Who Ever Said We Have to Wear Bras Anyway?
I don’t even know where or how I came across the arcane information. I was a hippie child, living with my folks and a bunch of other feral freaks out on a back-to-the-land commune. We didn’t have a phone; we didn’t have TV or get the newspaper; the internet was decades in the future. We were ten country miles from the tiny town where I went to elementary school. Summer vacation was, for me, like traveling to another solar system; I didn’t see anyone from school, ever, between June and September.
And yet. Somehow, some way, before I entered the sixth grade, I knew enough to tell my mom that my new-school-clothes shopping (meager though it was) needed to include a “training bra”.
I didn’t have breasts. Ha! Not even sort of. That summer, I had developed a sort of smallish lump on the right-hand side, followed alarmingly later by a sort of smallish lump on the left-hand side (and I was SO worried they’d never even out). These lumps were tender and sensitive, and they only encompassed the nipple and areola, none of the surrounding flesh. You could barely find them with a magnifying glass. A thin T-shirt would have obscured them completely.
And yet. I had to have a bra.
Mom acquiesced, bless her, and my several new items of clothing that fall included a stiff, itchy, ugly white thing that covered my little proto-breasts. No lace. No ornamentation — well, maybe there was a tiny twist of pink fabric where the straps met the cups, meant to indicate a rose or something. Maybe.
But. I had a bra!
It was the first day of school. My sixth first day of school with the same twenty-five kids. A girl I didn’t know very well (because I had basically one friend through all those years, because I was a weirdo hippie kid), let’s call her May Adamson, was going around the class, whispering to all the girls, making stealthy notes on a folded-up sheet of paper.
At last, May got to me. She leaned in. She whispered, “Are you wearing a … B…A…R?”
Yes, that’s right: she misspelled a three-letter word.
Clever me, I knew what she meant. “Yes,” I whispered back, and she made a note on her grubby little tally sheet.
I looked over her shoulder as she wrote (probably wondering what else she might have misspelled). Every single one of us was sporting a bra. (Or a bar, I suppose. A bar might actually have been more comfortable.)
Somehow, some way, an entire classroom of breastless eleven- and twelve-year-old girls had known that they now needed to cover their nonbreasts.
Over the years, my little lumps grew into actual breasts. For a long time, they weren’t especially large breasts — well, they aren’t especially large even now, but they’re bigger than they were when I was in my twenties. As is the rest of my body. But even at my thinnest and smallest-breasted, I wore a bra religiously. It was just part of getting dressed in the morning. I would no sooner think to leave off the bra than I would forgo underpants. Eww.
And then —
Well, there’s no “and then”. I’m wearing a bra right now, even though I haven’t left the house today, and have no plans to. And then she was fifty-two years old and worked at home and saw an article or two online about celebrities going braless and the backlash and the back-backlash and she thought, Wait, why exactly am I wearing this thing?
It’s a sports bra that I’m wearing right now, one so old and saggy that it’s basically no support at all. Just a layer of fabric between my skin and my shirt. But it still digs into my flesh a bit. I still have marks on me when I take it off at night.
I almost never wear bras with lace and hooks and underwire these days, unless I’m dressed up fancy for some reason, although, now that I think of it…shh don’t tell anyone…I didn’t wear a bra on my wedding day, five years ago.
I did some research. Turns out there’s no medical reason to wear a bra, and it’s actually pretty awesome to not wear them, and maybe people will notice but that’s really on them, isn’t it?
I could just…not wear them. It would take some getting used to, I imagine, even going from these nearly-dead sports bras to nothing.
There are definitely still times I’d want one. Whenever we go somewhere in our old beater pickup truck, if I don’t have the girls seriously locked down in one of my smaller, tighter sports bras, I have to hold them with my hands or it hurts every time we go over even the tiniest bump in the road. Those smaller, tighter bras are also the ones I wear when I play racquetball; I don’t think I could ever comfortably run, or ride a bike, without support.
But honestly? I haven’t ridden my bike in two years. I haven’t played racquetball since, hmm, sometime in July maybe.
And another thing? The area immediately below my breasts is covered in skin tags — has been for decades. I never even really wondered about it, but guess what one of the major causes of skin tags is? Being rubbed by clothing. I had to have one of them removed by a doctor once a few years ago, because it got inflamed and painful.
Yet here I am, wearing these dang things every day.
If you want to get really depressed, just try searching “bra” on your favorite stock photo site. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Wasn’t that fun? Don’t you feel sexy and empowered? (And why so many pictures of asses, hmm?) I almost gave up and snapped a photo of my own floppy little sports bras until I found Happy Cactus Lady up there.
I like her attitude. Here, look at my prickly cactus and my black nail polish, not my boobs!
I think I’m gonna go take this bra off, pour a glass of wine, and try to get used to my newfound freedom.
Shannon Page writes fantasy, horror, and mystery novels from her home on Orcas Island, Washington. She edits anything, enjoys wine and food, and has opinions that sometimes turn into articles. Occasionally she even sends out a newsletter!