Hey, I’ve been thinking about nipples. Mostly my own, but other people’s nipples too. Bodies, social norms, different kinds of comfort. Physical comfort and emotional comfort can be opposite.
Bras have always hurt me, but being stared at by lascivious men hurt me more. So I chose the physical discomfort of bras over the pain of unwanted attention from horny men.
I had to wear a bra for many years, whenever I went outside my home. Decades! It was something I thought I had to do for decency, and another layer of protection between me and the world. Men staring at my breasts creeped me out. The few times I was out without a bra, I was stared at more. So a bra was emotional armor.
I’ve never been a runner and don’t need the support. My breasts are large, but bras never helped me feel less pain from them. Some people say a good bra helps them have less back pain or breast pain, but I’ve never experienced that. Some people with large breasts wear low-support bras to sleep, like it keeps their breasts arranged better, and they have less trouble sleeping. That’s never been me.
Bras are horrible, sensory-wise. Intense underwire things are unthinkable. Scratchy, stiff, rough fabric textures are Not Ok. Anything tight that digs. Anything unflexible–yuck. Can’t do it.
I can’t have seams there, and when I was a teenager, finding bras that met my requirements was hell. Big enough, with no seams, was difficult in a cow town where my options were few and poverty was an issue, with no internet shopping.
Soft bras are all I can handle. But I stopped wearing bras some time ago, thanks to a few friends who set good examples for me. Thank you, friends! I might still wear a bra to an appointment I’m afraid of or if I’m trying to give the illusion of being professional. But that gets more and more rare.
Men look at my beasts less these days–maybe partly my fatness, and I’m older now. My hair gets more gray. I’m less of a sexual mark, more abuelita than mamacita at this point, though I have no grandchildren.
And when I go out, I’m almost always with Ming. I’m perceived as already owned. Which of course I’m not owned at all, but men who think that way can’t comprehend my freedom.
I was at a holiday event, and a woman younger than me pulled me to the side and asked me, slightly horrified, “Was my back showing, earlier?”
“No, I didn’t notice your back showing,” I told her.
“Ok, good. Thank you. Wow, I was so afraid my back was showing. I usually wear a tank top under my shirt, but I didn’t wear one today.”
I was really confused. Are backs not ok to show? Did she have a secret tattoo or some medical thing she was trying to hide? I never understood her fear, and I’m still wondering years later.
what clothes are for
Until recently, I used clothes to try to hide my body, as I wanted to be invisible more than anything. Well, I wanted to be smart, good, and invisible more than anything. I was trying to pretend I didn’t have a body. De-emphacizing my fat tummy, wide ass, hugs thighs was my goal. But it was more than trying to pretend I wasn’t fat–it was deeper than that.
I wanted to be admired for my mind, but that happened rarely. No one really cared about my mind, as we live in a culture where appearances are almost everything.
So I wasn’t admired for much of anything, for many years. I won poetry contests in school–a few people liked my poems. Even then, who cares? I baked delicious vegan banana bread, and a few people benefited from my enchiladas, vegan sweet potato biscuits, the soups I made. Some people liked my zines… Otherwise, not much!
I was a young woman–according to society, I existed to be pretty. But I wasn’t doing pretty right, so I was a failure. With a host of other struggles, being not admired for 15 years or so was a difficulty.
The pretending part is what I’d like to explain–pretending I didn’t have a body. It sounds weird but is not so rare. Many people do things while pretending they’re not doing them.
I’ve been the victim of that. For example, someone had sex with me, but they made up a rule so it didn’t count, like they didn’t have an orgasm, so it didn’t count. If it wasn’t sex, that meant they didn’t need to care for me in any way afterward, and had no need to check in or be accountable emotionally for what happened.
Ming says it’s moving the goalposts. If the sex example person did have an orgasm, then they would have produced some other reason the sex didn’t count. I had a friend who said, “I didn’t hit my kid–I just tapped him.” She had to define hitting her kid as not hitting her kid. Or another former friend had to define abuse in a very specific way so he wasn’t guilty of it.
People say they’re not going to have any ice cream, but they really want some, so three bites doesn’t count. Or they’re not going to talk on the porch when they drop off the crafting materials, but they talk on the porch for only ten minutes, so it doesn’t count. They leave the car running. Or they talk from the car, or they don’t accept something to drink, so it didn’t really happen. You could call it bending the rules or flexibility. But sometimes it just amounts to lying to yourself.
It’s deceit for survival–a coping strategy, at least some of the time. Pretending I didn’t have a body was something I needed to do because of the trauma I endured at the hands of my caretakers. Physical pleasure, joy of movement, and having a body at all were too risky to do in public or around almost anyone. So the weird task of pretending I didn’t have a body was all I could do to survive.
My mentality is totally different now. When I got my trike and asked Ming to photograph me riding trike as a spiritual practice, I wanted to be perceived for the first time. It was a big part of making friends with my body, then learning to truly love it.
Now I’ve exceeded the normal bounds of embodied self-love, and I live for it. I enjoy speaking up about boldly about self-love on this blog, in zines, with all my friends, and even to people I don’t know.
- My body is unconditionally valid.
- I’m ok, no matter what.
- My fatness is ok.
- All of my feelings, the voices I hear, my social differences and sensory differences, and my emotional states are ok.
- My value isn’t continent on being small, starving myself, exercise, lightness, being easy, the kinds of food I eat or the amount of food I eat, the size clothes I wear or chair I need, or anything.
- Weight does not determine health, and health does not determine value.
- My fatness, disabilities, differences, and needs are all ok.
- My value is constant, and yours is too.
I have two nipples–there’s one on each of my breasts. They’re ok there, not a problem in any way. I feel lucky my breasts are healthy so far, and I get to keep them. My nipples exist every day, and I won’t pretend I don’t have them.
Wearing a bra was a way to minimize my nipples and keep them contained. I wanted them to be less noticeable so I could be less exposed and less vulnerable to men. I was thinking about underwear recently, and this is related. Bras were a way for me to try to control my breasts, and keep them to myself.
I feel less scared now. If someone stares at my nipples, so what. This is my body–I have every right to be here. If you get that distracted by breasts, that’s your issue, not mine. I don’t need to wear unwanted underclothing, wasting energy on that, for your convenience of noticing me less.
I’m naked at all times, under my clothes. My body is always here, especially my nipples. Praise Mother God I’m so blessed.