written on the body.

It’s cold enough weather outside that I’ve stopped wearing bras regularly, hoping all of the layers I pile on (five this morning) will deter anyone from noticing. As if it matters, but I don’t want my nipples to embarrass me in public.

There’s a new display at the library kiosk of busts that women made at a workshop sponsored by the Health and Wellness Center. Most come with captions that are ostensibly from their creator, and some speak of how their breasts (and their appreciation/acceptance of) relates to their sense of femininity. There’s a comment box at the front with slips of paper that ask passers-by “What do your breasts mean to you?”, and I’m not sure I know.

My breasts do not represent femininity to me. They do represent a sense of sexuality that I will take effort to highlight at times (i.e. wear bras to support and enhance girth). I haven’t always enjoyed this about my breasts, and it really wasn’t until the end of my first-year that I warmed up to them. I had put on more weight living at college, and the majority of this went to the external parts of my body that would identify me as a woman: breast, hips.

And though I’ve settled and am more than happy with my identity as woman, which is directly but not solely related to my physical body, I am cautious about how that term is sometimes prescribed to be coterminous with feminine, and that is not exclusively the case with my body.

It’s funny though, because in thinking about breasts and femininity, my mind did wander to the idea of breastfeeding (which these days is considered a terrorist act of sorts: “This specific situation escalated to a point where we were concerned for the safety of our guests, so law enforcement was called.”) As much as I’ve thought about becoming a mother and having children, and even after taking Women, Health, and Reproduction, which was the first time I started desiring actually giving birth, I had never considered breastfeeding as applied to myself. Which may be to say, I’ve thought about bodies and I’ve thought about motherhood, but I’d never really thought about them together this way.

Pregnancy, in my mind, was conceived(!) of as a liminal act, one that had a determinate end. But now I have to reconsider, because my body will not just be my own, but my child(ren)’s, and not just when I give birth nor breastfeed, but all the time. Like when I run to my mother to be comforted, or am curious about the scars on her hands, or run my hands through her hair. They will want and need my body in a particular way that will not be the same as how I want my body, and I will have to learn and grow with how to live with that.


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