Venus envy

As my perfect breasts begin to lose their bounce, I find myself taking young Hollywood perkiness personally.

Published March 16, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Lovers have told me on more than one occasion that my breasts are my best asset. They're double Ds, big, full and pretty. Sometimes they look vaguely pornographic, especially during the humid New York City summer, when I'm forced to wear skimpy tank tops that never seem to give me the coverage I need. I've got cleavage spilling out all over the place, and for the most part, I'm cool with that. It's flesh. We've all got flesh. I've just got a little more.

I've always been stacked. I just woke up one morning at the age of 9, and -- boom -- I was already a B-cup. I was the first girl in my grammar school to get a bra, and the first to start drowning myself in large sweatshirts. It takes a little while to get used to that sort of thing. I swear I tilted for a few weeks. It wasn't until my freshman year of college that I realized that, while my breasts were sometimes unwieldy, I was pretty glad to have them. I arrived at this moment of clarity during my first semester, when I attended a Thursday night happy hour wearing a tight white T-shirt and jeans. Where I formerly had been ignored, I was suddenly bestowed with drinks. (OK, Coors Light drafts, but you take what you can get when you're 18.)

And so went my late teens and early 20s. Boys like breasts. Breasts get you things. Go, breasts, go. I got over the negative attention pretty quickly ("Hey, buddy, my eyes are up here."), but I was always aware of their power. It's a continuing fascination for me because that was the first time I got that kind of attention. No matter how many feminist tracts you read, you never forget what boys like.

Now I'm in my late 20s and while my breasts are still beautiful, they've started to lose their perk. That's right, the girls are feeling a little down, a little tired, and are losing their battle with gravity. I don't know how to deal with this exactly. Should I feel sad? Should I buy them a little nip and tuck on their birthday? A friend once told me, "No one judges mountains for shifting and changing, so why should they judge you?" Of course, he's right -- but every once in a while you need a little reassurance.

It's particularly rough watching young Hollywood in action. I'm starting to take their perkiness personally. Jennifer Love Hewitt (or Jennifer "Love My Breasts" Hewitt as she's often referred to) is a perfect example of someone genetically predisposed to make me feel like crap. Unless she had a little silicone help ...

In the 1998 music video for her one and only single, "How Do I Deal?" (an enthralling piece that starred her then-19-year-old breasts), she wore a white tank top, and bounced around angrily in the rain, her breasts buoyant, large and damp. I remember watching it for the first time with my roommate, shaking my head, blinking my eyes, and then saying, "Oh, come on. Come on! She's not wearing a bra. Goddammit, they just can't be real. They can't."

My roommate just grinned at the television set. His head bounced ever so slightly to the rhythm. A small trail of drool formed on the corner of his mouth. I don't think he cared either way -- a nice rack is a nice rack, real or not. I, however, am one of those people who need to know if things are real: noses, eyes, hair color and especially breasts. I know it's none of my business. I know it's rude. I don't care. I want to know. So when I had the opportunity to find out if Love's best asset (surely it's not her singing voice) were store-bought or homemade, I decided it was worth it to invest my time in a little research.

Last September, I was walking home to the East Village from my office in Soho. I took Bowery, and when I hit the corner of Third Street, I saw a camera crew setting up for the night. A man walked by me with a walkie-talkie, and I heard a voice crackle through, "Love and Jonathon are coming this way."

Love? Wasn't that Hewitt's nickname?

My heart started pounding. Could it be? I walked around the corner from the crew and stole a peek at a director's chair. Yep, it was true. The chair read: "Time Of Your Life," Hewitt's hourlong drama, which at the time had yet to debut in Fox. (It has ultimately done poorly in the ratings, and is, in fact, on hiatus. Renewal status is undetermined. Apparently a clear complexion and good posture can only take you so far in life.) This might be my chance to learn the truth! I was sticking around for this one.

I stood on the corner for a good 45 minutes and watched the activity. A truck drove by and sprayed water on the streets to create a post-rain appearance. Three 10-year-olds waited anxiously nearby clutching paper and pens, presumably for autographs. Their mother, who grasped the leash of a west highland terrier, tried to schmooze one of the production assistants, to no avail.

Hewitt was nowhere in sight.

How long could I wait to see those perky breasts? I mean, this was something I could tell my grandchildren about: I saw the perfect, perhaps cosmetically enhanced breasts of an aspiring superstar. At the same time, I had completed a 10-hour workday and was just plain tired.

Love my breasts, I began chanting internally. Touch them. Feel them. Love them.

PAs temporarily relocated me while they dismantled some boards they had mounted on the side of a building. The signs were plastered with posters and scrawled upon with graffiti to make them look all gritty and urban and shit. I found it amusing that they had to make a street corner in the East Village look gritty. There are plenty of places in New York City that need no decoration.

I chatted with one of the PAs, a younger guy, while he pulled down the posters. I told him I was there to see perfect breasts.

He said, "You really think they're perfect?"

I said, "Perfect, cosmetically enhanced breasts."

"Aw, that's not fair," he said. "The minute someone gets famous, they say, 'She has fake breasts,' or, 'He's gay.'"

I hadn't the heart to tell him "they" were usually right. Instead I said, "Fair enough. Perfect breasts, then."

"Well, actually, they're not bad," he said and laughed.

"I'm sure," I said.

They cranked up some huge lights on either corner of Third, and then another set farther down towards Lafayette. People started to gather on the street corner. We all just stood around, waiting for something to happen. We could sense the impending presence of greatness, or some crap like that.

I chatted with a scruffy NYU student who was smoking a butt nearby.

"Are you here to see the breasts, too?" I said.

"I'm just chilling, taking a break. I don't even know who it's supposed to be."

I explained that we were awaiting the arrival of an international pop singing sensation, television star and horror movie princess.

"Huh," he said. "I don't have a television set, so I don't know who she is."

And then I asked him to marry me. No, I didn't do that, but I did smile at him warmly.

Finally she arrived and shot her scene, and wouldn't you just know it? She wore a jacket. No breasts for this fan. No, not tonight.

I bid my compadre farewell and headed home. On Sixth Street, I ran into two of my co-workers, returning from their weekly volunteer session at an art program for homeless teens. They were glowing from their good efforts and intentions. I told them what I had witnessed, and they told me they had no idea who Hewitt was. I then realized, as I tend to do about once a day, that I was an asshole. They invited me to join them for a drink in Soho, but I declined and shuffled onward.

When I entered my apartment, I immediately went to the bathroom. I pulled up my shirt, camisole and bra, and stared at my breasts. I pinched my nipples until they were hard. I looked for a minute more, and then covered myself.


By Jami Attenberg

Jami Attenberg's fourth book, "The Middlesteins," will be published in 2012.

MORE FROM Jami Attenberg

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