I keep hearing about breast implants, and I keep thinking the same thing: Why do women get them?
Why do 80 percent of the women get them not for medical reasons, but for reasons of beauty?
Why go to any risk -- the risk of surgery, the risk of post-surgical problems -- just for larger breasts?
Actually, I know the reason. I learned very directly 15 years ago.
The guy was a doctor. His name was George J. Honiotes. He was on the staff of a respected hospital. He was board certified in both obstetrics and gynecology.
He was also a medical hypnotist. And he claimed that he had hypnotized women into having larger breasts.
"We did a study with 44 women, 28 of which finished the program," Dr. Honiotes told me. "We took pictures before and after. We also measured. The 28 had increased their breast size anywhere from 1/4 of an inch to 3 3/4 inches. The average increase in breast size was 2 inches.
"The gal who had an increase of 3 3/4 inches also lost 15 pounds in weight. So it was not a matter of weight gain, which counted for the increase. In fact, about half the women lost weight."
Honiotes said the women, under hypnosis, were encouraged to concentrate on a positive and sensual self-image. They were also encouraged, through hypnotic suggestion, to rid themselves of any guilt they had about their breasts.
"The increase (in breast size) has been permanent," Honiotes said. "We do have control over our bodies. Some believe that we have perfect minds and perfect bodies and that we let ourselves get sick. If that is true, then there are really no limits to what we can do."
I clearly remember what happened the day that column appeared. The phone calls from readers numbered in the hundreds. And 99 percent of the calls were from people asking how they could contact the doctor.
The most desperate calls were from the parents of teen-age girls. "We don't know what to do anymore," one father told me. "We are looking for any alternative to surgery."
How old is your daughter? I asked.
"Fifteen," he said.
Fifteen! I said. Why don't you just tell your daughter that at her age anything can still happen. And, besides, it doesn't matter how big her breasts are.
"Obviously you don't have a teen-age daughter," the father said.
A few days ago, I tried to reach Honiotes. I got hold of his wife, who told me that while Honiotes still practices medicine, he no longer does breast enlargement experiments.
"Doctor (i.e. her husband) decided to stop doing it," said Patricia Honiotes, who is a practicing hypnotist. "Though there was drastic improvement in some people, some people were looking for more. How do I say this tactfully? Some women were looking to go from a 32 to a 38G in two weeks. That's why we don't do it any more.
"Doctor got a lot of reaction, but these were women looking for a quick fix. And doctor didn't want to seem 'quacky.' He didn't want to make hypnosis seem 'quacky.' And there are just far more important things in the world than for a woman to get big boobs."
I wish it were true. According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, whom I contacted this week, breast augmentations in 1990, the last year for which they have complete data, increased 25 percent over the year before and now amount to more than 89,000 surgeries per year.
Only 1 percent of these were for teen-age girls, I am happy to say. But that figure is low because parents are still (somewhat) in control of teen-agers and some doctors won't do such surgery because teen-age girls still are growing.
But in the 19-34 age group, when the girls and women are outside parental control, breast augmentation becomes the No. 1 procedure and represents 65 percent of all cosmetic surgeries.
Why? The reason is obvious: Our culture relentlessly sells the benefits of big breasts. Women are taught at an early age that big breasts are the way to get success, happiness and, most of all, a man.
This week, Newsweek magazine interviewed women who have had breast implants. "Men are so superficial," one woman said. "That's what prompted me."
Does anybody see a little irony here? Isn't there a message for women here?
Yes, when it comes to breasts, men can be very superficial. So stop humoring us! Stop endangering your bodies by enlarging your breasts in order to get a man.
Because no man you get that way is a man worth getting.