Like most women, I have some body issues. How and when they show up are different.
For most of my life, until my late 40's I had ginormous breasts - the kind that have a letter size that make people go WHOA! I had them made smaller (and blogged about it here). I am grateful for that every single day. My back feels so much better and I have learned to stand up straight - well straighter. My shoulders are permanently rounded forward after all those years such that I am unable to press them back into a wall when I stand against it. But I am still grateful.
Having grown up with such big breasts ingrained many behaviors. And I have been trying to unlearn these. I am still working on a full upright, chest-forward gait. I no longer feel the need to carry books or papers to protect them from view. I stopped looking at the floor when talking to men, so I wouldn't have to see them have an entire conversation with my chest. They felt no shame in doing this. On the contrary, I felt shame. And that's fucked up!
The one that still plagues me is going without a bra publicly.
So, when I wanted to get a tattoo on my back in a place my bra would cover, I knew I would have to just bite the bullet and wear a cami/tank without one. I knew I would have to sit in full view of people, including men with lots of skin exposed. I have put this particular tattoo off for years for just this reason. I was lucky enough to find a shop where the tattooing doesn't happen in a fishbowl where anyone walking by can stop and watch. I was lucky enough to find a tattooer who is amazing, kind, and a big bad teddy bear kind of guy who puts me at ease and makes me laugh.
There's a little part of me that will, when threatened, jut out its chin and throw the middle finger to the world and forge ahead. That part shows up when I need it most. Like yesterday. I sat in my tiny cami with one strap off and the back pulled way down. I sat in a room full of men. I laughed with my tattooer. And that middle-finger flippin part of me didn't even care when he stood up to get a better angle on the tattoo even though it meant he could see straight down onto my cleaveage.
Let him look. You don't care. It said.
And I didn't, not really. I don't know if he looked. He probably did.
I laughed as we swapped stories. He's a good conversationalist. Even though I sat with a lot of skin exposed, even though he is a big guy and he had his hands on me for hours, I never felt threatened. I never felt ogled or treated differently. My skin was his canvas and his focus was always there. I felt respected and for that I am grateful. I needed that more than I can say. To know that I can be exposed and still be safe - that's a hell of a thing to learn in a tattoo shop in the northern burbs of Cincinnati