Anyone who wears bras on the regular knows the liberating freedom of coming back home and yanking that bra off. For a long time, this was something I looked forward to- returning to my room after a long day, feeling the sweet relief of unhooking my bra and standing with arms open under the fan to cool off all the heat and humidity. What joy! But the relief that this brought me could never compensate for the discomfort of actually wearing a bra. The tight straps, the hooks digging into my skin, the awkward adjusting, not to mention the glares I attracted from people if even a hint of bra strap was visible.
While many find wearing a bra necessary and even comfortable, for me it never added to the quality of my life. I took it for granted as something I had to do because I was a woman. It wasn’t a decision I made for myself and I accepted the discomfort as a natural part of womanhood. Of course, I had heard about the #FreeTheNips movement and ocassionally came across women who were bold enough to go braless in public. But they were all petite with slender frames. With my fuller figure and noticeable breasts, I couldn’t imagine going braless. I put the thought aside and continued to suffer with tight, constrictive bras day after day, because I truly believed that my body was ‘indecent’ without it.
Last year, in conversation with a friend, she casually told me how she hadn’t been wearing a bra for almost a month. She didn’t make a big deal out of it, it just slipped into conversation without any shame or embarrassment. She wore her regular clothes, mostly with a camisole or tank top underneath, but never a bra. I was ecstatic, not just because I thought it was cool, but because she had a similar body type to mine. I realised that if she could do it, why couldn’t I? Inspired by my friend, I decided to give it a shot.
The first day I went out in public without a bra, I was both nervous and excited. Since I’d never done it before, I played it safe and layered things up with a jacket over my T-shirt. I got over the initial nervousness and began to relish in the feeling of my breasts moving freely and naturally under my clothes. There was no tight fabric digging into my skin and restricting my natural body shape for the sake of modesty. The wind felt cool and liberating over my chest. I wasn’t worried that my breasts may sag or look less ‘perky.’ These are simply insecurities that we have been conditioned to feel all our lives, and it was surprisingly easy to let them go.
The first thing I did after that was to tell my friends! Most of them were enthusiastic, but responded by saying “that’s cool, but I don’t think that I could ever pull it off.” I empathise with this sentiment, because I used to feel the exact way myself. I had been shamed and sexualised for my breasts from such a young age, that there were times I went to sleep with a bra on. Even in private, I was uncomfortable with letting my breasts move and exist naturally. If I wore a tight bra, my breasts, and the shame I felt towards them were both out of sight and out of mind. The wobbling and jiggling, the asymmetry of my breasts, the bumps on my nipples- gross! I thought, I didn’t want to accept any of it.
I don’t know when exactly I stopped feeling this shame. And there are times I still feel pangs of it. But I suppose somewhere along the way, I decided that my past and other people should not dictate how I feel about my body and how I carry, love and dress my body. There is nothing inherently sexual about developed breasts, they are an ordinary part of the body, and don’t deserve to be caged up all the time.
And of course, there is the problem of other people. Do people stare? I’m sure they do. But they stare regardless- whether I am dressed from head to toe, or wearing a short dress, whether I am wearing a bra or not. I hardly ever wear a bra anymore, it is no longer a daily habit of mine. On most days I’m carefree about it; unconcerned about who sees what. On other days I might conceal my braless-ness with slips, scarves and thin shrugs. It can be wonderful to let old habits die hard. But the more important habit that I picked up on the way was to listen to my body. I learnt to push my own boundaries of what I thought I could ‘pull off’ and finally be unapologetic about how I presented myself to the world.