I've had vulnerability in my mind a lot lately. (This is not nearly as much fun as having "Carolina in my mind" - apologies to James Taylor.) About two weeks ago, I was feeling pretty much on top of the world, eating right, exercising, working outside, planning things. In the midst of that I realized that breasts can be a big hindrance, and that, in many ways, without them, I feel like the powerful, almighty, invincible pre-teen girl that I was 52 years ago....breastless and glad to be.
Growing up in the rural South, I spent a lot of time outside in the summertime, and, until I was about 8 or 9 years old, I was allowed to go "bare-breasted" in the warm weather. There was a sense of equality that came with that shirtlessness. Then came the horrible day when my mother insisted that I was too old to go shirtless. It was a real downer for me. Breasts make a woman vulnerable. Their growth on her chest brings attention, and she cannot hide them. For an uncertain pre-teenager, breasts are just one more differentness to have to deal with. They are easily bumped and bruised, and become one more reason that girls must be treated differently.
Don't get me wrong.; I understand the utility, even the fun, of having breasts. But my memories of my years without noticeable mammary glands are decidedly positive ones. The minute the darn things started sprouting, I began to experience a differentness that was not altogether welcomed. No more tackle football, more closely monitored after-school activities, changed expectations about relationships, etc.
I know breast cancer is not the number one killer of women; I believe that award goes to heart disease. But cancer is still a big and ugly plague on womankind, and it does seem particularly cruel that the part of a woman's body which has made her vulnerable and visible as a woman since puberty should be the very part of the body susceptible to this crappy disease.
This rambling post has not "come together" as smoothly as I would like. The bottom line, I guess, is this: doing without breasts has reminded me of how powerful I felt as a girl and how some of that power faded when I entered puberty, perhaps because I felt more vulnerable. Now, I am really enjoying that feeling of freedom again, going breastless (and sometimes braless) into my future.