So I’m standing topless in a bathroom stall at Buffalo Wild Wings in Sherman Oaks, California and I have a choice to make: Sports bra or no bra?
My husband and I had decided, last-minute, to see a movie and he brought me a change of clothes so I could meet him at the bar straight from work. I’m a tour guide at Universal Studios and the trams we ride around the backlot are really bumpy - the sports bra has proven a personal and professional necessity. But now - after 9-ish hours of wearing one and looking down the barrel of a beer and movie with my husband - I wanted out.
I’m 37 (this will be important later) and never in my life have I chosen to go braless in public. Now, that requires some disclaimers: For one thing - it’s not remotely true. I have, of course, gone braless in public many times; but they were different from this situation in one critical way: this time had nothing to do with ‘them’ - the viewer of my breasts.
Every braless excursion, prior to the one being considered in that bathroom stall in Buffalo Wild Wings, was the kind many other woman know well: The garment in question is ‘supposed’ to be worn without a bra and/or the choice to go braless was made after a careful scrutiny in the mirror to determine nipple-comfort, side-boob exposure, under-sweat possibility - destination, orientation, inclination.
This, unlike those situations, was a crunch-time decision. It came down to vanity or comfort. One looked ‘better’ and one felt Better. I shoved the bra in my purse, slipped on the t-shirt and walked my wild wings out into the restaurant feeling like Athena. Nobody, of course, gave a shit. My husband didn’t even notice.
As I considered it, the weight of the moment increased.
When it came to my breasts, I have never before chosen comfort over vanity. Never. When it came to the rest of my body - wearing make-up or doing my hair - I have aired on the side of comfort over vanity a million times - arguably the majority of the time. With my breasts, however - not once.
Why is because you - the unnamed viewer of my body - had superseded my comfort when it came to boobs. And it isn’t because of your potential critical judgement of me - like not wearing make-up or doing my hair, whether you think my breasts are ‘beautiful’ doesn’t matter. This is different because your consideration of my unbound breasts could harm me, could lurk and threaten.
Unbound breasts, even when still covered, are to some, considered bait. If present, the attention of predator is inevitable and the responsibility of the one holding them, the trap. It is why, I think, even other women will often be the first smug finger-pointers at a braless woman ‘what is she trying to do?’
It isn’t for nothing that this braless-hear-me-roar-bathroom-epiphany came on the heels of the nomination of Hillary Clinton for President; and one mere hour before the movie in question: Ghostbusters.
With popcorn falling unencumbered down my shirt to my waistline, I found myself sobbing. Yes. I sobbed during Ghostbusters. Maybe the Harness wasn’t just holding back my breasts all these years, because something unexpected happened when Kate McKinnon did her badass, slow-motion, gun-licking, ghost-take-down. I just sobbed.
And no, it wasn’t because I hadn’t seen a woman kickass in film before - who hasn’t?!?
Barbarella, Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger, Charlie’s Angels… But unlike them, these women weren’t for men to have sex with. The difference was startling. None of the women were ‘designed’ to be particularly fuck-able - however fuck-able one might find them. They just kicked ass. As women. I’m not goddamn kidding, I’ve never seen that before. Even my favorites, Thelma and Louise, were not only beautiful, but everything they do is a result of rape, a bad boyfriend, or (thank god for you Brad Pitt) a ‘good lay’.
I sobbed, you guys. Tears got all over my boobs.
And then, two days later, our president writes and essay in GLAMOUR about FEMINISM?!? I mean… There is no way to say this that doesn’t simultaneously confess a lifetime blindness - but I feel like I just woke up.
For those who may be reading this and don’t know me, I should point out I’m tough as shit. Ask anyone. I’m loud, I’m opinionated - I’m smart and I don’t mind saying ‘I’m smart’ - well-traveled, red-headed, tattooed, and Bob’s your uncle.
This awakening that I’m describing is not your freshman-year-women’s-studies kinda thing (as rad and pivotal as that is) this is an inward facing awakening that is proving to be substantially more unsettling.
This is where me being 37 comes in: I am the baby. Not only of my immediate family, but of my extended family - I had always been among the youngest. After college, I found myself again, the only 20-something in a sea of 40-somethings and I accepted - without blinking - that any condescending pat-on-the-head or dismissive wave I got was because I was young. …And then one day I was 30 and it was like someone hit me with a baseball bat. I looked around and went ‘hold-the-fuck-on’! I just got a dismissive wave from a guy who is YOUNGER THAN ME!?!
It was like that quick, nauseating zoom in JAWS. Virtually every encounter I had was suddenly seen through a different lens and - oh my god - it was because I was a woman. I became more aware and more defensive and more wise.
But this week - why I shoved my bra in my purse and sobbed during Ghostbusters - is because of a new realization; this time the nauseating twist of the lens is looking inward. I realized that why I dismissed something, why I walked away, why I held back - oh my god - is because I’m a woman, and I believed them. "The call is coming from INSIDE the house!"
Like most shattering realizations, I suspect the pendulum will fall back into some kind of balance, but at the moment, my ROAR is rumbling in my chest day and night. Every horn honk while I’m running, every knee placement on the train, everything about Hillary… And it’s fine-tuned because like all good superheroes - my underwear is finally outside my clothes - and shit is getting real.
Also, write this down: I’m voting for Hillary Clinton NOT because she’s a woman and NOT because I put my bra in my purse. I want Her to be President. Boom. I think she’s the right one for the job. Bam. Done deal.
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