On our third or fourth day in Spain my husband leaned over to me and whispered,
“Why don’t any girls where bras here? Are they too hot?”
I thought about it for a moment. I had never connected bras to being too hot. However, every day I had gone back to our hotel with a layer of under-boob sweat that felt clammy and all around gross.
“I have no idea,” I told him, honestly, “But it is nice to not wear a bra. It is more comfortable, and maybe it has something to do with the heat.”
At that moment I decided that I would gleefully leave my bra in the hotel the next time we ventured out.
In the states, I hardly ever wore a bra. My bra days ended around the same time as high school. After that, they were limited to days when I was running, rock climbing, or doing hard physical labor. Then, I wore bras that did something. They held and squished and often doubled as a shirt. I was one of those feminists with a drawer full of worn-out sports bras but no clue why or how I had originally rejected the bra.
When I moved to Bulgaria my wardrobe shifted drastically into the realm of business casual. Business casual meant:
- Hide the tattoos.
- Hide the piercings.
- Grow out the shaved sections of hair.
- Comb out the dreads.
- Dye everything back to brown.
- Wear an absurd amount of Nine West.
- Buy a bra. (Or two).
Throughout my years as a Peace Corps volunteer, the business casual look faded. The tattoos multiplied as soon as I found an artist I trusted. My hair is now natural dreads with a not-so-secret shaved section. I no longer own a single Nine West item of clothing.
Somehow, though, the bra stayed.
It stayed because I got pregnant and my breast swelled to an absurd size that I have no idea how to contain. It stayed because my nipples, seriously, tripled in size and every twinge they make can be seen by others. It stayed because I occasionally leak milk when I hear a baby cry.
But in Spain I said, “To hell with it,” and I took the bra off.
At first I was shy. If my husband was noticing all of these women without bras, surely someone was looking at me. Then, I realized that I didn’t care. It felt free. It felt good. It felt comfortable. (Except for the bouncing while riding a bike on cobblestone roads). It felt like I was my old self.
Perhaps, at some point, the lack of a bra was a feminist statement. Maybe it was my way of rejecting modern beauty standards and saying f-you to the patriarchy as well as the beauty industry. Honestly, I doubt I was that self-aware when I started this trend.
I know for sure that this time it has nothing to do with feminism or anyone outside of myself. Quite simply, it feels good for me. It allows me to feel the buzz of energy that vibrates around my body without constraint. It allows me to reclaim a part of my pre-baby self. It allows me to step forward and explore identity.
Maybe they don’t wear bras in Spain for all of those reasons or maybe none of them. Maybe that is the beautiful part. Maybe that is the point.