I haven’t worn a bra in months. I am flat-chested, so it’s entirely unnoticeable – except to my husband who notices my nipples every once in a while. Perhaps, everyone notices my nipples or that I removed my tiny little breasts with my bra, but no one else has said anything. I’m liberated from the confines of a society that tells me a woman should have large, perky breasts and invisible nipples. I don’t have either of those things, and I’m still a woman.
Contrastingly, my daughters are excited to wear bras. It’s an initiation into womanhood, maturation, and growing up. Bras, to my young budding daughters, are symbols of change, a step toward becoming. I tell them they don’t need to wear them; I tell them that developing chests are beautiful, natural, and don’t need to be hidden or ashamed of. But they wear them anyway and that’s fine with me.
When I was young, I embraced bras, too. I wanted to fit in, and part of fitting in was learning about and embracing cultural rules and appearances. This included the very loud message that budding breasts should be hidden behind pads or squeezed away. Things got weird when I started wearing padded bras underneath my sports bra to cover the irrefutable evidence that my chest was not growing like everyone else’s. Bras, I realized, were supposed to cover the process but expose the product of developing breasts. I didn’t have the product, so I pretended I did. I even slept with a padded bra strapped around my chest; polyester pads hid my flat chest for years.
Now, I’m stepping beyond bras, embracing my flat chest and nipples, while my daughters step into them on their path of becoming. I do hope they don’t show their bra to a group of adolescent boys just because the boys ask and I hope that they stand up for themselves when those boys spread rumors about how ratty her bra is and how flat her chest; but that’s me projecting my dysfunction onto them.
Taking off the symbol that once represented womanhood, promised change, and inclusion is me removing my fake breasts and my need to conform. I don’t even think I can call my flat chest breasts anymore; they are more like fleasts. My breasts actually developed when I nursed my babies, but then they deflated again and I was left with the realization that I am still a woman. With fleasts.
Goodbye bras and fake polyester breasts; I am venturing out into public without the one item of clothing that now separates the genders. This is flat-chested me. Most women’s maturation probably includes breast development, but mine didn’t. However, I am no longer the embarrassed, desperate little girl with hand-me-down bras that never fit her flat chest. I am a flat-chested woman who comfortably wears nothing but clothes. I have fleasts and it is ridiculous to continue to pretend that I have something else. I am unfastening myself from cultural norms because I never fit into them.