Nell Boeschenstein, writing almost seven years after her prophylactic mastectomy, examines how breasts — whether real or fake, attached to or removed from their original owner — carry an overabundance of personal and cultural meaning.
Since I am not married and because my parents are loving and kind, my mother has borne the brunt of my physical and emotional caretaking these past few months as I struggled with decision-making and the eventual decision’s realities. She’s the one who has heard me most often respond to the question, “Do you want me to bring you a book?” with a matter-of-fact, “No, I’d rather watch TV.” Each time I’ve heard myself say this, I’ve watched her try not to judge me out of parental concern.
Paul Simon’s Graceland celebrates a quarter century this summer: it hit your parents’ cassette player in August 1986. I was six and my sister was twelve. We were both still single and life was great. This means that Graceland is now the same age that “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Hit the Road, Jack” by Ray Charles, and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by the King (of Graceland) were when Simon’s album came out. I name only songs because in 1961 albums as we understand them today hadn’t yet been invented.
When I am frustrated with my generation it is often because we have a willful disregard for what has come before. Aretha Franklin seems a prime example of this. Those hats are the hats of black churches. That weight and those breasts are a body that has aged. That hometown is family and that fear of flying is, above all, human. That “shut up” was a demand that you recognize she has been there, she has done that, and you could learn a thing or two from listening to where the “there” and the “that” have brought her and what they have shown her.