Mirror, Mirror: Ditching My Padded Bra

Fairest shmairest! Let’s get real about beauty and body image. Mirror, Mirror is a column running every other Thursday on The Frisky. It is written by Brooklyn-based columnist, freelance writer, and bagel enthusiast, Kate Fridkis who also writes the blog Eat the Damn Cake. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatthedamncake.

A funny thing happened in the heat. I briefly forgot about my breasts.

Which you’d think would be an easy thing to do, considering how small they are. But it isn’t, because I’ve been busy trying to make sure I look like a real woman and stuff. It goes like this: My padded bra is like a wig on a bald person. I only appear to have long, lustrous hair when, in fact, this is all a clever trick. I only appear to have long, lustrous boobs …or, you know, just boobs.

My padded bra makes me feel comfortable, normal. It’s a disguise. I can blend into any crowd when I’m wearing it. People who glance at me won’t give me a second thought. “Oh, just another woman with some boobs.”

But it’s a lie! When I take the very padded bra off, there’s a different story underneath. A story about some very small breasts. Breasts that, for whatever reason, decided they were done before they hit the “done” stage (stage 5 in the What’s Happening To My Body? Book For Girls). That book convinced me that there was hope when there wasn’t any. Just one more stage, and they’d fill out pleasantly. They’d be little adorable balloons, perched on my chest, soft and proud and round.

Nope. They’re very soft, I’ll give them that much. They deserve that much.

When I gained weight recently, and my thighs became plush and my belly stuck out in an opinionated, happy way, and even my knees looked a little more generous, my breasts were like, “Nah…we’re good.” They put in an obligatory ounce more of fat or so, and then quit. It seemed unfair. It seemed like I needed to get an even more padded bra, just to balance everything out. That idea—balance—is an important one for beauty. Proportion. It’s a big deal. If your torso is this long, your legs need to be this long. If your nose is this wide, your lips have to be this much wider. There are like five million subtle measurements that my brain has stored for immediate access so that every time I look in the mirror, it can tell me instantaneously what is horribly off-kilter about the way I look.

It does this in a clipped British accent. “I am sorry to inform you, ma’am, that your nose is a quarter of an inch too long. When one considers, as one inevitably must, the distance between your eyes, and the length of the space between the base of your lower lip and the tip of your chin, it becomes readily apparent that the nose is all wrong. I’m afraid it must go.”

Why is it always calling me “ma’am”? It makes me feel old.

So anyway, in addition to my troublemaking nose, my boobs are definitely not proportionate. For them to be proportionate I would have to lose like 30 pounds and also be 14. Fine. That’s the way it goes. I just decided I wouldn’t ever take off the padded bra.

Except that it got so hot so early this year.

So I am going to give all the credit to global warming (or whatever this is) for the freeing of my boobs.

I just couldn’t. I was sweating too much. It was getting too gross.

So I took the padded bra off and just wore a dress. And underwear! God! I have some decency! (OK, once I didn’t wear underwear either. But just once!) And then I did the same thing the next day. And the day after that. And suddenly I couldn’t remember why I’d been wearing those bras to begin with. I know, I know, because of the way they make me look. Because they make me look like I have breasts.

But not having breasts in the extreme heat is actually pretty nice. Maybe I evolved for this weather.

I started looking around, instead of right in front of me. It turned out that not everyone in the world was looking at my chest, after all. I know, shocking. Really, no one was. They were too busy doing other things. America had me convinced that everyone is always thinking about boobs. But that might be wrong. And then I noticed a guy checking me out, and for a second I thought that he was remarking to himself that I look all unbalanced and then I thought that actually, maybe he just thought I looked good. And then I thought that actually maybe I did look good. Not that I need to be validated by strange men. But let’s be honest—it helps sometimes. I saw myself reflected in a store window, and I looked—sort of sleek. Like an otter, maybe. They don’t have boobs. But they’re very graceful.

I started walking with my head a little higher. My shoulders pushed back. Every day, it felt a little bit more normal not to be wearing a padded bra. Not to be wearing any bra at all.

Maybe it felt a little bit normal to have the breasts that I have.

The breasts that are not big enough to placate the disapproving voice with the British accent in my head (I’m sorry, Brits! It’s all those Disney villains! I can’t help it! I’m prejudiced against you! But I also think you sound sexy, in a mean way), but are really actually totally fine. I mean, they even look a little cheerful, when they’re not being smothered by the bra. There’s something sweet about them. Something unapologetic and sort of innocent.

I find myself feeling fond towards them, for a moment. I find myself wearing long, looping necklaces that cascade down my flat chest. I find myself feeling a little proud for some reason. This is the way I actually look. It’s maybe not what you expected, but I’m rockin’ it.

Or at least, I’m comfortable. Which in its way, is pretty damn sexy.