Since I resolved to write one blog per week (instead of one per month) this is my first attempt to meet that New Year’s Resolution. It is 7:31 pm on Saturday, January 7 so this is technically Week One. The husband is in the kitchen marinating the steaks. The eleven-year-old and the five-year-old are watching Parent Trap (Lohan 2.0) in the living room and arguing about something that I can vaguely hear through my Bose noise reduction headphones, but am choosing to ignore.
There were several topics this week that were worth thinking about for longer than 140 characters (which will be how I come up with ideas for these weekly musings). Sarah Frantz’s breasts, for one. She threw a picture up and asked, “Twitter, does this shirt pull too much for (academic) job interview?” I became enthralled with the picture and then with why I was enthralled. I kept staring at that picture of Prof. Frantz (who has what is commonly known as a rack), then wondered if I was staring for some sexual reason and then stared some more.
Our society has such a mass-fetishization of breasts it is almost impossible (for me at least) to separate my own aesthetic or sociological interests from cultural, pornographic brainwashing. I have always thought the entire human body was aesthetically pleasing: Michelangelo’s David and his slingshot, Ursula Andress and her Bowie knife are both beautiful to me. But I have never thought breasts in and of themselves were sexy. Most heterosexual men of my acquaintance, on the other hand, say they have been turned on by breasts for as long as they can remember, citing National Geographic, circa 1969, featuring breastfeeding tribeswomen of the Masai, as an early example.
Yeah. For me? No.
Thus ruling out a possible sexual attraction to Frantz’s rack, I realized it was simply the existence of something so unavoidable right there on the front of one’s body that was causing me to spend so much time on the topic. I do not have large breasts: what was really keeping me staring was a fascination with The Other. No longer thinking specifically of Frantz, I began to wonder how different my own life would have been if I had had a body like that. I wouldn’t know how to dress. I wouldn’t even know how to move around in the world.
My clothing style has always run along the lines of Annie Hall-meets-Giorgio Armani (depending on whether I am broke and thrift shopping or gainfully employed and buying top-of-the-line retail). If I were Albert Einstein, I would have an entire closet full of crisp white Oxford shirts and a variety of comfortable, flattering blue jeans, with the occasional perfectly tailored black dress thrown in. I like how Diane Keaton and Jodie Foster dress. Surprise. Both are flat-chested. I understand how their bodies wear clothes. Long lines that accentuate assets (tall and thin) rather than deficits (negligible tits and ass).
I grew up in a world that told me I should downplay my femininity as much as possible if I wanted intelligent people to listen to what I had to say. Especially intelligent men. Don’t distract them with anything that could be confused with sexual provocation, was right up there with firm-handshake and look-them-in-the-eye. And since I wanted to be taken seriously in life, that advice stuck.
I tried to make my body attractive but, ultimately, irrelevant. But guess what? I have a body! Living in Florida has made me blissfully body conscious. Everyone at the beach is more or less naked. And when they walk from the beach to the hotel across the street, passing the ice cream parlor where I sit with my five-year-old? Yep. They are all pretty much naked. And they are talking and laughing and interacting. Much like my romance-novel reading sprang from a desire to escape the confines of my self-imposed intellectualism, so moving to Florida and wearing the occasional bikini or too-short skirt must have come from the same psychological impulse. To escape the mannish tailoring of my self-imposed sartorial androgyny.
But, hark! In the thirty years or so since I got all that bad advice about de-feminizing my appearance in order to be taken seriously, lots of sexual freedom fighters have come forward and said, “Check me out! I have huge sexy tits AND a brain!” They’ve said it far more eloquently than that, but this is an off-the-cuff blog for Christ’s sake. Give me a break. The point is, they got to be all that…sexy AND serious, while I was still living in the Dark Ages of thinking I had to choose.
At the end of my little Twitter exchange with Frantz, I promised (you can remove those tenterhooks now) to write a blog “about how mass-cultural fetishizing of breasts informs my view of ‘sexy’ vs ‘serious'” and Frantz replied, “Oh, interesting. Am I incapable of looking serious, then? ;-)” And I replied, “:) no, my residual adolescent tells me women-with-boobs get to be serious *and* sexy, but I don’t get to be sexy”
But I do! In my reading and my appearance, I too can be sexy *and* serious. Because sexiness really has nothing to do with breast size. I think it was Victoria Dahl who once pointed out that, regardless of size, most men think the sexiest boobs are the ones they are touching.