I’m a born Parisian and a learned New Yorker, and as similar as the two cities can be, I’ve got two very distinct cultures diverging in my one perspective, especially on boobs. In short, I’ve always been conflicted about them, more specifically the idea of showing them off…in public.
Growing up I saw my mom’s nipples, out in the world, more times than I can count on many people’s fingers (sorry mom, and so soon after Mother’s Day…). And I don’t mean when I was nursing. I mean, my mother, like many French women in the 80s and 90s, went topless at the beach. I didn’t think too much of it and no one else seemed to either. That was just normal.
Fast forward to my teenage years in New York. By then boobs are completely sexualized in my mind and mine are…taking a while to come in. The thought of even a fraction of my areola being seen is terrifying. So like many women, I put a lot of work into hiding my nipples at all times from any non intimate parties. I’ve worn the awful cutlets that live under backless dresses to hide the shape of the nipple…I’ve battled the best of breezes, intent on exposing them! There’s an entire line of products, a whole industry dedicated to “helping us” hide our boobs… Come to think of it, it’s been a while since my mom let hers roam freely too.
The cues on boobs were always conflicting. I was seeing freer women showing theirs off in photos, in art, in protest even and I admired it. And then there were shows of boob that were not intended like the fateful day Janet Jackson’s nipple slipped out into all American daylight during the FAMILY ORIENTATED broadcast of grown men giving each other concussions the Super Bowl. And my god, it was the nipple seen around the world, the ultimate offense, the glaring double standard. The outrage was probably what pushed me to think more about my own view. Why is my nipple so offensive, what’s it ever done!? In a number of US states, baring a breast is flat out illegal and on Instagram, an areola (a female one only) is the easiest way to lose your account.
So as I enter my 30th year, fewer f***s are given. I said this when we talked about periods recently, and ill say it again, working in an office full of women has completely changed my outlook on being one! I have a much less critical and sexualized view of my own lady lumps, who finally did come in by the way. The rules for exposing them, what’s ok and what’s not ok, are much too complicated and frankly non-sensical to navigate. So you might see my nipple through a t shirt somewhere around NYC (baby steps…) and I’m ok with that…
Boobs are both beautiful and functional, simultaneously sensual and normal. So maybe in a few years, when I have a daughter of my own, I’ll follow in my mom’s boobsteps and show her that breasts are just an essential part of a woman, nothing more, nothing less!