I’m just back from the supermarket, where I spent so much time in the checkout line that I almost turned into a human stalagmite. I have almost no patience in these situations, largely because it’s nearly impossible to kill time. I surveyed the human menagerie, hoping for distraction, but gave up after spotting a woman wrapped in Charlie Brown pajama bottoms and a much-too-small, horizontally tiger-striped sweatshirt in pink and brown. She probably stood out because her striped top glared like a lighthouse at the edge of a sea of equally hefty men with ponytails and earrings who all were wearing camouflage shirts—as well as camouflage pants, jackets and caps. Perhaps they didn’t want to be seen grocery shopping and were trying to blend into invisibility in front of the Cheerios.
In an anxious bid to keep my mind from seizing up, I turned to the magazine display. Their slick, shiny covers blared the usual: somebody’s getting married, somebody’s getting divorced, somebody’s going into rehab, somebody has a shocking secret, somebody’s gay, somebody is near death.
But then I spotted a squib of a headline below a photo about the size of a matchbook cover:
Leann’s new boobs.
Like you, I have grown up in the Golden Age of Advertising, so the word “new” grabbed my attention. The picture, purportedly of Leann, showed her in a bathing suit covering about half of the purportedly new boobs, but I really had no way of knowing: I never had met the old ones. I never had met Leann, for that matter. I still don’t know her last name or why she’s magazine material.
Suddenly, irrational fear gripped my heart. What if, someday soon, I meet Leann?
People like to be complimented, right? I’m always asking friends questions like “Are those new glasses? Is that a different haircut? Is that a new sweater? How long have you had that watch?’
Depending on the reply, it’s easy to follow up and make the other person feel good. The new glasses “are very hip.” The different haircut “looks good on you.” The sweater? “I like the color.” The watch? “It’s very stylish.”
But what could I say to Leann? If we meet, I’m going to lean on my strategy of making her feel good about herself so we can have a friendly first conversation. So what is the most obvious ice-breaking question? Right:
Let’s assume Leann is proud of her new boobs. Where to go from there?
“They look good. They look very—”
Very what? What adjective naturally goes with boobs? Damned if I can think of one. This could lead to an awkward moment. Surely, I would have to say something.
“They look great.” That’s weak—”great” is stale and overused. But what’s the alternative? The conversation would immediately sag.
As awkward as this might be, imagine the plight of a writer working for, say, In Touch magazine—wait, wait, wait: In this context, I had better pick a different magazine title. OK: Imagine the plight of a writer working for People. The writer already would know about Leann’s new boobs—after all, they’ve already been on a magazine cover. Or at least a picture of them has. So the “new” angle is out. The writer would have to look for a different angle:
“Leann, everyone is talking about your new boobs. May I interview them?”
Can you imagine the cover story? “Exclusive! Leann’s talking boobs!”