Burn Them

We Need to Burn Bras

or

I Want to Be 80

Annika Reitenga

*SENSITIVE CONTENT WARNING

I was a sophomore in high school when I realized that my teacup-sized breasts had no need for a bra to hold them comfortably in place. When I wore bras I felt the exact opposite effect of comfort…confining wires digging into my skin and awkward pads blotting my nipples all day, sweat accumulating inside the cloth.

So I was a sophomore in high school when I stopped wearing a bra. For the world around me, there was a crashing halt.

The most affected person was the residential advisor of my fine arts high school, Mr. Ronny, nicknamed “Mr. R” by his students in the dorm. This man was distraught, red-faced at my body’s exposure…two bumps peeking out of a t-shirt, molding a knot into his throat.

My large breasted friend Anna, a triple D, also gave Mr. R high anxiety. Her shirts were always too low-cut for him; once a week she’d be sent up to the third floor of our school, the dorm rooms, so that she could change into a looser shirt, dress, whatever it was that caused him discomfort that day.

. . . .

Anna and I always thought Chris was asexual. He never so much as mentioned something venereal involving another person, never checked out the dancer’s asses when they walked by in their leotards during break.

One day, I stood next to my two friends as we all talked about something stupid, maybe about watching High School Musical for the seventh time that semester, or how I was going to beat Chris in pickup basketball someday. Chris is 6’3”, by the way.

Mr. R called me over to his office with a concerned look.

“Look at poor Chris out there talking to Anna. He can barely control himself. Will you please, nonchalantly, tell Anna to stop wearing low-cut tops? My male dorm students shouldn’t have to be so uncomfortable avoiding looking.…”

My memory flashes back to the image of Chris and Anna in our cafeteria, having an everyday conversation, Chris smiling indifferently at Anna with his relaxed, stoner eyes—his drummer-hands tucked nonchalantly into his jean pockets.

I know that Mr. R was projecting.

. . . .

I am throwing up through my nostrils because I had one scoop of ice cream after dinner. It’s not pretty. I was once an ugly girl. I was oddly tall, chubby, and awkward for years. I still feel the repercussions everyday, and when I am being shallow, when I am obsessing over image, know that I am fighting the results of a society preoccupied with the sexualized female image. I have been fighting for years.

. . . .

Some point along the way, my anatomy became highly sexually arousing for older men. When I was fifteen I started getting catcalled.

When I was sixteen, a truck full of men catcalled me when I was walking my dog. When they turned off onto my street and tried to pull next to me, I sprinted and never looked back.

All I know is that I was a virgin who was barely comfortable in her own sexuality, and I felt terrified by the constant attention.

Of course, I wanted guys my age to give me attention. I hate to admit it, but I did. I always had a crush, and I would wait for him outside during break for an accidental run-in. I’d obsess over them, and plan outfits…I was going through puberty, and I didn’t realize that full-grown men would constantly try to come after me.

I have always looked older than I actually am. I can’t help that. I can’t help that I looked like I was in college when I was only sixteen. I can’t help that men have been raised around a society where bras are so common. Anna can’t help that she has triple D’s, she would get a breast reduction if she could, she hates them more than anything else on her body, because of men, because of the hell she has to live in due to the never-ending attention to her breasts.

I once stood around as Mr. R told a group of boys about how hard it is to undo a woman’s bra for the first time. He narrated making out with a “chick” in high school, struggling to open the clasp of her bra, which he did finally do, as a true hero would.

One time, Mr. R accused me of having a threesome with my two best guy friends. I was a virgin.

One time, Mr. R hired a male RA, med student, who touched Anna’s vagina with an umbrella, lied about it to the administration, and got away with it. And to this day, to this day, he still sends me pictures of his penis.

. . . .

I have been sexualized beyond comprehension.

I wonder if men think that I dress up purely to attract them. Like why would I wear a short dress if I didn’t want their attention? My dad told me that I shouldn’t dress a certain way because there were creeps out there and I didn’t want to attract their attention. I always thought that was so unfair.

Then I met Ronny.

. . . .

I hope I make it to 80, when nobody will be attracted to me, nobody will blame me for not wearing a bra, and I won’t be concerned with pretty. I know, I will be long past that, I don’t know how, but I really hope that I make it to 80.