On Nora Ephron, On Boobs


I’ve been thinking a lot, recently, about breasts. Maybe it’s because of Kim Kardashian. Or, Em Rata in Gone Girl. Or, the fact I’ve been re-reading Nora Ephron’s “A Few Words About Breasts.” (It’s hard to tell which one has had more influence.)

I can tell you exactly what I was wearing when I first started developing: a synthetic, sheer white Limited Too tank top with multicolored rhinestones and a nascent nipple, peeking through the seams. Though precocious, their growth quickly stalled. In high school, I was given one particular, overtly padded blue leopard print Victoria’s Secret bra. So squishy you could wear it atop your head, run into a wall, and come out relatively unscathed. (Now, imagine its influence on my chest.) I tell you this because my breasts once excited me. I aimed to care for them. Now, I wake up, deem the shirt I wore to bed acceptable for the day, then venture into the world bra-less. This is not revolutionary. It’s barely even noticeable. My look is at best schleppy, certainly not sexy. No respectable 20-something, in the prime of fleeting youth, does this.

So, in an effort to care for my small bust, I have decided to take Ephron’s breast advice. “Here are some things I did to help.” she writes, listed in reverse order:

Splashed cold water on them every night because some French actress said in Life magazine said that was what she did for her perfect bustline.

French actresses always give the best advice. Initially, I “fleck' them with water. This yields little result. Then, I try to cup them near the faucet but alas, I cannot reach the water stream. So, I, too, “splash' cold water on my breasts, scooping water from the faucet like a paddler saving a sinking canoe. The effort yields instantly rigid nipples and a bathroom floor that appears flooded. My roommates are very upset. I am asked not to repeat this again.

Slept on my back for four years.

I have always been partial to the fetal position. Sleeping on my right side, specifically. Perhaps this explains that one’s runty size. I forgo comfort and attempt to sleep on my back for one night. Initially, this seems easy. Five minutes later, I am frustrated. My lumbar spine aches. My breasts—like after sex—succumb to the allure of blissful, right-sided sleep. (I’m sorry.)

Bought a Mark Eden Bust Developer

What is a Mark Eden Bust Developer, you ask? It’s “a clamshell-like device with a spring to provide resistance.” according to Wikipedia. Mark was also indicted on 11 counts of mail fraud in 1981 after protracted litigation with the United States Postal Service and the product was subsequently removed from the market.

Still, in pockets of the internet, you can find Mark Eden products.

Various eBay vendors sell the old advertisements. One reads: “Then I gained 5½ inches in only 21 days.” Initially, I assume it means each individual breast. Equating the growth of a foot long Subway sandwich on one’s thorax. Combined though, that is roughly half of a six-inch Subway sandwich—or roughly .26 inches of growth per day—per breast, which seems manageable. It’s unclear if this growth occurs uniformly and evenly over the horizontal surface area or perhaps only vertically. Maybe even only to the nipples? In which case, sounds terrifyingly like Pinocchio. I order mine from Etsy.

I expect a fist or palm-sized clamshell-like device. Instead, the Mark Eden Developer is a huge, human hand-sized contraption. Appearing less-mollusk and more masticator like, akin to the pink-gummed mouth of an octogenarian. Mine also comes with an instructional booklet. Part fastidious trainer, resolute life-coach, and chiding, glamorous best friend, I imagine Dixie Carter, narrating its entirety.

'Congratulations to you.” it begins. (I love feeling accomplished for doing absolutely nothing.) “Welcome to the Mark Eden way to a more beautiful bustline.” (Could there have been any other? I wonder.) For women, it continues, “the chief limitation on the improvement in size, contour, and shapeliness will be their own ambition.” And I thought ambition improved other facets of my life! Turns out: only my breasts. (Given this correlation, I clearly do not have enough to improve either.)

'There are three 'P’s' of bust development: Persistence, Posture, and Patience.” (Had I written the copy, I would have gone with the three 'B’s': Bullishness, Balance, and Breath.) I must do the program at least three days a week, either on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. For maximum results, I should do the program six days a week, every week. I aim for six days a week, performing each exercise 20 times. There are eight exercises in total. Each modeled by “Heather Adams, famous model—noted for having one of the world’s loveliest bustlines.”

*Day 1

The thing about the Mark Eden exercises is they’re all essentially the same. Squeeze the device together 20 times—which echoes in a heightened, tinny manner—and on the last squeeze, hold for eight counts. Each movement is the “best' or “wonderful' for targeting various areas of the bust. Exercise three has a comically insinuating photo of the Bust Developer placed strategically over Heather Adams’ pelvis. While exercise four is held over her head like I Dream of Jeannie or a drunk ballerina. Exercise five requires I lean forward while exercise six says I should lean back—both send conflicting messages about posture. Exercise eight is to be used if one side seems to be growing faster than, or lagging behind, the other. I decide to improve my already lagging right breast. Exercise eight is harder than it appears. It strains the metal spring so much, the Mark Eden Developer sounds like a dolphin dying. By the end of my routine, I feel that, if this does nothing for my bust line, it will do more than Tracy Anderson ever could. My arms are very sore.

*Day 2

My left hand cramps, as if suffering from carpal tunnel. It’s unclear if this is from my computer, smart phone, or Mark Eden use. I forgo the exercises and instead, eat Thai food. Hoping the excess coconut milk will find its way to my breast ducts.

*Day 3

I re-read the patience portion of the Mark Eden Bust Developer booklet. “Remember for years nature has done nothing to give you the bust size and shape that you want...We get very little in life without making up our minds to get it. So practice your program faithfully.” I am ashamed. To atone for my sloth, I do the regimen twice. By the end, I feel as if I’m eight again. Swimming that final lap of breaststroke with my pectorals quivering. (It must be working.)

*Day 4

I feel extra committed to my Mark Eden program since I do each exercise after a hot Vinyasa flow class. As I squeeze the Mark Eden Bust Developer together and my outer armpits tighten, I wonder: where does armpit fat come from? Will it go away? Is it directly related to my bust size? If so, will it increase if my breasts do too? “One question many women ask.” my Mark Eden book says, is “will this program build unsightly muscles in my arms and shoulders? The answer is no...you will develop no unsightly muscles through the practice of this course; but you can build a lovelier bustline than you ever thought possible.” I finish the exercises still confused.

*Day 5

Have you ever exercised topless? Me neither. I decide, why not? The heat is on and toasty in my apartment. I conveniently have a mirror right here to analyze the bodily mechanics. As I squeeze, I realize the Mark Eden Bust Developer is all pectorals, deltoids, and triceps. Negating their claim this will not build unsightly (which I assume in '60s-'70s speak meant any) muscles. Except the genie/drunk ballerina pose that is exercise four. Observationally, I can confirm that one definitely does wonders for your breasts.

*Day 6

It’s my last day on the Mark Eden Bust Developer Regimen! I am kind of sad. Decidedly, I dress up like Heather Adams (in my bra and underwear) because I think I too may be verging on noteably having one of the world’s loveliest bustlines. The exercises have become easier with time. My arm muscles only slightly tingle when I’m finished.

'A woman whose bustline is suddenly transformed receives more for her efforts than just a larger reading on the tape measure.” the Mark Eden booklet reads. “She is subtly transformed...Her very presence takes on a new and subtle glow of womanliness, of sex-appeal, and yes, of glamour that is undeniable and unmistakable.”

Since I do not own a measuring tape, the numerical results of my experiment cannot be confirmed. However, my aura does seem alterably glowing, sexually appealing, and undeniably, unmistakably glamorous (at least to me). Like most bizarre fitness contraptions (shake weight) it isn’t what the Mark Eden developer physiologically does that is important but how it makes one feel. Perspective, people. Especially when putting your breast foot forward in the world.

By the last page, it is revealed the Mark Eden Bust Developer comes with the Mark Eden Money Back Guarantee. However, Etsy does not come with the Mark Eden Money Back Guarantee guarentee. I am out: $22.00 (plus shipping and tax). Should you have trouble finding, or no desire to purchase, your own Mark Eden Breast Developer, sleep on your back, or splash cold water on your breasts, take Ephron’s ex-boyfriend’s, Buster Klepper’s, mother’s advice: “Always make sure you're on top of him so you won't seem so small.” Problem solved.

—Alexis Cheung

Photos courtesy of the author.