If you're like me, you live for that moment when you come home from a long day of adulting and get to remove your bra.


Ahhhh.... Our boobs silently thank us as we begin to unwind. I tend to bounce between a large B and a small C cup, so being part of the Itty Bitty Titty collective means going braless isn't exactly new to me. I tend to let my girls do their own thing on weekends when I'm out running errands or if I have on something that just doesn't accommodate bra straps - but there's a caveat.

I've birthed a child and I'm inching towards my mid-thirties, so I try to make sure that my unbridled mom-boobs go unnoticed. I throw a sweater over them or a baggy t-shirt and secretly revel in the satisfaction of my passive freedom. This is especially the case when I'm dropping my 5-year-old off at school or heading into the xoNecole office.

So, because I'm pretty choosey about when I let the girls go au naturale, I knew this 7-day challenge was going to be interesting.

Monday

On day one, I have to say I dove right in. I wore a fitted top tucked into a striped pencil skirt.

Needless to say, my induction into the bra-free movement was ambitious. Right out the gate, I felt extremely insecure. I had to run to my son's school to drop off his Halloween costume and felt the security guard that greeted me staring me down.

It was a chilly day and I was out there - no safety net.

What I Learned

I'm not as liberated as I thought. As soon as eyes found my breasts, I shrank into myself. I made dumb jokes to try to keep the attention on my face instead of my chest and I kept my jacket zipped up - even when I was burning up.

Tuesday

The next day was a work-from-home day, so after dropping my son at school, I decided to head over to Starbucks and work from there instead of running home to hide.

I was a bit more daring in my ensemble, opting for a white mini t-shirt (that says,"More trees, less a**holes") and absolutely no safety net underneath.

What I Learned

While the women seemed to glance over in my direction and kind of give a subtle look of approval before moving on, the men lingered.

One guy who was sitting across from me stationed his gaze on my nipples (which I'm sure were serving as the cafe thermometer) for a solid 10 minutes. I finally said, "Can I help you with something?"

He got up and left.

Wednesday

It was Wednesday, and I was headed into the office.

Thankfully, the weather provided the perfect excuse to keep my bra-free-boobies out of the face of my fellow commuters, but when I got to the office, it was a different story.

For the sake of professionalism, I had a tank top on under my top, which also happened to be oversized and kept things pretty much camouflaged.

What I Learned:

Those damn nipples... Every time the room chilled, I found myself covering them up with my arms.

My posture sunk and I did everything to make myself as small as possible. Not a great feeling.

Thursday

Thursday was a day to run errands, so I decided to face my insecurities a little more. I wore a grey ultra-low cut bodysuit under an over-sized sweater and jacket. The weather was cool but not cold, and with all the running around, I kept my jacket open almost the entire time.

From Target to the grocery store to the public library - my breasts were racking up looks, left and right.

What I Learned

Apparently, some men thought my breasts were their official concern. As I walked down a busy neighborhood street, one guy (who looked old enough to be my father) said, "Sis, you should really cover up."

I was suddenly invaded with the feeling of rage and a tinge of embarrassment. At no point did I look at him and decide it was my duty to inform him that his Timbs were scuffed to oblivion, so why did he feel his opinion about my shirt was so important to voice?

Friday

By Friday, returning to the office was a breeze.

I had been silently harassed, embarrassed, and gawked at all week. All I had to do was figure out a way to go bra-less at work one more time before the weekend. I went with an oversized grey sweater and admittedly kept my jacket on pretty much the entire day.

What I Learned

I will never be liberated enough to rock obvious nipples to work.

I don't even think it has anything to do with having a sense of freedom or patriarchy. I just don't think the gentlemen in my office environment should get to see my nipples.

Boom.

Saturday & Sunday

It was a kid-free weekend and I had spent way too much time all week worrying about, planning around, and trying to hide my breasts.

With very few social obligations on my plate. I spent my weekend musing around New York completely braless, and reveled in the freedom the weekend provided the experience. I didn't mind when they bounced or flopped around, and I didn't care if you could tell I was cold through my shirt.

My no-shame braless weekend felt downright rebellious.

What I Learned

Men don't think about whether or not their pants-bulge is offending anyone on the subway. They probably aren't much concerned with their man-nipples poking through their shirt when a stiff breeze hits them.

What I learned most about this experience is that women's bodies are way over-analyzed, mostly because every advertisement features a model with breasts perked and perched and appropriate for the occasion - whatever 'appropriate' even means.

But whether your breasts are size-deficient or gravity-addicted, whether they have fed babies or catch crumbs while you eat - it should be okay to let them loose whenever we please.

Since this little experiment, I've noticed myself opting out of a bra more and more often - and not just when I'm running to the liquor store at 11 PM. Slightly saggy, a little uneven, and rocking a lighter complexion than the rest of me - I'm fine with my girls in and out of a bra.

The world is just going to have to get used to it.

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In 2011 -- a year following my divorce, I met a young man who I felt could mend my heart.

He was tall, dark, handsome, well spoken and well liked -- everything a girl could dream of on paper. In the beginning there was light, a light of hope for a new love. But as time went by, the relationship spun into darkness. Whether it was the dish I cooked, shirt I picked out, or the way I answered him, it was as if nothing I did was good enough. In fact, his dissatisfaction only made me want to work harder and do more to please.

I recall times when he'd squeeze my wrist a little too hard in public as a warning, leaving bruises -- but it was my fault because I was fragile or bruised "easily." Or the time he dislocated my shoulder and I had to lie to my child because I didn't want her to worry. Each time letting him come back because he appeared to be remorseful and willing to change. But that was only the beginning.

In 2012, I faced an unplanned pregnancy. I had just lost my job and I was struggling to pay the rent. To top it off, the father of my child had given me an ultimatum (as he was "not ready" to be a father)... it was "him or the baby." So, as you can imagine, I was struggling with the decision of bringing a beautiful new babe into my chaotic world. After all, I was already a single mother with one divorce under my belt, living check to check -- now couch surfing, all the while awaiting the big day. I felt as if the weight of the world was sitting on my shoulders -- better yet, my chest!

Although I told my ex where he could put his ultimatum, he came back around to see our child's birth. And while my gut told me to "RUN" in the other direction, I took him back out of fear. Fear of what I thought would be failing yet another child. "You can't do this alone," he said. "You need me," he said. I believed him. For a few months, things appeared to be different. Until the pressure of fatherhood began to sink in. Then the drinking, cheating, lying, and abuse began to resurface.

Oddly enough, it took one fight (like so many before) to get me to LOOK UP. "You don't do sh*t for your kids," he said. "I don't even want to be here but now we have this baby." -- "I gave you an ultimatum but I'm still here. So why wouldn't you want to make it work?" he continued. As if he was doing me a favor.

Holding my baby close, I quickly scanned the room at the home I had built for "us." It was MY blood, sweat, and tears that went into making this home, I thought to myself. At that moment, I knew I'd be damned if I allowed this to continue. I would never want this for my daughters, so why am I endorsing it for myself?

As he proceeded to punch the wall, it was as if the three years preceeding the fight flashed before my eyes. I pictured myself laying on the ground in shock like years before... but this time, it was my child crying beside me. "He's got to go," I whispered to myself. With tears streaming down my face, my hands shaking, and my body quivering in fear, I opened the front door and with everything in me yelled, "GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!"

A few insults later, he managed to make it out the front door and I hit the floor... in prayer. I was ashamed. Not just because I saw this coming. But because I had been here too many times before. Although I am a different person today. There are still some days where I wish I could go back an avoid all of the pain.. much of which I am still working through today.

So, as part of the healing process, I've created a list of dating advice I'd give my younger self:

Fall in love with yourself first.

Don't spend your days in search of a partner to "complete" you. Discover what makes you SPIRITUALLY, emotionally, intellectually, and physically whole first and foremost. Then, when you do meet someone special, ask yourself, "Is this person adding or subtracting from my life" -- "Do they build me up or break me down?" I think Oprah said it best. Don't spend your life searching for the perfect person. Work to make yourself the perfect person for YOU, and then... only then, will "the right person be drawn to you based upon the work that you put out."

[Tweet "First, discover what makes you spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically whole."]

If someone tells you're they're not good for you, believe them and RUN.

You cannot save everyone! While mending the brokenhearted is practically embedded in your DNA, people are who they are. Some people are going to destroy themselves, no matter how much you try to "help" them. If someone says that they are "no good" for you, or "trouble," take that at face value and run the other way. Just because you are open and capable of love does not mean the one you "want" is ready for love. You will deplete yourself by trying to "heal" this person -- which in the end, will do you more harm than good.

Trust your intuition.

It's trying to protect you! Never stop sharing your love; that's why you were put on this Earth. But sometimes real love means saying goodbye. It takes much more courage to let something go than it does to hold tight -- or try to "fix" it. Letting go doesn't mean you're ignoring the situation. It simply means you're accepting what is, exactly as it is, without fear, opposition, or desire for control.

[Tweet "Trust your intuition. It's trying to protect you."]

Talk it out!

As difficult as this may be sometimes, do NOT keep your feelings bottled up! People are not mind readers. They should not have to jump through hoops to uncover when and how they have wronged you. Pass on the fit of tears over dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and open the floor to a grown-up discussion at an appropriate time in private. Learn how to separate the person from the issue. Be soft on the person but firm on the issue. If you want to find long-term relationship success, you're going to have to learn how to communicate.

Forgive yourself.

Life didn't come with instructions. You are not your mistakes. You are not your struggles. You are here NOW with the power to shape your tomorrow. Take all the time you need to heal. The key to breaking free from your broken self, is baby steps -- taking it one day at a time. Never let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life. Just because today is painful doesn't mean tomorrow won't be great. You WILL get there.

What advice would you give your younger self? Do share!

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