The only thing I can bring to mind for the small waist, big boobs combo being my ideal was Baywatch. But then I can hardly blame my parents based on that as there was also a lot of Antiques Roadshow. Still, it is without question that we are vulnerable to what we watch. My parents liked Jonathan Creek and even now I find myself watching QI and thinking Alan Davis is rather doable. Sorry mum if you’re reading this but the reason I could never follow the storyline is that I was harbouring a crush and my attention span was held by those bouncing curls. (Actually mum, you might want to skip the rest of this column...)
At fourteen I felt like the only flatchested girl at school until suddenly I WAS the only flatchested girl at school. Seemingly overnight bras were everywhere and boys took to snapping them open. I’m still perplexed at how they lose this skill actually. The fiancé is 36 and has his moments of utter ineffectuality in this department. The man can rehang radiators, fix the locking mechanism on the double glazing and perhaps most significantly do the most extraordinary things with his tongue and fingers where it’s most appreciated but release a double hook? Cue endless fiddling and cursing. I’m on the lookout for a bra with buttons but am not convinced that’d help. Anyway, the mortifying day came when one of them went to snap mine and found nothing but a smooth expanse of back.
At the time this was very much a bad thing. Funny how things change as a few years later as a first year undergrad, I decided all my bras spoilt the effect of my lightly corseted white shirt and decided to go without. I was in the club with my on-off Ed (what we were on-off was never really clear) and he ran a hand down my back affectionately. “You’re not wearing a bra” he uttered as the song ended.* I smiled at the group of lads as their eyes shot to my chest and pulled Ed away to the dance floor, him walking a touch awkwardly. But as a young teenager I had to go to my mum and say that I wanted a bra. I actually measured in at a 32A so it wasn’t truly pathetic.
Sure it’s about confidence and by 19 when I elected to go braless I had a perfectly pert pair of 34C’s. I was also pretty slim. I was logical enough to appreciate that I had grown into a close approximation of the woman I had admired five years earlier. My bottom was a bit bigger but this was 2001 and Destiny’s Child were everywhere. What was desirable had evolved and I quite liked the junk in my trunk.
But there was a gulf between looking good in my clothes and looking good naked.** I actually think I tend to look better in my lingerie (why wear knickers when you can evoke French eroticism with lingerie) than in my clothes. As Caitlin Moran puts it; ‘If you’ve got some half-decent tits in a half-decent bra, it doesn’t matter if the rest of you looks like a child’s teatime blancmange that fell on the floor and got attacked by the cat – everyone will be looking at the tits in the bra.’ I’m less fond of my breasts out of a bra (they are substantial and I’m nearly 30) but they are rather fabulous encased in lace.
It was the last step towards nudity that took the longest. It wasn’t a big step after all to go from happy in clothes to happy in underwear. You see, my clothes and then my lingerie are such an important part of my sense of self. I’m almost always in a dress, I feel less like myself out of one. But I also feel a strong sense of identity in the fact I wear nice (and matching) undergarments each day and that the knickers are generally proper knickers (I’m not a fan of arse-floss). Remove them and it’s a bit of a blank canvas; stripped of my applied personality I was so exposed.
Three things helped. The first was dying my hair; that stays when my clothes go. Far more effective was my tattoo. It is a big stamp of personality on my crotch. Its enduring nature is reassuring. And there is a sense I’ll never be truly naked again.
But the final stage happened this morning.
The fiancé and I are currently sleeping in the room I keep trying not to call the nursery. Also in the room is a gorgeous wardrobe with a mirrored panel. In order to fit in a double bed, our heads are necessarily level with this mirror. This has had its interesting moments such as turning to be presented with a flash of home pornography that truly made me jump (although I think the fiancé likes it). I’ve stayed in hotels with mirrors in the bedroom and have made use of them before but this was my first view unprepared as it were. I didn’t look awful. The fiancé remarked on me noticing myself (I think his words were “checking yourself out?” which is charmingly male of him. I was of course checking the extent of how utterly awful my breasts looked like when I was on my back!).
To this morning.
I was reading in bed. I was on my side and the duvet had ridden down to my waist. I laughed at my book and happened to raise my eyes to catch sight of myself. I looked happy. I looked relaxed. I looked ok. Normally when I see myself in the mirror I jump on all of my (perceived) flaws but for some reason I was able to see myself as a whole.
I looked pretty good. I looked good enough to be happy in myself. Healthy, happy, relaxed. And that’s enough isn’t it? My body can cut down trees and prepare walls for plaster, it can do things that make the fiancé tremble and it breathes, menstruates and does a whole manner of things all by itself. Pretty snazzy.
I’m not about to visit a nudist colony or start posting amateur porn but I think I’m going to be able to finally feel truly happy naked.
* If anything makes me believe in supernatural forces it is the fact all uttered statements of this nature coincide with songs ending.
** Furthermore there was a period when I was with my ex-husband when my confidence plummeted (and my weight soared). I found myself once I freed myself of him and have largely been happy in my clothes since then.