If the cup fits... the etiquette of bearing all

Breasts, boobs, tits, knockers, Bristols - they seem to fascinate men and women equally
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There are worse things than losing the top of your dress in front of 12 million television viewers, especially as Judy Finnigan, the breakfast-show presenter to whom it happened recently, was wearing a perfectly decent bra underneath. Less a storm in a teacup than a storm in a D-cup if you ask me, and I'd rather you didn't because I don't know her bra size, and it's not a fact you can afford to get wrong.

There are worse things than losing the top of your dress in front of 12 million television viewers, especially as Judy Finnigan, the breakfast-show presenter to whom it happened recently, was wearing a perfectly decent bra underneath. Less a storm in a teacup than a storm in a D-cup if you ask me, and I'd rather you didn't because I don't know her bra size, and it's not a fact you can afford to get wrong.

As I said, there are worse things. Smiling coquettishly over the candles at your dinner date with spinach in your front teeth is worse. Tripping and falling spreadeagled in front of 500 pupils at assembly, as happened once to the High Mistress of St Paul's Girls' School, is worse. Being called Harry Pratt - I know three - is worse.

So why all the fuss, the front-page pictures in the tabloids, the interviews with Judy afterwards, and even a couple of editorials praising the dignified way she carried it off, or rather carried them off?

Because it's a story about breasts, and for some reason any story about breasts, boobs, tits, knockers, Bristols - call them what you will - seems to fascinate both men and women equally, albeit for different reasons. Men don't really want stories, they just want pictures; women are more interested in the anatomical details - size, shape, volume, etc, because with few exceptions, if we were given the choice we'd all have new ones. I defy any woman to say she's absolutely satisfied with the pair she's got. Bigger, smaller, rounder, fuller, higher or even, as Sylvester Stallone famously told the plastic surgeon about to operate on his girlfriend's chest, "a little, you know, perkier."

For reasons I'm still trying to work out I was once invited to take part in a live TV debate about breast enlargement and reduction, otherwise known as boob-jobs. Three young women who had recently undergone breast surgery had agreed to come into the studio, flaunt themselves and answer questions. I met one in make-up before the show and was immediately struck, not by the size of her bosoms, but by the complicated harness, not unlike a parachute, she had on her back.

What exactly was it? It was to support her back and keep her shoulders from drooping, she said, otherwise the weight of her newly-enlarged breasts would pull her shoulders forward and distort the curvature of her spine, especially if she wore high heels. If she didn't wear the harness she'd fall over.

"Good heavens," I said. "How big are they?" "Wait till I show you," she said, struggling to remove her plastic make-up case. "There, what do you think? 44 Double E. Like 'em?" I didn't really, actually, but I liked her. She was from Minneapolis and was, she claimed, a successful merchant banker until she had the operation, changed her name to Pandora Peaks and went into showbusiness, by which she meant the business of showing people her new boobs. "As a matter of interest," I murmured as we walked slowly back to the studio (she couldn't walk fast because of her harness and high heels), "what size were you to start with?" "36C," she said, a bra size most women would sell their grandmothers to achieve - but not the ambitious Miss Peaks.

As for the correct social etiquette that a bystander should observe if faced with this sort of defrocking situation, I can do no better than to leave you with the story of the ambitious young waiter who left the Regents Palace Hotel and joined the staff of Claridge's. On his second night in the dining room, as he was serving soup to Lord and Lady Thingamy at table 14, he noticed that one of her ladyship's breasts had fallen out of her décolletage and was, as they say, hanging loose. With perfect aplomb, he replaced it in her bodice with the serving spoon and returned to his station, where he was met by a glowering maitre d'.

"That may be how they do things at the Regents Palace Hotel, Higgins," he said furiously, "but in Claridge's, we would always use a warm spoon."

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