“Nipple” used to be the most-searched word on the Internet. Websites would find any excuse to insert it into a headline for its traffic-driving purposes — an errant piece of pokey flesh between boring if not completely irrelevant statements that could get almost anyone to click. “Sloth Found On Tree: Unsure if Dead, Nipple, or Just Asleep.” Screw the news, THAT sounds fascinating!
Nipples had become “a thing.” Remember the Sex and the City episode where Samantha inserted fake ones into her shirt to attract men? This was similar, only now, nipples were being used to hook men and women of all sexual orientations. Shock-bait equal opportunists. They marched down countless runways for back-to-back seasons. They were exposed (albeit for political reasons, not fashion) on the street. They were tattooed dark, became the “cool” thing to pierce and were flaunted under see-through tops at celebrity-packed parties.
Eventually, they became so over-hyped that when Kendall Jenner exposed hers last fashion week, the gossip wasn’t about nipples as much as it was that a Kardashian had just walked a Marc Jacobs show.
You see, just as male society eventually grew desensitized to ample cleavage (to quote Mean Girls, “It only counts if you saw nipple”), the Janet Jackson generation of Nip-Slips had finally gotten used to seeing female areolas proliferate. Which meant that something had to be next on the list of fashionably scandalous body parts — and I think this spring it’s the belly button.
It became clear once the crop top trend declared it wasn’t going anywhere. I was scared at first, but my personal aversion towards the trend wasn’t about my lack of abs. Rather, it was because the thought of walking around with my “button” showing felt more intimate than going pantsless. For a body part that’s been covered up for the better half of my life (save for beaches, showers and bed time) showing my belly button now would feel almost…scandalous.
Just as bare nipples once had been.
I came around to the cropped-thing once I found a loophole: low-slung pants showing the skin around my hips is fine. That I can do. And Leandra and I both agreed that so long as the little holes on our stomachs are covered up by high-waisted bottoms, we would practically wear bras in public. That’s still a lot of flesh, and yet, walking around with my belly button out feels like a much louder statement — one that says a whole lot more than, “I did sit ups and ate kale all winter.”
If it’s true that history repeats itself (and judging by the fact that the ’90s are back, we can all comfortably agree it does), then there’s bound to be a future moment when suddenly, showing off belly buttons won’t seem so shocking. Until then, I guess I’ll spend my summer anxiously hiking up my shorts to avoid BB-itis, and cursing the day that Britney Spears essentially ruined the innocent belly button for all.