A few months ago, I started a new experiment. I stopped wearing a bra.
It all started because I have been experiencing a dramatic increase in anxiety symptoms since a certain catastrophic election in November. With that anxiety came debilitating panic attacks. And over time, I started to notice that the constriction of a bra band was often a catalyst to panic.
|Discarded bra pile at Camp Throwback
I’ve never liked bras. I always took them off immediately upon arriving home, or sooner. When I couldn’t find a bra, chances are thatall of my in-heavy-rotation bras were in the center console of my minivan, having been stripped off on my way home from somewhere. But the panic thing was new.
In the end, I decided that my mental health was more important than my boobs being ever so slightly further away from the ground.
By any metric, I “need” a bra. I can hold a pencil under my boob. Or a broom. Or my phone. Or a full wine bottle (yes, really). I wear a 40i bra and I’m 43 years old. Those things aren’t holding themselves up. The gravity is real.
But… do I? Need a bra? Need it for what? Some people are uncomfortable without a bra. Their backs hurt, or the underboob sweat bothers them, or for whatever reason they prefer to wear a bra. That’s great. But I don’t. Despite my giant fun bags, my back has never hurt from going braless. Underboob sweat happens. I mean, yeah. But that’s less bothersome than the constricted feeling of wearing a bra. I’m happier and more comfortable without one. (Except for when I exercise. My sports bra is a magnificent feat of engineering. Glamorise adjustable. You’re welcome!)
The supposed “need” is about a couple of things. Boob altitude. Boob shape. Nipple visibility. And the bounce.
Without a bra, my boobs are lower, further apart and more bottom-heavy, having of nipples, and bouncy. Those things are all just true facts of my body. It’s really not that big of a deal. Except… in public... is it? A big deal? Is it really a big deal if random strangers at the grocery store know that my 43-year-old body has slightly saggy boobs with nipples on them? I mean, most boobs have nipples on them. Most boobs on people my age are at least a bit saggy.
|No bra, no cleavage, no problem.
We’re trained to think boobs have to look a certain way. High up. Close together with cleavage if they’re large. Relatively immobile. That’s not how boobs are though. Not aging boobs anyway. Part of this is the cult of youth. Part of it is the prevalence of cosmetically altered boobs. Part of it is just plain misogyny.
My sister has compared the requirement of a bra to the previous requirement that women wear corsets. A certain body shape was just expected, and to refuse to conform to that shape was seen as either slovenly or promiscuous.
While we no longer wear corsets (except for fun!!), we still expect breasts to be forced into a certain shape in order to be seen as properly dressed and acceptable.
So I’m experimenting with not doing that.
|Not a bra in sight.
It’s easy for me, because I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I don’t have a job to jeopardize. But isn’t it ludicrous that it might actually jeopardize a job if I didn’t wear a certain undergarment to force my body into a specific shape? I mean, what? What century are we in?
I’ve also been experimenting with less constricting bikini tops. I bought two more “string bikini” type tops this year that allow my shape to be more naturally conveyed. One has slightly more support than the other.
|My weird body
The one with more support has gotten a lot more love, even in body positive communities. I’m told it’s more “flattering,” which is code for it makes my body look closer to some imaginary young, thin ideal. The “less flattering” top makes my body look more like what my body actually looks like. Just me, covered in fabric. I have been told that that top looks “weird.”
Well, maybe I do look weird. Women wear bras. Especially large breasted women. So yes, my natural body shape is not what we’re used to seeing. It actually is weird, as in unusual to see. But it’s my natural body shape. And I suspect it’s not that different from what plenty of women see when they take off their bras at the end of the day.
So I’m going to just keep going about in the world with my natural body shape until it seems less weird. I’m happy. I’m comfortable. My mental health is improved. And my boobs are a little bit bouncy and closer to the ground. I’m good with it.