Like many young girls, I wasn’t nurtured with resilience against shame. I wasn’t directly and specifically nurtured towards shame by my parents, but when you come of age in a culture that is laced with shame around women’s bodies and sexuality in general, resilience is necessary if you are to feel at home in your body.
So, when my breasts began to grow and my nipples protruded with eagerness, I didn’t have the tools to accept this change and own my body with power—instead, as I’m sure you can relate—I hid them. Much to my teenage dismay, my nipples seemed to always stand erect. I was embarrassed. Ashamed. I wore padded bras to hide what I thought was an inappropriate display of anatomy, sometimes going as far as placing bandaids over them because these nipples just would not quit.
When I gave birth to Isaac and subsequently nursed him, this years long shame around my nipples was swiftly challenged. Mama ain’t got time for shame, you feel me? This was a crucial turning point for me in understanding that my body wasn’t sexual as default. Sexual in sexually consenting scenarios, yes—but sexual by its mere existence? Girl, bye.
In the years that followed I learned to unpack the societal shame around my body and the narratives to which I’d attached. As I weaned my baby, the size of my breasts waned in tandem but my nipples stayed just as eager, just as alert. But rather than concealing them, I stopped wearing bras and worrying about whether or not my nipples were visible, and I found comfort and ease in that process.
If you see me, you’re probably gonna see my nipples too—and if that bothers, offends, or arouses you, I’m confident that it’s not my problem.
Shame isn’t something that we have the power to eliminate. It will creep in on the tails of the patriarchy, lurk in the corners of puritanical remnants, and do what it came to do: Make us feel as though we need to conform our bodies to its narrow and oppressive standards. But it can only do this if we allow it—if we don’t learn to practice resilience against it and come fully home to a body that is ours and ours alone.