler, herself a breast cancer survivor more famous for being the inventor of the Barbie doll.

• Thanks to environmental corruption, the average American breast is at least partly flame retardant and produces breast milk that includes perchlorate, an ingredient in jet fuel. Learning these disturbing facts while breastfeeding her children is what led Williams, an award-winning journalist, to write “Breasts.”

She is to be congratulated for writing what is a very important book that details how human females developed breasts, why they’re so important to our entire existence and why we should all be concerned about the startling environmental factors at play within the breast.

And Williams manages to do it all in a way that’s as engaging and playful as the dear breast itself.

I recommend it to anyone who cares about breasts, women, and our collective future -- and I’m only on page 36.

I hope the book makes Williams a fortune and that she for the sake of ironic promotional reasons spends at least some of the loot on upgrading what she describes as B cups to some real hooters.

Having said all that, I’m not sure I’ll read the whole thing.

As good as it is, I’m the kind of guy who can see myself eventually getting bored with “Breasts” and shocking the librarian by asking where I can find some “Ass.”

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