Did I tell you about the time I was bitten all over my breasts by a swarm of angry flies?
The boys wanted to show me a path in the woods they’d discovered a few weeks before. It was early June—I didn’t think to bring bug spray. I had been cleaning the house that morning and was still wearing my cleaning attire, which included a loose tank with one of those shelf bras to hold my breasts in place. Yeah, that shelf-in-tank-bra thing doesn’t really do much for a DD-cup like me. But I wasn’t really thinking I needed much coverage.
As soon as we got deep enough into the woods, with only the sound of a stream trickling beside us, the flies came out in full force, as though they’d been waiting for this moment for a bug-sized lifetime. “Human blood!“ they screeched. I’m still breastfeeding my little guy, and I have a feeling these flies were looking for more than blood because they would not leave my breasts alone. I spent the entire walk swatting them off my boobs. And I will tell you with utter certainty that they didn’t bite me anywhere else, nor did they leave a mark on my sons, or my husband.
So, yeah, I was bitten by a swarm of milk-thirsty flies.
At first I was just a little itchy. I promptly took a shower and felt better. A few days later, the raised red bumps appeared. At first, just a few. Then a few days later, a LOT. As in, the top and the entire periphery of my breasts were covered in red, itchy, angry bumps.
I’m a busy mom, and I will admit that I don’t always shower every day. But now I had no choice: showering was one of the only things that soothed the itchy fire consuming my chest. I also picked up some various anti-itch creams from the drugstore. That seemed to help, but any time anything touched my breasts, the itching was insane.
I had to go without a bra for the first time in many years. For some of my teen years, I went braless as a kind of hippie rebellion. But that was over 20 years ago, and going braless now definitely felt strange. I mostly did it at home, but even walking around my house, I felt kind of off-balance at first. I always sleep braless, but I conduct most of my daily activities with a bra. In fact, I normally don’t feel ready for the day until I put my bra on. It seems to hold the rest of my body in place.
But now I had no choice, and spent most of the day with my boobs hanging out there (under my shirt, ahem). And you know what? It felt freeing in so many ways. Not only was it pretty much the only way for me to avoid maddening itch-fests, but I noticed that I was generally more relaxed. I always thought bras helped protect my back, but going braless helped me relax my neck, my back and open up my shoulders. I realized I had been relying on my bra to hold my body upright, but now I had to use my abdominal muscles more consciously. I was concerned I’d look more droopy overall and—let’s face it—FAT…but I really looked OK, especially when I wore comfy, well-fitting clothes. I noticed that I was sweating less (not just under my boobs, but everywhere) and by evening, I felt sexier (this could partly be that my husband was enjoying the braless look immensely).
It all felt so good that I wondered if maybe bralessness was good for my overall health, and women’s health in general. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of good research out there (hint, researchers: get on it!).
A French study came out a few years ago showing that going braless could prevent breast sagging, with the idea that if you don’t wear a bra, you have to rely on your own musculature to hold up your girls. The researchers found that there was a marginal advantage for the braless women, but that is only the case if the bralessness is done rather continuously, and before the age of 35. Oops—too late for me!
I had also heard rumors that going braless was a way to prevent breast cancer. But the research that once seemed to prove that theory was shown to be inconclusive, and the American Cancer Society has put out a statement explaining the falsehood of those rumors.
Whatever the case, my instinct tells me that going braless at least some of the time is probably good for the body—and most definitely good for the soul. My fly bites are all better now (thank the good lord), and I have gotten back in the habit of wearing my bra more. I still feel better about wearing one if I know I’ll be doing a lot of walking or running (mostly in the form of chasing my kids, but also for exercise).
But I have been going braless much more often than I used to, and generally choosing looser, less constricting bras when I do wear them. Sometimes if I have been wearing a bra for many hours, and I start to feel a little—yes—itchy. But it’s become more of a metaphorical itch, as though my girls are shouting out to be set free. And so I oblige. I let out a deep breath when I take off my bra and end up feeling better about whatever might have been bothering me that day.
I’m not saying bralessness will change your life. But I had totally forgotten that going braless could be a lovely, happy, relaxing experience until those ferocious biting flies showed me the light.