Tag Archives: shame

Cover Your … Breasts?

“You can’t go in there – your top is bare and there’s a guy in there!”

Voices in my head told me this by the time I was three. I know this from my earliest memory. I wanted to be with my mother who was in another part of the house. To get to her, my only path was through the living room, past the TV where a guy was reading the news from the papers on his desk, before the time of teleprompters. He looked up, up up, down, up, up, down. I watched just long enough to get his rhythm, then swooshed past during one of his look-down periods.

I suppose this could have developed from my parents teaching me how to dress in this culture, which is a good thing in general. Or maybe this particular reaction came from a comment some little girl next door made that I (mis?)interpreted. But I have no memory of any such little girl.

In my later years when I was 8 or so, I remember wanting to take my top off. It was dripping hot and my brothers were free to run around wearing no shirts. Why not me?

Against the disapproval of my parents and grandparents, I took my top off. I felt much better but then everyone stopped talking. I never took my top off again. I knew somehow this was something bad.

Decades later, it seems quite funny — and actually a little scary — that so many of us are here operating these bodies we have without acknowledging all of their parts. Breasts? Who, me? Nooo, I don’t have anything to do with things like that. You must be thinking of someone else. Genitals? Hormones? Nope. Got the wrong person.

I can imagine an equivalently twisted world where we couldn’t acknowledge each other’s arms. Or feet. Or ears. Imagine as a kid, growing up and learning these things. “But Mom, Dad! Aunt Sally, she has these curly bent things coming out the sides of her head. I saw them! She says she uses them to hear.”

“No, sweetie, we don’t talk like that. She just wasn’t wearing her hair right.”