A different normal
I just got back from a 5-day trip to Barcelona. It was awesome. Anything is awesome compared to not stepping out of the home. But the trip was really awesome. Damn, I digress.
The weather in Barcelona was perfect — for me. I live in Bangalore. I’ve lived here for a billion years now, but I still feel cold. Most people think the weather in Bangalore is dreamy. I do too, but with extra layers of clothes. So when I reached Barcelona and found that I could retire my sweaters, socks, and jackets, I felt elated. I spent the entire trip in itty-bitty clothes and had the time of my life. Until…
Until I noticed something I’ve not noticed anywhere else. Either my eyesight got better, or the weather influenced this. I don’t know. I’d have to live there for long periods to conclude my research.
I noticed that a lot of women were braless. They were in regular clothes but seemed to find it unnecessary to wear bras. Don’t get me wrong — I was not staring or anything. But if every other woman is going around braless, you tend to notice. Wouldn’t you?
For the first couple of folks I noticed, I wondered about how brave they were. And then another. And another. And another. Hmm. This is not bravery. This is the norm. It is summer. Everyone is sweating buckets and the air is humid. You know how icky it feels to have bras soak up the sweat and add extra ickiness. And here were these beautiful women walking the earth with their heads held high and body parts well aerated. Gosh! Liberating! The very thought of such a liberated life made me feel lighter.
Back home, we worry about bra straps showing through our clothes. It is not considered ok. Things are changing, but this is how it was growing up. When washed and dried clothes came inside, it was not ok to leave my bra for public display along with the other clothes. I had to quickly take it inside and hide it in my cupboard. Imagine the men of the house seeing my bra lying around. Gosh! It was perfectly ok for banians (vests) to be out in the open. But bras! You’d think I was still inside them, the way mom fussed. But that was her cultural upbringing. She was following the societal code around her.
Meanwhile here was a world where women did not seem to think twice about not wearing bras. They did not look shy or embarrassed to flaunt their braless selves. Extremely pretty girls were bounding up and down while their breasts kept up the bouncy rhythm. Uff! The joy of walking free. After watching all these women (did I mention how incredibly beautiful they all are?) for a couple of days, a new realization hit me.
These women were not making a statement. They were not actually flaunting anything. They were not acting liberated. They were not feminists. They. just. were! They were living their lives and going through their daily motions. It so happens that not wearing a bra was part of it. Oh my! There is a world like this too?
Then we went to a beautiful beach in a beautiful town. There I was on the beach wearing something that left everything to imagination being shy and all that. And there were these fabulous-looking women roaming around topless. Yup! Topless. I don’t know if this is the norm in many places on earth. But for me, this was a revelation. One could live like this too! All those women and everyone else around looked comfortable. The scene looked like an average day which means this is normal. A different normal from mine, but normal. Just thinking about this made my brain blow up.
Across my 5 days in Barcelona, I could not help but wonder how it would be if the whole world lived like this. Women everywhere would be so much freer. Ogling men would get used to the sight of breasts. When something becomes common, it loses its perceived value. Maybe this would put an end to women having to deal with creepy stares. Breasts would be just like any other body part.
This got me thinking about tribals and women in remote villages in India. I traveled back in time to think about our great-grandmothers. Where were bras at that time? Women wore sarees or lehengas and blouses. That’s it. A strip of cloth was used to cover the breasts. I wonder when and how the concept of bras came along. Now we are bound by it and stepping out without a bra is seen as brazen! Bras make for pretty pieces of clothing, but they shouldn’t define our overall dress on an average day.
Breasts are beautiful and deserve some attention. Would having them on public display at all times take away that aspect? Would it rob the exclusivity? I don’t know. But think of it this way. Eyes are everywhere. Yet, when we see a particularly arresting pair of eyes, we feel like the wind got knocked out of us, don’t we? But for the most part, no one is staring creepily into anyone else’s eyes. Meanwhile, our eyes are free to live their lives unconstrained in the open.