I Don’t Want to Wear a Bra Today!
It was a hot spring New York City morning and I wanted to wear my new Captain Marvel tank top. And I didn’t want to wear a bra with it.
BOOM. Floods of countless thoughts then fill my head on why I should and shouldn’t wear a bra. The bottom line is I have been socialized to believe I physically look better and I am a more respectable woman if I wear a bra.
When I told my twenty four year old daughter that I wanted to write about these incessant thoughts, she said, “Oh wow, I didn’t know you had those feelings!” And that is when I knew I absolutely had to write about it.
Pushing Down the Push Up
I took my daughter for her first bra when she was 11 and by the time she was 16 she would only wear push up bras. That caused some friction between us. I believed her breasts were beautiful the way they were and I saw how the media influenced her need to look a certain way. She did not agree. I remember the day we were in Victoria’s Secret arguing as we circled the racks of colorful lingerie, picking out very different items. It got more and more tense between us.
I heard a voice inside me say Let her pick out the bra she wants -they are her breasts, after all. Hmmmm. Isn’t this what I was teaching my daughter? To have agency over her body? So I sat in one of their fancy chairs and surrendered.
Perhaps another mother would have said, “I am not buying push up bras for you. If you want one you will need to buy it with your own money,” but that didn’t feel right to me either. It was her body and it was going to be her choice. It was quite a conundrum for me at that time, as I hated how the media portrayed the concept that breasts looked better when they were perky and pushed up. Surrender felt sweet, she was happy and that was that.
In the years that followed, she attended an art college and decided to grow out all her body hair and never wear a bra. We laugh at that now! We talk about our bodies and self love a lot. She wears a bra when she feels like it but told me she basically feels like she’s expected to wear a bra; that she won’t be seen for the intelligent woman she is if she isn’t wearing one.
I always wore a bra. Underwire, no wire, sports bra, tank top with a shelf (wait, a shelf?). Something was always holding these babies up. I would shop endlessly and contort myself into creative expensive strap and strapless bras so that my boobs always looked harnessed in my clothing. It wasn’t until I turned 40 that it was even a consideration to not wear a bra. Let me tell you -braless feels amazing. Freedom! And still, I always wore a bra when I felt I needed to wear a bra.
Let’s pause and consider that last thought. When I felt I needed to wear a bra?
Doesn’t that imply that there are times when a bra is necessary? N e c e s s a r y? How could covering my breasts properly be necessary? Yet it feels deeply true for me. Countless big breasted women have told me, “I would never go without a bra. A bra is mandatory.” My belief is that when I am going somewhere, ummm, respectable, I need to properly cover my breasts. That if they are loose, it would be wrong and inappropriate. That I would be over sexualized and viewed as slutty or irrelevant. I consider myself to be a self-loving goddess and yet this conundrum circles my head daily.
I love my new Captain Marvel tank top (Higher! Further! Faster! ) and that morning I decided to follow my true desire and go braless. On my way out the door I put my black leather jacket on. My next thought was — well, since I am not wearing a bra, I will need to keep my jacket on. Covering my breasts is an internalized socialized obsession.
Get That Thing Offa Me
I taught middle school for 20 years. My students were 11 and wearing a new bra for the first time was an exciting rite of passage for the girls. I remember that time myself. I was jealous of my friends who needed a bra and I wanted one so badly. My mom got me a training bra and the day I wore it to school was the worst day ever…that thing felt horrible on my body. It was tight, constricted my rib cage and I couldn’t wait to get home and rip it off. Somehow, even at age 11, I knew it was something I would learn to endure. I still want to go home and rip that thing off sometimes.
Our culture is obsessed. We have collectively decided that as soon as a young girl develops visible breast buds, she needs to get a bra — that they need to be covered and shaped right. How sad is that? Right from the beginning, young girls are receiving the message that their body is somehow inherently wrong and needs covering. I know I received that message.
I Love My Breasts. And.
I know my breasts are beautiful. I love them! And I know that I can do whatever I want with my body. I go out without a bra a lot of the time. I feel physically comfortable, confident and beautiful when I skip the bra. I buy dresses that don’t require a bra and I often go braless in outfits that technically do require a bra. (Because everything technically requires a bra, right?) Recently, I tried on a top and the sales lady asked me what kind of bra I would be wearing with it. She assured me the shirt will look much better if my breasts were lifted. This compulsion to cover and lift is deeply ingrained in all of us and women pass this self-hating belief on to each other unknowingly.
I am writing this because I have a hardwired twisted contorted feeling that somehow my body is wrong, that somehow my breasts are wrong, that somehow it all needs to be civilized. That people will be upset and view me negatively. That I am wrong for not properly covering them up. That I am a more respectable woman if I am wearing a bra. That I will be taken more seriously if I just tame them.
Every time I get dressed and consider what I will wear, there is always an internal bra conversation. I have learned to follow the beat of my body and honor what she wants. Sometimes that includes a bra, sometimes it does not. But the thoughts are always present. And a decision needs to always be made.
Captain Marvel For The Win!
And there I sat in my meeting on that hot New York City morning, braless in my Captain Marvel tank top. I removed my leather jacket because I was warm from walking across town. I absolutely refuse to be anything less than totally comfortable in my body. I noticed my thoughts telling me to put my jacket back on for Operation Conceal, but I didn’t. I kept my jacket over the back of the chair until I truly wanted to wear it.
Each time these conditioned voices speak to me and I choose ME, choose BODY LOVE, choose TRUE DESIRE, it feels like a win. A Captain Marvel bare breasted win.
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Brenda Fredericks is a Transformational Coach who believes anything is possible. She helps women work with their beliefs and thought patterns to create the life they desire. Follow her on Instagram, Medium and Facebook.