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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
Originally published November 24, 2017