Breasts, Risks and Questions

The following essay was submitted to highly selective universities.


The woman wanted breasts. She had fame waiting on her like a slave, money dripping from her fingertips, and men diving into her very being. Yet she wanted breasts because the world wanted her to have a bust. She looked at the big black and white glossy of herself arching on a silken carpet and knew that the world would be satisfied with her airbrush deception.

This woman is us. My family has been in existence for nearly 20 years now, and we are aging and losing our own breasts and tight face — the giddy happiness of a child’s unconditional love for his family, the young family’s need for each other. Yet we are constantly pressured by society’s icons into compromising our change and age instead of accepting it. Although we are by no means a dysfunctional family, we are eons away from the sugary likes of a Disneyfied sitcom. During our eighteen-year stint as a family the downs seem more memorable than the ups.

So when my mother announced that we’d be getting a family portrait taken, I was not surprised. A few hundred-dollar photo of us acting like a tightly knit, happy unit was sort of like a drug for my mother. It was a chance for her to wipe out with one clean stroke, the often horrible memories of he years past. It was a chance for us to repaint our faces in the mirror.

So, on Sunday we all stepped out of our sweats and frowns and prepared to arch on a silken carpet. My father had put on a black suit and tie. My mother was covered with a long red dress and was contemplating make-up. My tomboy sister was sporting a scoop-necked dress, and I had slicked back my hair and dressed with a button-down shirt and non-denim pants. The occasion had the surreal formality of preparing for a Kabuki play.

When we got to the studio our splendor, we were greeted by a longhaired man wearing a Victorian shirt. His smile betrayed the monstrosities to which we’d be subjected.

“Think warm, happy thoughts,” he said as he maneuvered us into positions that pleased his eye. “Cross your ankles. Cross your legs. Don’t cross your eyes. Look strong. Look dignified. Lean against Daddy. Put your arms around your wife. Put you hand on your husband’s. Lovingly. Relax.”

As I was herded around in the back as the symbolic young, male family backbone, I could see all the little things that the camera would not catch. My sister did not feel adorable sitting on Daddy’s lap. My parents, plastic-faced, Barbie smiles, ready in ammunition, were desperately trying to feign affection.

They say that the camera never lies. What they don’t say is that we can lie to the camera. If an actress really wants her pores gone, breasts enlarged and hair added, there’s always the magical world of touch-up. This, in effect, was the world that we entered that Sunday. It was humiliating to pretend to be people we were not, especially when I did not feel that our family was so badly out-of-join to need such embellishment. But the twinkling music and the shimmering white curtains of the studio enveloped us in its opiate-like grip. It was intoxicating to be a perfect family and we became willing clay under society’s manipulative hands. In half an hour, we grew luscious breasts that would seemingly seduce generations to come. There’s Mom and Dad, looking so loving and proud. There’s dainty Sophia, oh-so-flowery. And me: that tower of strength. But I would not wax nostalgically for the wonderful false perfection of the past. The photo is an allusion, just another vain attempt to conform with society’s ideals. Instead of an enhanced family bust, we’ve ended up with a third breast airbrushed into our photo selves.



Rate this essay from 1–5 with 5 being the highest mark. What rating did you give it and why?

Is this student smart? Defend your answer.

How would you describe this student’s voice?

If you had to guess, what kind of background does this student come from (race/ethnicity, geographical location, economic background)? Would knowing these things before hand alter the way you would read this essay? Why or why not?

Did the student pick a good topic for his essay?

Would you categorize the essay as risky, and if so, in what way?

How do you think this student feels about his family? Should he share this in an admission essay?

Do you think he makes good points about the way media effects the way we act and the things we want?

Do you think parents should read over their children’s essay before they send them to universities? Defend your answer.

Would you want this student as a roommate? Why or why not?

If you had to guess what this student will be do after university what would it be?

Do you think universities like risky essays? If yes, where did you get this impression?

Like what you read? Give Parke Muth a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.