Boy, don't look now: A cleavage quandary stares us in the face

August 29, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

As a male person of the '90s, I find myself troubled. And it's all because of the Wonderbra, which is not to be confused with Wonder Woman, who doesn't need one.

The Wonderbra is the new-fangled device that creates cleavage for the cleavage challenged. Maybe cleavage doesn't take it far enough. The Wonderbra gives a woman cleavage in much the way that erosion gave Arizona the Grand Canyon.

Yes, it molds and shapes and pushes up, up, up. It's the Apollo missile of bras. It's got more wires than Bell Atlantic, and, if you trust the publicity, is the greatest scientific advance since cable TV.

Here's what all the fuss is about: The Wonderbra is supposed to make Kate Moss look like Dolly Parton. Women can't buy enough of them.

Which is fine. But where does that leave me?

What I mean is, do I look, or do I not look? (And you know where.)

If I look, I am nothing more than a piece of male dirt, proof that all men are scum, etc.

If I don't look, then what's the point of the Wonderbra? Why else would a woman get one unless she wants somebody to look?

Women ain't buying this baby for the prestige.

This is about, well, you know. Freud could explain. Or maybe Woody Allen. Suddenly, everywhere you look, it's like that scene in "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex" when the giant breast got loose. Except now, it's an entire herd, and I'm about to get trampled.

I find this entire phenomenon most disturbing. So do a lot of other men.

Over a period of many years, I have been re-conditioned, re-programmed, re-made into the new man. I am free of the old ways. I am so liberated that I recently erased my copy of "4 For Texas," starring Anita Ekberg and three other people. Soon, I may even learn to vacuum.

Already, I share household duties. I'm up to nearly 30 percent, if you include the remote control as an appliance.

I do not objectify women, with the possible exception of Madonna, who practically begs for it, the minx.

Look, here's how hip I am: I briefly considered shaving my head in solidarity with Shannon Faulkner.

This transition has not been easy. I grew up in the pre-Alan Alda era of Playboy and Jayne Mansfield and Bogie and decolletage. This was a time when people still freely used the word -- mom, please cover the kids' ears -- "dame."

Now, just when I finally "get it," the Wonderbra comes along, leaving me to wonder whether it's true that feminism is dying.

It's so dead in some places that, the other day, I heard about a woman who said she was having a bad breast day.

I remember the early days of the women's movement when women burned bras. I remember the rhetoric, too, about freeing themselves of the shackles placed on them by the male hierarchy.

The dirty little secret was, of course, that every male I knew, in the hierarchy or otherwise, cheered this brave advance in women's rights. In fact, the bra-less look brought more men to the movement than anything Betty Friedan ever wrote.

Now we've come full circle. Now, women not only want bras, they want to fill them up.

Of course, men and women both like to be noticed by the opposite sex, and, in some cases, their own sex, but that's somebody else's story. A woman of my acquaintance explained that there's a fantasy effect to how the Wonderbra can make you look. Women know what men like.

The thing is, she said, it's OK to be looked at. Women just don't want to be leered at.

This is complicated territory. This is not like figuring whether Clarence "Can o' Coke" Thomas might have gone over the line.

Here's what's tricky. It isn't just that the Wonderbra means men can look at women. It's where you look. You're encouraged to look there.

Do you stare?

Do you, like in high school, sneak a peek?

Can you say anything? Something like, "My, you're filling up that B-cup nicely today."

But how do we know for sure a woman is actually wearing the Wonderbra. Maybe she doesn't want us to look there. Maybe we're offending her.

Maybe this is just as scary as I thought it was.

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