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The Trouble With Nipples

 "Nipple Tape" by Diana BlackwellThe tank top is a lovely apple green. I tried it on with a long matching over shirt, did my usual pantomime of chalk board writing to see if it was comfortable, scrutinized it to see if the over shirt hung in such a way as to avoid showing the contours of my nipples, visible through the tank top, was satisfied, and left the store.

I put it on one morning, paired with some new light grey jeans, and wore it to work. I got several compliments on the color and also a few glances that made me self-conscious. I ignored them as best I could. I did not try to wear the shirt again for a while. Some weeks later I put it on again. I stepped into the living room to ask my sweetheart Will what he thought. I turned this way and that, put my hands on my hips, brushing the overshirt aside as I do in class sometimes, took a few turns, and waited for his reaction: "It's a bit nipply." I took it off. I have not worn it to work since.

I don't want to wear my nipples to work. I don't want to deal with people looking, looking away, and looking back. I don't want to worry about whether they think I am a hippie or a slut. I wouldn't care if they thought the former but I would be afraid that if they thought the latter they would think it in the erotophobic, judgmental, shaming kind of way that I do so much to resist.

Several years ago I gave up on wearing bras. This was not a political move, at least not initially. It was about my own physical comfort. I have never found a bra that fits well, looks good under clothes, and feels comfortable for more than a couple hours. Since I have never been physically uncomfortable without a bra, I decided to forego them. At first I only went without on the weekends. It seemed too risky to go without at work. Then eventually I decided to go without there, as well. It was then that I encountered my nipple dilemma. I had always worn bras that had a bit of padding, and even my apparently steely nipples never showed underneath them. Without a bra, every top presents a challenge. Dark colors and patterns are the easiest. I often wear vests, jackets, or over shirts for extra coverage. Sometimes, as with my apple green combination, even an over shirt doesn't seem like enough. (I have a similar conflict with a light tan t-shirt and matching vest combination.)

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