I did it— I did my laundry without wearing a bra. You probably don’t think this is a big accomplishment, but that’s because you probably don’t have saggy tits like I do. I don’t mean voluptuous tits, aging tits, or tits that “could use a little support.” My breasts are completely vertical — unfashionable and unsightly by all manner of beauty standards. They seem to hearken a National Geographic voiceover whenever I de-shirt. Since my nipples are in deep conversation with my toes, doing laundry, or anything in public for that matter, without a bra was something I had never dared to do.
But that particular night, I was extra over life. Shitty days at work had piled up higher than my laundry itself. Remembering that clean bed sheets make everything better, I pulled out my bra and began the arduous task of placing my breasts into their bra cups one at a time for the 9 millionth time in my life. Then: “Wait, what are you doing?” I said out loud. A disembodied voice — was it Iyanla Vanzant?! — replied, “Jennifer, baby, just let your saggy titties hang.” Then what I can only imagine was Iyanla’s spiritual hand released my bra clasps, and my breasts fell to their natural gravity-embraced position.
As my newly freed breasts and I made our way downstairs, the building tenants did not gasp nor draw their children nearer. To my pleasant surprise, once in the laundry room, the washers and dryers did not malfunction, did not spark and sputter in protest of my free-moving, saggy breasts. The world kept spinning. And I… felt fine. I felt free.
I don’t remember having breasts that didn’t sag. From the beginning of adolescence, I was dismissive of old wives tales (e.g. sleeping on your back keeps your breasts perky), indifferent about underwire, and passionate about running, thus sealing the deal for a lifetime of secretive, saggy titties.
Talks of freeing the nipple or reclaiming our womanly rights to rebuke bras are usually made of people with conventionally configured breasts: The nipples and areolas are neat and proportional. Everything is all level or pointed up. Seldom do I see someone with big ol’ areolas and nipples pointed downward like mine. Maybe this is why it took me so long to embrace my decidedly un-lifted, cleavage-defiant breasts as they are.
Though my saggy titties never stood in between me and having a good sexual time, some of my partners certainly reinforced underlying insecurities. “I’m not a breast man,” a partner once said. “But you should get a breast lift.” I was still in my early 20s and less aware of the house of cards that is the male gaze. These days, I prioritize my own feelings about my body— and am personally tickled at the sound of my breast slapping against my rib cage during sex. But the scars of that partner’s comments haven’t fully disappeared, and I don’t have insurance for the kind of therapy I require to make that go away.
I used to do exercises in the hopes of lifting them, not unlike white women who do ungodly amounts of squats in hopes of lifting their booties. But during a difficult period of depression last year, I stopped working out. And for the first time in over ten years, I saw my body when it wasn’t serving me. When it was just there. And I gained a new appreciation for it as is. Watching Annie refuse to take her bra off during sex in the first episode of Shrill planted the seed of awareness that the spirit of Iyanla would water. Time to let them flip flop and be free.
As small of an act as it was, doing laundry without a bra felt like a transformative expression of self-love, and I hope it’s just the beginning. Summertime is upon us, and I’m excited to let my two friends hang low at the park on the weekends. Maybe I’ve successfully figured out what body positivity means to me: making sure my body is positively comfortable and loved.
Illustration by Emily Zirimis.