Boobies or Breasts? Why not both?! A look at breasts and sexuality

This piece was written and performed at Bedpost Confessions, a live, monthly storytelling show in Austin: Smart. Sexy. Stories.

Showing off some cleavage before the show

Showing off some cleavage before the show


I love breasts. Breasts, boobs, tits, bazongas, whatever you want to call them. Big breasts, ittie bitty breasts, perky breasts, torpedo breasts, I love them all. Breasts with little nipples, dinner plate nipples, clothes hanger nipples, and one of my personal favorites – inverted nipples! I like to think inverted niples have special powers. As an innie I have to say my nipples are a direct channel to my sexuality AND I never have to worry about my headlights being on! The wild variations of breast shapes and sizes are intriguing to me; I can find beauty in all of them. I love MY breasts, I love YOUR breasts! If your breasts are there for me to see I’m a-lookin’.  I am no stranger to the struggle to maintain eye contact with the owner of a voluptuous pair.

Sometimes I stand in the mirror and admire my own. I can’t help but notice the imperfections; one is bigger than the other, there are a few silvery stretch marks and, ugh, a hair! What the HELL is THAT about?! What evolutionary purpose does nipple hair serve?!  My variations of normal are noticeable, but I also see the general softness and porcelain curves. I see beauty, femininity and realness in their flaws. In my reflection I can envision my breasts inviting some poor soul’s tearful head to rest; giving comfort that only a bosom can provide. These things – these lumps of glorified fatty tissue – that my clothes accentuate, that my bras lift, that the public eye begs to see. I cannot change them, so I have worked hard to love them. I shouldn’t have had to work so hard.

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I have always enjoyed the eroticism of my breasts. No better way to derail all of my thought processes than to cop a feel and end with a gentle pinch of the nip. At least that was until my fun-time bags became BREASTS. BREASTS. When I became a mom my breasts were no longer mine – or my husband’s – but were now subject to the dictatorship of a tiny human being who begged for them more than any man I have ever met.  

I have to say though, I do think breastfeeding has given me some insight into the male erection – stay with me, here. Stimulation causes a fluid to build up which makes the breasts become hard until there is an uncontrollable climax. If that climax is interrupted, the discomfort of engorgement sets in – the female version of blue-balls; blue breasts, I guess? So then I sulk off alone to take care of it myself, begrudgingly attaching my pump. *err – err – err- err* And sure, it works well enough, but it’s just not quite as satisfying as the real thing. I feel for you guys and your poor blue balls.

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So while this insight was quite valuable, these breasts were not just for fun anymore. They were for my infant, and now even my three (soon to be 4!)-year-old who admires them greatly. She often caresses them when she thinks I’m not paying attention, just out of awe and curiosity. She knows they have power. And now my breasts are all business. I’ve had doctors, lactation consultants, other moms – and as I became more comfortable – pretty much everyone in my general vicinity seeing and sometimes even touching my breasts. But… it sure ain’t sexy. It’s work! It is true love’s sacrifice.

My breasts are still fun for everyone, just in a different way. Whether it is my nursling feeding while simultaneously clutching and pinching the opposite nipple (seriously, Why?! WHY?), or my four year old telling the story of the time mommy went on the boat and her boobies went A-BOOM BOOM BOOM (no really, she has said this while bouncing my breasts weekly since our boat trip in August) or my husband trying to sneak in some time with them for himself, it is clear that things are no longer the same.

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For one, my view of the eroticism of my breasts is totally different. I am now known to give dirty looks and swat at my husband if he so much as looks longingly at my breasts when I am preparing to nurse. It must be torture for him to have them so close, yet so far away. I know some people are into age-play and milk fetishes, – and honestly after some thought I kind of understand the draw – but breastfeeding is NOT sexy. Think of the sexiest thing ever combined with the least sexy, but sweetest, thing ever – like receiving the best oral sex you’ve ever had… while your grandma endearingly strokes your hair. Ack! THAT is how I feel when my husband attempts to caress my breast while my baby is nursing. *shudder* Oil and water, my friends. Or foremilk and hindmilk…

Did you know that breastmilk cannot be duplicated by science? It has antibacterial properties that can heal pink eye, ear infections, eczema, and sinus infections. That’s right, I put that shit straight in my neti pot! Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s chances of breast cancer and helps her lose weight. Breastmilk takes on the flavor of food, giving breastfed toddlers a better palate for fruits, vegetables and other healthy choices later in life. Not only that, it reduces their risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer. Best of all it calms fussy babies and it’s FREE.  Breastmilk is fucking MAGIC. It’s not “ew”.  I’ve tasted my own breast milk, and it is sweet, totally palatable. I’m pretty certain my husband has tasted it during foreplay, too. But who cares? Worst case scenario: it gives him superpowers. I bet you that after a night of heavy drinking, a shot of breast milk would alleviate a hangover. Hell, give me some rum and Kahlua and I will make my own White Russians. Party. All. NIGHT.

Like, no really. Breastmilk White Russians. Someone should market this!

Like, no really. Breastmilk White Russians. Someone should market this!

So this is what kills me. My non-lactating breasts are quite popular. Delightful toys for the joy of men and women alike! Titties, titties, titties! But whip out a BREAST for its intended purpose? Ludicrous! How dare you feed your baby in the presence of others, you might offend someone! Breasts and nipples, in my opinion, need not be covered solely because they have secondary sexual characteristics. The city of Austin agrees with me; I can walk through downtown with my shirt off and it is perfectly legal. Texas also has a lesser known law regarding my breasts (I wonder how many laws there are governing men’s bodies? Hmmmmm.) – and that law says that I can breastfeed anywhere that I am authorized to be.

Some people might say “Sure, but with a cover, because like, modesty, right?!”  It is totally unrealistic to think that every baby will tolerate a blanket draped over their head. Do YOU want to eat with your napkin over your face?! I will cover my baby while she eats when all those bottle feeding perverts stop waving around their nipple dildos and cover that shit up.

Breastfeeding my daughter at a post-natal yoga class.

Breastfeeding my daughter at a post-natal yoga class.

If I can freely use a fake nipple to feed or soothe my baby it should be perfectly acceptable for me to use a real one. Just as most people would be terribly offended by, say, a stranger’s penis wagging in their face, they would only be slightly more comfortable if someone were to wag a lifelike dildo in their face. So if you are not offended at all when I feed my baby with a fake nipple, you should probably only be a little uncomfortable with my actual nipple. And hey, we are slightly uncomfortable on the daily: like when someone crop dusts us with a rank fart, or they lean over to show their plumber’s crack – or even better – their whale tail we get uncomfortable, but we don’t tell them to leave or “do that somewhere else.” We say nothing; we giggle at our discomfort and move on.

So people say “WTF, Mandi, you just said there are deviants out there lusting after your breastmilk, don’t you want to cover those bodacious milky tatas up?!” I say “no”. Just like I don’t hide my feet for the sake of foot fetishists or refuse to pee in a public restroom to avoid people who like water play.

Nope. I will nurse with reckless abandon just as I have openly shared my cleavage all these years. I’ve come to terms with my breasts and I am reclaiming my fun-time-bags. While breastfeeding has changed my relationship with my breasts I am slowly starting to give them their sexual freedom back; letting them loose to sway as I walk around the house, pushing them up occasionally to show off a little cleavage, allowing a fondle or two and sometimes even asking for one. The best thing about my forever-changed breasts is that they are now so soft. Soft and comforting, like a mother’s breasts should be. While perky has it’s benefits I gotta give my breasts some mad respect. They were a sole source of nutrition, giving life to my children – all on their own – for six months, and they have continued to give them the nutrition and immunities that they need to be healthy and strong well into toddler-hood.

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Besides, I can make soft and comforting sexy. I can walk around with confidence topless with tight jeans (my husband’s personal favorite) and feel like the sexiest woman on earth; soft silver-ridden breasts and all. Because they are what I’ve got and they are amazing. All breasts are amazing, and powerful, and worthy of respect. We cannot compare our breasts to each other because they are as diverse, if not more so, as the population of the country we live in. What we see on TV is not all there is.

So, if I ever do find myself comparing myself to those awful fashion magazines in the checkout line and feel dragged down by the fallacy of my “abnormal” breasts, I just remember my three year old saying “I want boobies like yours, momma, so I can feed baby sister!”… A BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!

 

Victory Bird: A Cancer Recovery Story (Part 3 – For the Love of The F Word)

Redbird smiles

Redbird smiles

Brooke's partner in crime, Gracie

Brooke’s partner in crime, Gracie

When I went to photograph Brooke I went with the intention of helping her see how beautiful she was with her new look. I felt so blessed that she trusted me with taking photos of her newly shaved head and I was inspired by her vulnerability. I knew that she had been surrounded by overwhelming positivity and encouragement, and might just be to that point… You know, the one that everyone reaches when something turns your world upside down and the whole positive attitude thing starts to get old? When you just want to be allowed to kick something? Yea, that feeling. I was ready to go there with her if it served her.

I arrived and we were all smiles. I slowly took pictures, figuring out my camera settings as we talked about the past and the stuff of life. I remember as she looked out the window I thought “This is just like before. She is the same old Brooke, just with awesome scarves for hair.” I went through her accessories with her to help her complete her outfit choices. It felt just like when we would help each other get dressed together before we went out for a fun night during college, so much fun! We tried different combinations with different shots and angles. Gracie, her dog, relentlessly tried to photobomb us and we laughed about her obsession with tennis balls. It was fun; we giggled and sighed together just like old times. After some time I could see Brooke was starting to get a little tired but we really wanted to get some shots outside. She made a slow and purposeful wardrobe change as I grabbed the walker she requested. The trek down the stairs was slow and painstaking. This was the first time I had seen Brooke start to wear out, and we had barely been moving around in her room. I realized that my assumption that this was the same old Brooke, just without hair, was way off base.

Brooke's Cancer Kickin' Boots

Brooke’s Cancer Kickin’ Boots

It was beautiful outside – a perfect Fall day in Texas. I got a few shots of her smiling as she told me about her dress, and her victory boots. As we went on I could see the exhaustion on her face and I knew it was time for the patch. I handed it to her and at first we laughed about the simultaneous appropriateness and absurdity of the F-word (One of my personal favorites. Brooke? Not a frequent user). I got smiles from her, but I knew it was wearing thin. I told her I wanted her mad face. All I got was a smile and a laugh.

Brooke failing miserably at making a mad face

Brooke failing miserably at making a mad face

That’s when things got real. We talked about how cancer has taken her power, her mobility, her hair. We talked about the pain of putting your life on hold and finding out who is really in your corner. We talked about being able to address these feelings and put them in a place where they can be noticed, accepted and dis-empowered. All of those raw feelings, angst and pain adequately expressed in two words: Fuck Cancer. That’s when I got this picture.

Fuck Cancer

Fuck Cancer

I love this image. She is so fierce, the epitome of finding power in owning your anger.

I had been holding onto the image, not sure what to do with it. It was beautiful, and I loved it, but I didn’t know where it belonged in all of this. It probably wasn’t for everyone, for sure, but I knew it had a place, a place where it would help people – people who were looking for an outlet for their pain and anger. A few weeks later as she began to taper off of the steroids that had helped her get through radiation Brooke’s body faltered. She kept landing herself back in the Emergency Room, weak and dehydrated. I felt angry. Brooke didn’t deserve this pain and I was pissed that such a warm, loving person was hurting so much. It was all so unfair. So, in a moment of my own anger and frustration, I posted the Fuck Cancer picture on Facebook with this caption:

I have been going back and forth as to whether I should post this image or not because it has an ugly word in it; I thought it might be offensive to some. But you know what? We SHOULD be offended. Cancer offends me. Cancer is ugly. It is mean and it is a bully. It turned Brooke’s life upside down and has put her through more than most of us can even comprehend. Today Brooke visited the ER due to complications from tapering off of her steroids. She has been through so much pain that she doesn’t deserve. I can’t help but get mad sometimes and think: Fuck you, Cancer.

True Beauty

True Beauty

It quickly went viral, my most popular image as of yet. The comments and support were amazing – and I suspect that they came just in time for Brooke during one of her most difficult trials. “Likes” and comments of support kept coming, words like “With a capital F, but louder!!” and my favorite quote from my own father “Rather than being appalled by language be offended by injustice”. Brooke’s own response was perfectly executed:

“If you know me well, you know that the sound of me trying to say this word sounds silly. But, I will say, it doesn’t mean I haven’t had feelings or thoughts about my situation that would be well represented by this.
A little back story on this, Mandi gave me this patch. She asked me to take a picture of it when she took those awesome raw and authentic shots of where I have been during the season. literally, where I am at; like, my bedroom for most of the last four months & my view from my window with all my books around. When she was taking this picture she wanted me to make an “I hate you cancer face”. I’m not very good at holding intense faces with out giggling. It was difficult at first. Then Mandi started listing the things that I have experienced over the past four months, out loud. It was emotional and I felt permission to be angry. And that is when my demeanor got real, like this … But with the expression and the patch, it gave an authentic representation of what I was feeling in that moment … There is freedom in being outwardly honest with how you are feeling. It loses any power that is keeping you from being at peace … As I started to be authentic in my quiet time with God it was emptying out the space in my spirit for healing, forgiveness , and faith to fill it back in. God already knows how we are feeling, and he is a relational God. So, like confiding in a friend, it creates a closeness and provides a space for healing in our mind, body, and soul.”

Her words about “permission to be angry” kept resonating and I knew the post had been made at the perfect time. I was glad I had waited. Then, out of the blue, I got an email from a film student who was making a documentary about Brooke’s journey – and they wanted to use my image! I was thrilled and terrified about the prospect of publicity. I had doubts about it belonging in her inspirational story, so I offered up some of the other images and left it in the film maker’s hands.

Brooke talks about her experience during the Q&A session

Brooke talks about her experience during the Q&A session


Brooke, Lea and I at the Victory Birds screening

Brooke, Lea and I at the Victory Birds screening


I was invited to view the screening of Victory Birds, produced by Jennifer Brofer and Audrey Long. There were so many people there. I knew no one but Brooke and our friend, Lea, who came with me, but I could feel the love resonating in that space. We walked in to see pictures of Brooke throughout her life lovingly placed out on a table. I saw her in the distance on her laptop, opening more Skype windows than I have ever seen on one screen so that her family could watch from afar. It was really awesome to meet some of Brooke’s biggest supporters; of whom I had mostly only interacted with on Facebook. The founder of the Brain Power 5k, Kelly Bolinger, was in attendance along with some who had run the 5k with her. Those who had shaved their heads in solidarity with Brooke were also there. A room full of beautiful, authentic, people. Everyone waited quietly, unsure of what to expect.
Brooke watches as her story plays on the screen

Brooke watches as her story plays on the screen


The film itself was so touching, so inspiring. It portrayed a powerful parallel between Brooke’s hurdles and her race at the Brain Power 5k, ending with her crossing the finish line. Not one person left without shedding a tear. The part where I lost it, where I could no longer deny the effect Brooke had had on my heart, was when the film ended and my photo – the Fuck Cancer photo – flashed up onto the screen. All of my fear of judgement over that one word was wiped out as the entire audience threw their hands in the air and cheered.

What I have learned from Brooke and her journey is that being positive doesn’t mean pretending everything is fine, it means we choose to be happy and thrive despite our circumstances. Addressing our frustrations is vital to our survival, because when we bury them deep they eat at us from the inside. Being vulnerable and real, as Brooke has made herself by making her story so public, gives us strength to carry the weight of our burdens.

My three-year-old daughter caresses Brooke's head without judgement. Her only remark was "I like it, it's soft".

My three-year-old daughter caresses Brooke’s head without judgement. Her only remark was “I like it, it’s soft”.

I will leave you with this:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

To read more from Brooke herself, check out her blog: http://beincreative.blogspot.com/

Victory Bird: A Cancer Recovery Story (Part 2 – Making Hair Irrelevant)

Brooke's beauty was never dependent on her hair

Brooke’s beauty was never dependent on her hair

When I met Brooke we both had incredibly long hair. I have never known her to not have long hair. Shortly after we became friends I chopped my long curls after an impulse to drop some bad relationship karma. That was the first time I donated my hair. It was like somehow all this emotional baggage was clinging to every strand of my hair, weighing me down. Once I lost that weight I felt so free, it was like my new life could begin. Funny enough, I met my husband the next day, but that’s another story.

Ready for a night out

Ready for a night out

Brooke’s hair was a seemingly integral part of who she was as a person. It was long, dark and thick – the kind of hair that only exists in shampoo commercials. She has spent a lot of her life thinking about that hair. After all, it was there every time she looked in the mirror.

Brooke lets her hair down at our wedding. Photo credit: Imageclectic http://imageclectic.com/

Brooke lets her hair down at our wedding. Photo credit: Imageclectic http://imageclectic.com/

When Brooke’s brain tumor was diagnosed the doctors recommended radiation. We all knew there was a chance that, among other things, she could lose her hair, but we hoped for the best. Brooke started strong, but was soon overwhelmed by almost every side effect radiation has to offer. Hair began to fall and a smooth, shiny spot appeared where the radiation treatments had been focused. It soon became clear that shaving the rest of her head was unavoidable. People started posting pictures on her victory page of themselves cutting, donating and shaving their heads and a head shaving party was planned to celebrate the last of 30 radiation treatments.

Only cool kids shave their heads ;) Photo credit: Lisa Hackbarth

Only cool kids shave their heads 😉 Photo credit: Lisa Hackbarth

When it finally came time to let go of the rest of her hair she was surrounded by love. Multiple people shaved their heads in solidarity with Brooke, and the heart touching moment of transformation was complete with pictures and a film crew.

Here goes... Photo credit: Lisa Hackbarth

Here goes…
Photo credit: Lisa Hackbarth

“When I first started this I told you guys that I wanted (…) a chance to show what living in authenticity is about. Show that love wins, and for people to see the community of Christ and be drawn to the nature of Christ. Clearly I cannot do that myself. (…) Your being bold and your stepping out is a testimony to me and encouraging to me through all of this. I’m just so thankful and I love you all so much, and I am just so glad that love is winning. Everyone is sharing so much of this story – it is reaching people that I don’t even know. And because of people stepping out and that boldness I am just so grateful and I love you guys so much.”
-Brooke, right before the shaving

Down it goes, falling next to Brooke's Victory Boots  Photo credit: Lisa Hackbarth

Down it goes, falling next to Brooke’s Victory Boots
Photo credit: Lisa Hackbarth

Her hair is gone but the reality of it is; she is still Brooke. Her inner beauty far outweighs any aspect of her appearance. The transition was emotional and tumultuous, but now it is like she never even had, or needed, hair. Where auburn tresses used to adorn her head she now decorates herself with scarves, hats and earrings. Even without them she looks great, of course, but then she never had to do up her hair to look amazing either. She really looks exactly the same – those knowing eyes, that radiant smile. Nothing seems missing, she is no less whole. The societal ideal of what is beautiful can’t compete with Brooke’s heart and soul. She has challenged our concept of beauty and shown us what we all should have known; Hair is irrelevant.

Brooke prepares to wrap a scarf  - one that is special, it was her grandmothers.

Brooke prepares to wrap a scarf – one that is special, it was her grandmothers.

Being bald is just a part of who Brooke is for this season, and oh boy, has she owned it! She may not have planned to drop karma via a haircut like I did back in college, but she did. Her hair loss seemed like a pivotal moment. Everything has brought her to this point so that her new life can finally begin. One where she accepts the pain, sweat and tears that belong to her and she uses them to lift up others. Every moment she has struggled, every time she has wanted to cry out, every moment she wished to be able to step out of her body and be back in her “normal” life – all of this she is using to fuel her fire. There is no direction but forward, and the future looks so, so bright.

The Beauty of Brooke

The Beauty of Brooke

Watch for my last blog of this series on Authenticity, coming next week.

If you would like to learn more about brain cancer, or would like to donate go here:
http://www.abta.org/
http://www.cancer.org/