Yoko Ono’s Fake Breasts

In early 1980, just before John Lennon’s death, Yoko Ono considered a breast augmentation. But this was 1980, and this was Yoko Ono. These would not be regular one-on-each-side-with-a-nipple-on-top kinds of breasts. Not for Yoko.

The left side would look like dog teats, four breasts run together extending from just under her armpit to her pelvis. They would pulse and quiver with a life of their own, forcing the onlooker to stare, but making the starer feel uncomfortable. The observer would be forced to examine his/her reaction. I know these breasts are fake, but my mind cannot separate them from the woman. Is my discomfort because I am openly staring at breasts in public, violating a taboo? Or because the breasts are hideously inhuman and I want to see Yoko Ono’s actual breasts and I feel cheated?

The right side would be larger than Yoko’s head, metallic gold, and, in place of a single fleshy pink nipple, would have a constellation of nipple substitutes embedded in its surface. Rubber baby bottle nipples, beer bottle tops, the filter ends of cigarettes, telephone receivers, chocolates. The gold color would demand that the viewer acknowledge the value society places on attractive breasts, while the array of artificial nipples would demonstrate the lengths we go to in order to keep ourselves from ever being fully weaned.

Yoko had gone so far as to design a line of clothing that would display her breasts of art. Formalwear in gauzy fabrics designed more to highlight than conceal, casual wear meant to accommodate her unusual shape but never to apologize for it, even office wear whose subtle message was that breasts would never dictate the agenda of a meeting.

But, shortly before she was to go under the knife, tragedy struck. With the death of her husband, Yoko had not only a tragic emotional loss to consider, but a choice to make. Was she ready to make her boldest artistic statement ever, so soon after a devastating tragedy? After months of solitude and contemplation, she made her decision. Just as John would now be changeless, remaining as she had last known him, so she could not change. For him, she chose to turn away from this potentially life-altering statement of art. She chose to remain the woman he had known so that after her death, when they were reunited, he would still know her.

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