I hope you’ll excuse me calling you that even though we’ve never met. I’m speaking to you in the spirit of solidarity – woman to woman.
Last year I was having lunch with a friend, enjoying good food and good conversation following a fun shopping excursion on a beautiful October day, when I happened to glance towards a table to my left and spotted something which made me do a double-take.
You and a couple of other women wearing hot pink bras outside their shirts.
After a moment I realized that it must be in support of breast cancer, and I felt a momentary compassion for you as I realized you might well be a survivor of the disease, or even currently battling it. But I was still a little put out.
Because we were in public. And I may be old-school, but I wasn’t raised to wear my underwear in public, for any reason, once I passed the age of oh, say, three.
Look, I understand that breast cancer awareness is a serious matter. Breasts are a serious matter. I don’t know if you still possessed both of yours or were wearing a prosthetic, but that wasn’t my business anyway.
I’m a fan of both breasts and cancer awareness, but I’m also a fan of modesty. And I don’t think that choosing to keep your neon pink brassiere under your blouse would have made either of us prudes. Rather, I was thinking of the mother with young children who probably didn’t relish trying to explain why that lady across the room was wearing her underwear outside like that; of the teenage boys who I doubted would suddenly be stricken with awareness so much as a desire to gawk even more openly. Of the men who make a daily effort to not objectify women’s body parts. I thought of all the women who complain so loudly and frequently about men staring at their chests, and wondered why, one month or even one day out of the year, any woman would wish to so blatantly invite the general public to do so. As a t-shirt I saw in a Key West shop window said: “Would you please tell your boobs to stop staring at my eyes?”
I’m not sure what else you could have realistically expected that day.
I wondered if you would have worn your pink bra to a social function, or a house of worship, or even your place of employment. In a little over three decades of office work, I know any company that’s ever hired me, no matter how relaxed their dress code, would have shown me the door pretty quickly if I’d showed up as you did, with polite but firm instructions to change.
And I wondered how much more aware we can possibly be that breast cancer is a horrific epidemic that has in some way touched the life of pretty much everyone we know. I have friends who’ve endured lumpectomies, mastectomies, or just plain scary mammograms. I’ve been scared for them. Prayed for them. Rejoiced with them when it turned out to be a false alarm.
But if I’d seen them wearing a hot pink bra in public, I would have been embarrassed for them, much as I would have felt embarrassed by the sight of a man battling testicular cancer with an orchid-colored thong strung over his jeans.
Your bra, pretty as it was, didn’t urge me to schedule a mammogram at the next available opportunity. Nor did it make me scrounge in my wallet for a donation to the cause. I don’t get those urges when I see pink ribbon-shaped bagels at Panera Bread, or a container of yogurt with a pink lid, or women with pink hair extensions.
When I choose to show my support for the men, women and children who have been scarred by this terrible disease, I’ll reach for a method that I feel accomplishes something tangible.
Perhaps you think I’m being too harsh, or even that I lack a sense of humor. I can assure you I have a very broad one, but breast cancer isn’t something I’ll ever find amusing, or trivial…and hot pink bras at a restaurant do little for me other than to trivialize not just a disease, but a woman’s God-given beauty.
Dear lady whom I hope is alive and healthy as I write this, whether you still have your breasts or not, you’re so much more than your illness. You’re more than a statistic. More than a body part.
You’re a person. And you deserve better.
* * * * *
How about you? Have you or would you wear a pink bra in public to support breast cancer? Has the disease touched you personally? Has “Pinktober” gone overboard? I’d love to hear your story.