At the beginning of the pandemic, when millions of Americans found themselves confined to home, women across this great nation waged war on the oppressor in the underwear drawer. The opportunity to stay indoors meant that many women ditched the bra and never looked back. Bras were cast aside in favor of fresh air on the titties as countless websites glommed upon the opportunity to discuss the merits of wearing a bra. The no-bra discourse appears to have been dominated by women with smaller breasts, for whom wearing a brassiere may indeed be a form of physical and psychological torture. I respect these women, envy their small breasts, and hope that they find peace sans bra. But for those with huge knockers, a bra is a gentle and necessary embrace from a sweet friend that will never, ever leave their side. Despite what the widespread media conspiracy implies, bras are not bad, in fact, they are quite good.
For those with big naturals, a bra isn’t just for aesthetics, it’s necessary for comfort. When unencumbered by a brassiere, the tender underside of my breasts rest on my ribcage, creating a swampy under boob area ridded with sweat—a breeding ground for zits and various other skin irritations that I’d really rather not contend with. Bandeau tops are fun and carefree but flatten my breasts onto my ribcage in a way that I find both unflattering and uncomfortable. In repose, my bosom lacks pep; rather than two beautiful grapefruits floating aloft on my solar plexus, they more closely resemble those grapefruits encased in a tube sock and left to hang free. A bra also provides valuable cover for my nipples, which would chafe if exposed to the cotton-poly blend tank tops that are my preferred at-home aesthetic. While I am not opposed to nipple exposure and in fact welcome their presence as a look, I would like a small barrier between them and my shirts.
Though life without a bra is a distant memory, I do recall with clarity the moment I realized I needed one, after my sixth-grade social studies teacher pulled me aside after class one day to tell me that I should probably start wearing one. (Thank you, Ms. Witte, for always looking out) Mercifully, I have blacked out the experience of asking my father to help me find a bra, and have no other recollection of life without supportive underpinnings. A bra of any sort, including the low-impact sports bras that I favor now, functions as a human Thundershirt, providing a gentle hug around my ribcage that makes me feel like I’m ready to start the day, lifting the boulders up just enough to alleviate any back pain that lingers from sitting at my desk in a very uncomfortable dining room chair.
Perhaps the patriarchy has finally made its way to my boudoir, infiltrating my brain with the notion that I must wear a bra to look “decent” in public—or maybe I am tired of thinking about what it means to be faced with a situation in which a bra is truly optional and to choose the option to wear one. More than three seconds of thinking about the mechanics of my breasts is time wasted. A bra eliminates much of that consideration, and though it is irritating to wear an item meant specifically to contain the bosom from flopping into its natural state, I must stand in my truth.
I dare not speak for anyone other than myself and the two breasts I have lived with for the duration of my adult life, but eschewing the bra for three months of floppy titties in the privacy of my own home was not part of my personal plan. Experimenting with a bra-free life for a week or so was pleasant enough, but by mid-afternoon, I felt less like a woman from the 1970s and more like the sentient garbage heap in Fraggle Rock. Soon, three stretched-out sports bras that were no longer appropriate for sport became my at-home bras, compressing the melons into a tidy package and lifting them up from my ribcage just enough to prevent the uncomfortable and unpleasant sensation of my under-bosom touching my flesh.
The sports bra, which I previously abhorred due to its unflattering silhouette, was an appropriate method of breast containment during the first round of quarantine, providing the same calming effect as a weighted blanket, but for my titties. When paired with the running shorts that have become my summer indoor pants, the sports bra makes me feel like a camp counselor, or an off-duty, third-tier influencer.
Now that it appears to be hot out, a bra of some sort is even more necessary than ever, because I have seen what it looks like without and was not pleased with the results. The 1970s breast silhouette I aspire to—loose and free, nipple-forward, and lifted gently from below as if held by a pair of loving hands–will not be done by my current breasts alone. Bralettes designed for “busty” women do not provide the silhouette I crave as they lack the architecture required to hoist the tits up, and also apart. The sports bras I’ve been wearing provide the lift that I require, but the shape leaves much to be desired. The bra of my dreams lifts the tits but also separates each individual breast so that my bosom is not a shelf but two discrete units: two small pomelos that bounce with each step.
Surgery would fix this “problem”—just a little lift o’ the tits, and that shit would be sitting high and pretty. But I’m not getting a breast lift because there is a pandemic and also, I don’t want one. So a regular bra, though I have yet to find her, with underwire, hooks, straps, and all the attendant bells and whistles, will allow me to achieve this dream. I look forward to succeeding. I could not do it without a bra.