Sometimes little girls go topless in the warmth of the summer afternoon sun. There was no sense of embarrassment brought on by exposing our bare flat chests. Traffic didn’t stop, no one whistled and life went on in an ordinary manner.
Then one day my breasts began to bloom. Although hardly noticeable, it was sufficient for acknowledgment by the elder women. I was excited to be getting my first training bra with the tiny, pink bow demarcating the middle of my chest until I realized that it meant I would have to wear it every day. Still, it signified that I was catching up to the older girls.
Like a bride, I waited to be swept across the threshold. Childhood was on one side. What I imagined to be on the other would prove to be quite different than the fairy tales I grew up on. I hesitated teetering in the gateway. Some days I took a step forward only to jump back and land on the other side. Many of my friends whizzed past me; a few straggled and then, stood their ground. I chose to move forward but I left the door open—just in case.
As I grew, I graduated from the flat piece of cotton material that ensured that my little buds would be hidden from society to a more form shaped apparatus. My new triple A bra had two distinct sides—cups as they are called. Other girls developed faster. Their breasts blossomed quickly, some becoming large coconuts; mine remained sweet peas. Although at times I was embarrassed by this fact, I never resorted to padding my bra with tissues, at least not in public.
Eventually my sweet peas flowered into an A cup and at some point a B cup. I was not destined to be a Dolly Parton look alike. Still, I became part of the world that compelled breasts to be confined. Different strait jackets were required at various times: regular bras for everyday use, sports bras to keep those puppies from bouncing, underwire bras to push up against gravity, cross your heart bras to lift and separate—there goes the cleavage, strapless bras to assist in holding up strapless dresses, nursing bras for easy access. I can’t leave out all the bras invented to accentuate female sexuality: corsets with or without garter belts, black lace or fishnet bras, cups with circles cut out to expose the nipple bras. The list goes on.
I never questioned this imposed constriction on my body until I went to college and enrolled in a feminist movement class. I learned about women burning their bras. The impact of the phrase on the women’s movement-Burn Your Bra-opened a Pandora’s Box. It seemed like such a simple yet novel idea. Could I really allow my breasts to brush loose against the inside of a white cotton t, fall and settle gracefully at will or feel their rhythmic movement? What about me? What other constrictions do I need to set myself free from? My breasts would not be silenced. They had a voice and spoke to me, “Find a way to set yourself free!”
Cynthia A. DiTaranto is the author of two self published, color illustrated children’s books with Trafford Publishing and hase written for various goat journals. She is seeking representation for her novel StrongHold. She is also a member of Women Who Write in New Jersey and holds a B.A. in Sociology and an M.A.T.