Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An open letter to breasts.

I have always loved you. I remember every pair of you I’ve ever seen, whether in person, on film or in print. Some men (and women) believe that you are only beautiful if you adhere to a standard of perfection in terms of proportionality – but they are mistaken. Whether pendulous or perky, small or large, you are all beautiful. Some also believe that you are only lovely if completely natural. They too are mistaken, for there is nothing so lovely as confidence, and if by augmentation your owner feels more confident then you are lovelier as a result.

My first wondrous vision of you is seared into my memory. I was in fifth grade. A classmate’s mother was sunbathing in her backyard. She had removed the top to her swimsuit and was lying on her towel. As we unknowingly entered his backyard, my classmate was instantly embarrassed. I was entranced. I wanted to stay, but this was of course impossible. I knew at that moment that I wanted to see more of you, although I wasn’t sure exactly why.

My second glimpse did nothing to curb my interest. I was visiting my grandparents’ house. A cousin, much older than me, was also visiting and had brought along her infant son. I was playing in the front yard, in a makeshift fort inside a large camellia bush tucked up on the side of the house. I heard a noise from behind me, and turned to see my cousin, inside the house and in the bedroom that adjoined my fort. She was sitting on the bed with her eyes closed. Through the open window I could hear the contented gurgles of the boy as he nursed at his mother’s breast.

I remember vividly the first time I touched you. My date and I had escaped from a dance, only to find ourselves on a deserted baseball diamond. My nervous fingers fumbled at the clasp that held you back. The night was cold but you were magnificent.

This fascination has stayed with me for many years, and I am not alone. I know this because I have heard others whisper tales of exposed skin. I have seen the furtively respectful looks of men who quickly avert their eyes when presented with an unintended glimpse of your complex curves. I have witnessed the lecherous leering of those who seek out such sights. And I have done both of these things.

Your power is immense. Your mere presence can change the nature of polite discourse. When the future Mrs. TSMK introduced me to her father he was eating dinner at the kitchen table, while watching Lethal Weapon 2. At that exact moment, the action of the film gave way to a love scene. You were plainly exposed. And what was my future father-in-law’s response to “Dad, I’d like you to meet [TSMK]”? Unable to avert his eyes from the screen, all he could manage was “That’s a breast!” Even my father-in-law is not immune to your siren song. Fortunately for me, I was able to deflect his comment and save us all significant embarrassment by commenting on the lovely breast of fried chicken sitting in his plate.

Even today, married some 13 years to Mrs. TSMK, I feel giddy when I catch a glimpse of you as she readies for bed. A fleeting image and I am transported back to that afternoon in my classmate’s backyard. A touch and I am again a beardless boy on a baseball diamond. And a vision of my son, eyes closed and pressed against your creamy white skin and I am once again reminded of the smell of camellias.

All of this makes what I need to say to you that much more difficult.

I must give you up.

This is not because I have fallen out of love with you, because I have not. It is because you cannot be trusted. If pain and suffering may be likened to terrorists, then you are Waziristan. You run with a dangerous crowd.

I first became aware of your willingness to harbor criminals when your “friends” claimed the life of my Aunt. My father’s sister, she would have been in her late 40s. Perhaps she might have fared better if you hadn’t so effectively hidden her assailant.

You betrayed BF in her 20s. She’s healthy now, but still bears the scars from the surgeon’s work.

My friend WK’s mom wasn’t so fortunate. She fought mightily, and it actually appeared that she’d win out. But your friends returned. They were stronger the second time around. When they finally won, WK was devastated. That was less than five years ago, and WK has devoted himself to fighting on your behalf and against your friends.

You turned on S (“SoD”) K just last year. She’s healthy now I’m pleased to report, but you could have saved us all a lot of heartache if you’d have just told your friends to stay away.

Now I hear that you’ve been at it again. This time it is my friend SS’s sister. She’s 38, with a husband and young children. Mrs. TSMK likes her very much, and my middle son is friends with her daughter. Why would you allow this to happen? She’s a beautiful person. She didn’t deserve this.

I can’t convince you to change your ways, and I can’t fend off your friends. But I can do what’s in my power to help keep her comfortable. I will help her fight your friends. The doctor tells her she should expect to lose her hair, so I’m making her a hat. The weather has turned cool up here, and she may need a scarf to go with it. Or maybe a pair of mittens. Together, the large number of us who care about her and her family will help give her strength to fight your friends. She will make it though this.

But my relationship with you? Well that is another matter. Keep your friends away from Mrs. TSMK, my mom, my sister and all my friends. And all my friends’ wives, mothers, girlfriends, sisters, daughters. Come to think of it, why don’t your friends just leave us all alone.

I’ll miss you.



  1. Thank you on behalf of my mom & sister - both had uninvited 'friends' and survived. Mom 20+ years ago, my sister 10+ years ago.

  2. Such a beautiful post! And I love the picture of your son breastfeeding -- breasts doing what they do best.

    I do hope that everyone in your family (and mine) stays healthy and safe.

  3. What a great post! Yes, I'm quite familiar with THE FRIENDS, as well, having lost my MIL to their un-tender mercies. I'm certain the hat will be much appreciated. I'll have to take a peek at it in Ravelry. :)

  4. Beautiful. That's all I can say. Heartfelt and beautiful and I love you for it. Thank you.

  5. SS showed me this post while we waited in the surgeon's office for the post-surgical visit. Needless to say, I was very teary-eyed when he walked through the door. Thank you so much for your beautiful post and devotion to breasts. While mine are gone, I WILL win this battle and end up with perky fake breasts in the end. Until then, I will wear your hat with pride and perhaps a teary eye every now and then. THANK YOU. -K

  6. I don't mean to be a downer here, you lost me at the point where you say that breasts are friends with cancer? I don't get it. Sorry. The first part was splendid, the sentiment that you deplore breast cancer is right on! But somehow saying you have to give up your love affair with breasts because they are friends with cancer? Sorry. Just the wrong kind of metaphor or something. Just left me cold at the end.

  7. You write beautifully. This is a moving post. And as a survivor myself, I must admit also to slightly agreeing with "anonymous" above; "friends" with breasts it most certainly is not.
    Anyway, I too hope that it stays away from all your female family members and friends, and wish you the strength to continue supporting those who already are fighting the fight.

  8. I am SS and K's other sister and I stumbled across your posting and I want to THANK YOU for your very eloquent and touching reflection. Your post was beautiful and it made me teary eyed as well. K's hat is beautiful. Thank you so much for thinking of her and for adorning her with your generosity of heart, hand, and spirit! - J.

  9. That was beautiful. On behalf of all the women out there, Thank you!

  10. I think if my breasts are ever so unfortunate to harbor a cancer, they and the cancer will not be "friends." I think the cancer is an intruder to our breasts. I love the message of your post. I'm not sure I have ever read a sweeter account of this facination. I think most of us, as women, love it when men appreciate our breasts...and we love the men so much when they still appreciate our charms if we lose them. I hope we find a cure soon!