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Ronna Benjamin Headshot

Smuggling Raisins

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About seven years ago, my husband and I took my eldest daughter, with her boyfriend, to visit colleges in Washington, DC. Legitimately, you might inquire why we thought that was a good idea, and in hindsight, I admit that it was not. But it was our first kid, and we did a lot of stupid things -- and this particular decision didn't even rate in the top 10.

For some reason (actually, for many reasons) this particular boyfriend had a way of getting to me, so it was even more ridiculous that we invited him to join our family, and I started to get bugged even before we stepped through the iron gates of our first campus. The two of them poked and touched each other and giggled to themselves instead of paying attention to the tour guides, and they both really started to wear on me.

By the time our last campus tour was wrapping up, the clouds had completely covered the sun, the wind was blowing and the temperature had dropped. I was wearing only a white t-shirt and jeans, and I was cold and miserable and oh so "done" with information sessions, perky tour guides and particularly, with this boyfriend.  I wanted to go home.

And then when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. As we were walking back to our car, my daughter's boyfriend whispered something to my daughter, and they both started to laugh hysterically.

"What's so funny?" I asked. "You two have been giggling all day. Just what is so funny?" There were a few seconds of hesitation, and then she let it drop.

"You're smuggling raisins," my daughter informed me with a straight face.

"Smuggling raisins?" I inquired. Then she and the boyfriend looked at each other, cracked up, and stared at my chest.

Not having heard that expression before, it took me a few seconds. And then, well, I pleaded with God to beam me up, or at least to shut my headlights off. I grabbed the sweater off my husband's body, and I gave him a look to kill. "Why didn't you tell me you could see my nipples through my shirt?" I hissed.

"I didn't notice," he replied.

Of course he hadn't. That day I swore I would never buy another bra that didn't hide the headlights.

Breasts are tricky. When I was little, I could barely look at my mother when she made me try on my first "training" bra. In high school, I was pressured into doing the "pencil" test in the girl's bathroom (luckily, I passed with flying colors). After my daughter was born, I leaked milk through my favorite blue silk shirt at a real estate closing (think men in suits, marble coffee table, florescent lights). In my rush to get the hell out of there, I forgot my client's check.

Last week it was all about the "Breast Dressed" at the Emmys. I watched with admiration and full of wonder about the magic of lingerie tape and nipple covers. The dresses were complicated and daring. The stars were confident and beautiful. They wore their breasts with complete confidence, shoulders back and proud, despite as one commentator later put it, being "one sneeze away from disaster." I admired the breasts of Christina Hendricks from "Mad Men" and Sofia Vergara from "Modern Family." How could you not? They were everywhere.

I went to bed after the Emmys thinking, "someday, those breasts are coming down." One internet site I happened upon suggested that you shouldn't smoke if you want to avoid saggy boobs, but I think you shouldn't age if you want to avoid saggy boobs. And we all age, don't we? So it's fun for me to imagine Sofia and Christina, in their 80's, braless in their flowered house gowns, playing dominoes with me. "Are those your boobs resting on your knees?" I ask them happily (because even at 100, mine are still above my belly button). Sofia, of course, smiles and gives us one of her nice big belly laughs because she is still so much fun.

I know that I have had it easy. For young girls with extra large or extra small breasts, middle school and high school can be painful. Women of any age with large breasts suffer from sore backs and endure the pain of bra straps cutting into their shoulders. For a woman of any age with breast cancer, and don't we all know one, life is full of challenges.

The American Cancer Society reports on its website that the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer sometime in her life is about 1 in 8, and that there were about 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women in 2012. With those statistics, I am reminded, as we all should be, that there are a lot worse things than having one's daughter's boyfriend point out (excuse the pun) that one is "smuggling raisins."

October is breast cancer awareness month. Just thought you should know.

Read more from Better After 50:
Do Healthy Choices Matter?
When Looking Good Is Bad for Your Health
Do's And Don'ts When Your Friend Is Diagnosed
Keep Laughing to Stay Healthy