26. Free the Freakin’ Tatas!

I’ve been getting more bounce to the once these days by going bra-less. It’s been really great, just letting levity and gravity have their way with me. Besides, since I haven’t been stripping for the last fourteen months, I needed to locate another tangible sense of defiance in my movement through the world.

Not wearing a bra makes me more aware of my posture, since social discomfort would ask me to slouch, while sticking out my chest, nipples and all, provides natural anatomical support. Anyway, since I turned fifty last month and decided this was my deadline to permanently tuck in my inner crybaby and fully step into my vision of adulthood, I have committed to this chesty, unapologetic stance come hell or high-water.

After all, the PG patrol is always out in force and we’ve got to keep our wits about us to fend it off.

Speaking of which, surely many of you came across the headline on Yahoo News last month about the yearbook photoshopping done by the modesty monitors at the Florida high school, editing away the chests of eighty teenage girls.

And on a similar note, on my recent trip to New York, I watched a movie that supposedly contained sexual content (seriously, Good Will Hunting?!) and a warning appeared prior to viewing, instructing me to “be mindful of the sensitivities of those around me”. The man in the seat next to me fired up a remake of the bloody samurai movie, Zatoichi, with a similar warning. Both movies were rated “R”. By that measure, there should have been at least as much smut in my movie as bloodshed in my neighbor’s. I got snuggling between people wearing clothes in bed (who does that at twenty, anyway?); he got a veritable bloodbath. I deserve my money back!

Having said all this, and being the big girl that I am now, I’m not going to apologize for what I’m about to tell you.

…I’m walking down Manhattan Avenue: beautiful spring day, dogwoods in bloom, warm sun thawing the city and its two-legged creatures. Weaving through bodies on the sidewalk, I’m about to walk right through the middle of an informal photo op taking place on a stoop. In the 0.2 minutes it takes to stride past, I take it all in. The young woman points the smartphone camera at her subject, instructing the thirty-something-looking guy to pose naturally for the shot. He’s failing miserably. He attempts a couple of awkward, stiff smiles. She laughs, then chirps, “Act surprised! Look shocked!” and I instantly say to myself, “Oh my god, flash him your tits!” …It was a moment choreographed for the movies and the humidity just begged me to lift my T-shirt and let them loose. I felt joyful at the synchronicity of it all. What good, clean, cheeky freakin’ fun….

So ask me, why didn’t I do it? That was the question gnawing at me at three in the morning. What happened?

In the moment of levity, I was caught by gravity. The grave reason I had come up with in that moment on the street was that I didn’t want the two men I was walking with to have to deal with the inconvenience of my arrest. I was already visualizing the handcuffs, the mug shots, the fingerprints…as though the post-pandemic NYPD has nothing better to do than harass a middle-aged woman for a brief moment of jaunty exposure just above the midriff! The truth is, there’s probably no better place to have gotten away with this. Additionally, one of the men I was “sparing” from the imaginary inconvenience actually would have celebrated my brazen gesture and stood behind me quite enthusiastically on the basis of principle, regardless of what ensued. (The other one admitted he may have been embarrassed and certainly would have been grumpy about an arrest. Can’t win ’em all.)

Besides my overactive imagination, jumping around in the periphery of my well-trained conscience was a whole barrage of other stifling concerns…for protecting “the sensitivities of those around me.” With such a successful training program, who needs police? I felt like I was stuffed in a straitjacket.

But this is not the responsibility I signed up for. Of course, to the contrary, it’s a responsibility I choose deliberately to renounce even though I often pander to it, regrettably. It’s a peek at a pair of bouncing breasts for crying out loud; it’s a hint of cleavage or a bare shoulder in a school picture; it’s human sensual intimacy on screen. It’s a world where we over-sexualize bodies and under-nourish sexuality. That’s cruel and inhumane, and it’s not the world I want to help foster. What are we doing here?

So, at three in the morning, after hating on myself for a while, feeling like a schmuck and a hypocrite, I decided to forgive myself for being human. But I’m doubling down on my commitment to break free, through hell and high water.

Mark my words: I will never stop my fight–against all the forces that oppose me–to free my body, free my mind, and for god sakes, free the freakin’ tatas!

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