ALISON JONES, Oxford, UK
Originally published April 2016 and republished with the express permission of the author.
Here on my chest are these things called breasts,
I spent many years waiting for them to appear,
a sign of womanhood clear to see,
a curvaceous indication of puberty
and attainment of the adult state,
I got them late.
Flea bites, gnat bites, two poached eggs,
it seemed as if the concept had grown legs
and run away to join the media circus,
all the bright lights and fun of a world constructed,
not reality, designed to create inferiority,
to sell, sell, sell, it was just as well
that my own mother was wise to tricks
and dismissed them with the flick of a switch.
I was none the wiser, so I never tried
to hide a body growing healthy and strong,
I wasn’t wealthy enough to afford
a bra in every colour, so it was all white
for me, a symbol of purity,
until my late teens when my wardrobe went black,
I’ve never looked back.
But how we see breasts puzzles me,
a part of the body subjected to so much attention,
across time a corseted heaving bosom
enough to drive a romantic hero wild,
to the opposite end of the scale where binding
them makes finding them hard a task
for those who wish to mask them,
the flatter the better if you wish you had none.
And what’s with the idea that bikinis are ok,
but if you use them to feed a baby, wow, no way!
That’s obscene! It shouldn’t be seen!
And if you must breastfeed, cover up,
lift your top up, if you pull it down,
people will think you’re easy, all over town;
I don’t get it, it’s what they’re made for,
yet society is disgusted and we’ve mistrusted
our own bodies for far too long ~ this can’t go on.
We use them for pleasure, yet they can be a pain,
with nipple cracks and thrush attacks, blebs and blood,
the stuff of nightmares, but don’t worry, relax,
with the right support, they can work again,
be free of pain. And if they can’t there are alternatives
and yes, I am glad of those, but I don’t suppose
many women know the business norms
behind marketing storms, designed simply
to part us from our money, and the lies and pretence
of added value are really not funny.
As we age, maybe they descend,
our once skyward friends headed south for comfort,
muscle tone changing our shape, our eyes
now focused on other prizes, but don’t forget
to check for lumps and bumps and signs
of an unwelcome visitor that could steal away
your life, catch it early, deal it a death blow,
or even take a knife to the very thing you wished for,
removed to save your own life.
We don’t talk about older womens’ breasts,
we look away, as if to say, they are not a thing
of beauty and it’s our duty to cover them,
but they don’t offend my eyes and we need to know
the spectrum of normal healthy bodies, not shame
and hiding because truths don’t match what others
want us to see; truths really make us free.
So give me breasts, boobies, baps or a rack,
bangers, bristols, flotation devices,
threepenny bits, tits if you really must;
mimi, mulks, this side and that,
righty and lefty, this one and that one,
all together and undone, free the nipple
or cover up, do as you please, sitting on the sofa
or swinging from the trees.
Alison Jones is an LLL Leader, a writer, and teacher from Oxford. She is a mother to three children. She is passionate about breastfeeding and advocates for women and families.