I Can Hear My Breasts

For several years friends have been recommending that I read Nora Ephron’s collection of essays called “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” saying that we have a similar writing style and that both of us seem to be pretty agreeable about making fun of ourselves. I think that they are probably right, but I have resisted, mostly because I think of Ephron as one of
the New Yorkers who insists that she could live nowhere else. As a proud Midwesterner, this condescending attitude rankles. Over the years, I have run into New Yorkers who have been transferred to Chicago and then do nothing but anticipate the joyous moment when they get called back to the mother ship. I have heard comments like, “you can turn right on red back home, but can you do this in Chicago?” Or “I can’t believe that I will be spending a summer without smelling the salt air on Long  Island.” I contend that the majority of the world’s population lives near an ocean, but it is only a privileged few who can live near the planet’s greatest body of fresh water. So there.

This weekend I finally read her 137 page book. By about page 10 it was already obvious that the audience for these essays are wealthy New Yorkers. Ephron natters on about having two salon appointments per week, since she does not have the time to blow dry her own hair. And in fact, she has apparently sworn off every going to Africa due to the ready lack of blow dryers on a safari. She reluctantly moved to Washington DC with her husband, but immediately began to complain that she was not in NYC, and the upside of her divorce was that she joyfully moved back to NYC a block
from Zabar’s.

Her observations are all told for comic effect, but somehow making fun of a life of privileged excess hits a wrong note for me.  Yes, I am being very hard on her, and I will own up to a bit of jealousy of her tremendous commercial success. Having your book in the library would be a major coup. There are two copies of Ephron’s book in our library.

The eponymous essay, “I Feel Bad About my Neck,” is an 8 page riff on aging, but instead of focusing on the typical wrinkles and age spots, she focus on a sagging turkey neck that can only be camouflaged with turtlenecks or Barbara Bush pearls.

This essay does raise the issue of how all of us are going to assimilate the inevitable physical changes of aging – go with grace, or go down swinging. It has certainly crossed my mind as I approach age 60. Ephron describes a hierarchy of weapons for skin care starting with the generic moisturizes that promise nothing more than softness. If the word“exfoliant” is part of your vocabulary you have moved one step further along. From there you can move to the really expensive lotions that promise softness plus rejuvenation. The most expensive product is probably “La Prairie Cellular Power Infusion.” A one month supply sells for $475.00, and the website is full of fatuous marketing jargon such as:

“Cellular power infusion supports the cellular power stations in your cells, even allowing them to go into hyperdrive to fuel renewal process. It triggers a renewal process that propels your skin towards agelessness.”

The slippery slope really begins when you decide you are willing to endure pain for youth maintenance. First there is the needle for Botox. If you then segue to the scalpel and anesthesia you are into a totally different league. You become that person that people whisper about – “doesn’t it look like she has had her eyes done?” If you are a celebrity,
before and after pictures could land you on the cover of a cheap tabloid and a
botched plastic surgery could elevate you to the cover of People magazine.  Ephron’s issue with a sagging neck is that there is no hierarchy – it is surgery or nothing, and if you want surgery, you will probably end up having an entire face lift, and you become that person.

My approach, as I reach the age of 60, is to combine calm acceptance with a dose of delusion. My favorite sport is paddle tennis, and at the beginning of each year I make a list of improvement goals.  (The goal to reliably hit that nasty spin overhead into the background corner has now been on my list for about 10 years.) I pity Roger Federer at the peak of his game technically, physically and mentally, such that the slightest erosion
of his physical skill will be immediately apparent. Luckily, I am not that great a player, so there is always room for improvement.  My bit of delusion started when I dropped out of
the league had I played in for 20+ years, and instead played with a cadre of my
peers. I don’t think that any of us believe that we have significantly declined, but the truth is that we are all probably deteriorating at the same rate so the change is not noticeable. Until, of course, you sub back into the league. Now, my eroding skills are immediately apparently as opponents, less than have my age and wearing skin tight spandex, scamper around the court, while I lumber. They hit screaming drives while I put balls into orbit or the bottom of the net. However, I have yet to meet an opponent who can hit that
slice overhead that I have been working on, so I still have hope for the
craftiness of age and experience.

Calm acceptance is noticing the gray hairs, but looking forward to a new hair color, and positioning the wrinkles as hard-earned experience. I remember watching my mother get ready for a dinner party while she sang the Bloody Mary, from the musical South Pacific:

“Bloody Mary is the girl I love,

Her skin’s as soft as Dimaggio’s glove.”

The song combined two of her favorite things, clever lyrics and sports. After all, this was a woman who collected baseball autographs as a hobby – her collection even included Lou Gehrig on the day he pulled himself from the Yankee line up. As she looked into the mirror she cheerfully said ,“Well my skin might be soft now, but when I get older I bet my
face will be as well worn as DiMaggio’s glove.” Calm acceptance.

The one thing that I will give Ephron credit for is the catchy title about her neck, which I think is half the marketing battle.  Well, I will go Ephron one better. My essay about the compromises of aging is titled, “I Can Hear My Breasts.” It started one lazy morning in bed when I felt something clogging up my armpit, a wayward pair of socks perhaps. When I moved to investigate, I was horrified to discover that it was my breast – a breast
that had hit the wall of estrogen deprivation and had completely lost its spunk. Seemingly overnight, it had totally sagged out. I was reminded of the old mother ape at the zoo whose only distinguishing female feature were paper thin breasts hanging down to her waist. The picture of calm acceptance.




The next episode happened on the tennis court. I heard this strange noise as I hustled to the net. It went away, but then returned again as I hit a serve, but then went away again. I slowly realized that I could hear my breasts. The low profile bras that I have been wearing for the past 10 years are adequate to control the routine jiggle, but are now no longer capable of tamping the thwacking of my breasts against my rib cage. Calm acceptance.

The missing words in the following poems are anagrams (i.e. like spot, stop, post) and the number of asterisks indicates the number of letters. One of the missing words will rhyme with the previous or following line. Your job is to solve the words based on the above rules and the context of the poem. Scroll down for answers.

******* with advancing age is an issue we all face

Do we fight it or give a big warm-hearted embrace?

Do we use Botox for wrinkles or collagen for lips?

Or do we go to a ******* surgeon for discreet tucks and nips?

Or there’s calm acceptance, but realize that it means that you won’t mind

If your waist is where your breasts are now droopily *******








Answers:  dealing, leading, aligned



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