In high school, my friend Steve nicknamed me “Cleavage.” Or, more accurately, “CLEEE-VAGE,” which he shouted down the hallway or across the cafeteria in his deep, booming voice. Sometimes he’d try to throw French fries into said crevice, which wasn’t hard to do as I often sported outfits that put my boobs on display. Over 20 years later, not much has changed, except that Steve and I have lost touch, nobody else has picked up the nickname, and I’ve gotten better at shopping for pushup bras. I still love to show off my cleavage any chance I get, meaning just about every day.
Now, I should clarify: I’m not talking about a Kim Kardashian or even Christina Hendricks amount of cleavage — i.e., when a woman’s boobs are the only thing you see because they are totally front and center. Rather, I go for a less over-the-top look. It’s not about smushing my breasts together as much as it is about gently suggesting what the rest — what you can’t see — might look like. Some of my tops dip lower than others, but even just a hint of cleavage is enough on certain days. Essentially, what I’m trying to convey is that I like my boobs, I am proud of them, and, yes — vain as it may be — I want them to be noticed.
[pullquote]Cleavage is like red lipstick, that one key accessory that’s an instant mood booster.[/pullquote]
When I’m shopping for clothes, the main thing I ask myself is: “Will this make my boobs look good?” Of course I care about how the rest of me looks too, but if I can bare my breasts, I know the outfit will make me feel sexy, which will make me look and feel good by extension.
I’ve never agonized over my breasts, and even though it would be nice if they were symmetrical (one is slightly bigger than the other), I’ve never wanted to make changes to them. I can’t say that about the rest of me — I have a whole wish list of things I’d alter if given a magic wand.
But my breasts are the one positive constant when it comes to how I feel about my looks. The only time I’ve ever found them inconvenient is when I’ve had a not-tight-enough sports bra on and tried to jog.
I estimate that at least 75% of my wardrobe manages to show off my cleavage, and that’s intentional. With 34DD (or 36C, depending on who’s fitting me) breasts, it’s not like I’m going to be able to hide them even if I wanted to. So I figure I might as well show them off.
And it’s even more than that. To me, cleavage is like red lipstick, that one key accessory that’s an instant mood booster. When I look down at my boobs, it makes me smile in the same way that looking down at the tattoo that says “heart” in italics on my arm does. It’s a fashion organizing principle that makes sense to me.
Also, I work from home, so most days my boyfriend is the only person who sees how much of my chest I’m exposing. I don’t run the risk of offending a colleague with my out-and-about chest.
Plus, when I show off my boobs, I’m the biggest beneficiary. There’s no way to say that without sounding shallow and narcissistic, so I’ll cop to those, because I don’t think they’re bad in moderation. I don’t spend all day enamored with my ta-tas, I just feel more comfortable in my body when I’m letting them shine.
Right now I happen to be wearing a dress whose neckline ends far closer to my actual neckline than my bra, and I miss the feeling of knowing my boobs are right there, waiting for me to notice them. The reason?
I knew I’d be going somewhere I’d never been before, and wasn’t sure how crowded or safe it would be. I didn’t want to deal with worrying about being sexually harassed, or even have my breasts commented upon.
That being said, of course I know that if I’m exposing a more than average amount of cleavage, people are going to notice. I wouldn’t claim that staring at cleavage is “in a man’s DNA” (or at least, men certainly don’t have a monopoly on it!), but I think it would be unrealistic to expect others not to notice. Sometimes I even want people to notice, and like to play with that — once I wore a dress with a keyhole cutout just big enough to show off some cleavage to the grocery store with my boyfriend. That night, I liked and wanted the attention, but it was also a kind of foreplay for us. Even when I do want to show off my cleavage to other people.
That said, the only way I can enjoy being an exhibitionist is if I truly own, value and admire every inch of my bare skin first. Which I do.
The bottom line is, dressing with my cleavage in mind means I’m dressing to please myself. If along the way other people appreciate the look too, great, but that’s secondary. Now all I need to do is find the perfect bra and I’ll be all set for my favorite summer sundresses.