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Hi there. As a single mother of two pre-school kids, I
feel compelled to offer some good natured, but badly
needed male guidance in my first ever Final Word.
But first I want to thank the magazine, and Ken,
for sharing his personal space at the back of each issue with
a female. I would say that I have big shoes to fill, but there’s
nothing impressive about size nine, Ken, no matter how many
times you emphasize the EE width. Blame your father and get
on with it, okay?

But I can sympathize with Ken in an odd sort of way. I am,
how shall I say, either blessed or cursed with cleavage depending
on my sense of humor at the time, which is why I dedicate
my first Final Word — with tongue in cheek — to an often
overlooked social issue: When is it appropriate for men to
stare? I have brothers; I know it is primal. But men, it seems,
know no social boundaries and need some guidance. Read
on, guys. You can thank me later. “Dear Loretta” is coming to
your rescue.

The thought first came to me while I was still nursing my
youngest. Time and again, I would look up to multiple sets of
male eyeballs upon me. To be fair, I appreciate that some men
are Princess Bride fans of the Fire Swamp’s ROUS (rodents of
unusual size). For you, comparisons with my BOUS may have
been inevitable. But this accounts for only a handful of you.
For the rest — those with one track minds — here are my rules
of cleavage (also known as viewing etiquette). Fortunately,
there aren’t many. Men, if you have trouble remembering, I
will gladly equip you with a plastic quarterback wristband.
First, time and place should be your first consideration,
not what we are wearing. For instance, if I bend over while
wearing a loose fitting blouse as I drop off my kids, I am not
looking for attention. I am just being a mother. You are just
a faceless person at that moment, that is, unless you genuinely
offer to help me with my kids — in which case, if you are
single and attractive, please feel free to apply for a viewing,
later. Applications are on my fridge. Be forewarned, however;
I require three personal references, one of which cannot be
your mother and one of which must be an ex-wife or girl
friend.

Likewise, if you happen upon me while I am cleaning the
house, doing laundry, grocery shopping or on the sidelines
at a kids’ soccer game, it is not an invitation to look. I may
look good. I may even smell good. But I am still very much
in mom-mode and more likely to ask you to hold a bag of
half-eaten snacks than I am to offer my telephone number.
I do make occasional exceptions for cute 30+ year old male
babysitters. They are rare, of course, like unicorns. But if you
qualify and I like the way you hold the snack bag, I will let
you know by discretely handing you an application from the
fridge and a pencil. Until then, I am Medusa — fail to avert
your eyes at your peril. Every part of your body is about to
turn to stone if you stare, and I mean every part.

Fear not, however. There is one global “viewing” safe harbor
— and that is at adult social functions, where the “competition”
absolutely requires a blouse or dress with an “I’m
not dead yet” attitude. This is, in fact, a female version of an
enhanced interrogation technique and an open invitation to
sneak a peek. Feel free to admire once, twice, or as often as
you like. No applications are necessary — permission granted.
But just don’t misconstrue the invitation. What you don’t
know is that you are being tested like Pavlov’s dogs. We
spend hours in the closet to set you up for potential failure by
changing from one revealing dress or blouse to another. The
key is to look only from a distance — before you start a conversation,
not after — and then never, ever look down again.
Yes, we know you want to. It’s primal. The sweat on your
brow and nervous, uncontrolled eye twitch is a dead give-away.
On behalf of myself and for all women, however, humor
us and try.
I know. Life isn’t fair, is it?