It’s been unseasonably hot, even for here. We’ve been in the 80’s for several days, with high humidity, rain, and storms. During a break in the rain, Husband suggested we attend a local outdoor sporting event, about 45 minutes away from home.
Since we were looking at another day of high temperatures, I wore a comfy shelf tank (the kind with a built-in bra) for the occasion. We walked around, watching the players practice and just generally people watching. That’s when I noticed something a little odd: people were staring. Not at us. At me. At first I chalked it up to my imagination. Why would people be staring?
It started with an elderly male employee greeting and directing people, whose eyes lingered on my chest area a little too long as I passed. Then the middle aged woman giving out team rosters seemed a little uncomfortable with me. And as we walked around, there were several women that let their eyes flash at mine, give me a strange half smile (which I totally misinterpreted as the I-think-I-know-you-but-I’m-not-sure smile), before turning away. Most women I met did this, or turned away from me entirely.
Players making their way between fields glanced at my chest and held their eyes there as they passed by. Several men looked past or above me until I was almost even with them, when I saw their eyes drop and stay.
What is going on here?
I excused myself to the rest room, but as I walked alone, the stares got worse. Not quite as covert. I pulled up the top of my shirt so it covered more of my chest.
“I know this shirt is a little low cut,” I thought, “But geez, it’s not that low!”
As I made my way to the bathroom on the other side of the fields, it just got worse and worse. There were giggles, whispers, and I clearly heard a group of middle aged men refer to me as “that girl” as I passed them.
When I was finally alone in the women’s rest room, I looked in the mirror.
I understood the stares. The whispers. The weird reactions.
The bars of my nipple piercings were front and center. The built in bra of my shirt did very little to hide them. You see, I had recently changed out the steel balls at the end of my piercings and replaced them with larger, jeweled ends, since they drive Husband nuts in a good way. With the old ball ends, you could not see the piercings in that shirt. With these ball ends, they were hard to ignore. My piercings were staring back at me out of the mirror.
Forty-five minutes away from home. In a crowd of people. No hope of hiding them.
[Brief interlude: When I told this story to a friend, she asked me at this point why I did not just take the piercings out until I got home. Simply put, you can’t do that to nipple piercings, especially not ones only a few months old. The piercings will close up immediately.]
I went to rejoin Husband. More stares, more whispers. I kept my eyes level, head held high. I thought if I tried to hide them, it would just make them more obvious. I don’t think it helped.
When I finally reached Husband, I whispered the problem in his ear, sprinkled with lots of swearing. I did not tell him about the staring and laughing, just about what I saw in the mirror. He looked at me and started laughing. He himself had noticed nothing amiss with my clothes.
I came home with mixed feelings. It was a little funny not realizing my piercings were so obvious. It’s a little embarrassing, too. Just the right kind of embarrassing that makes it a great story to tell later over a glass of wine and a lot of laughing. Mostly, that’s what I’m doing.
But I also had an epiphany: They’re just boobs. Seriously, they…are…just…boobs. Yep, my nipples are pierced. Other people noticed. Congrats. Would ya like a ribbon for noticing that I have a chest?
Now, I really get it. My piercings were pretty obvious today. People couldn’t help but notice them. But was the whispering really necessary? The blatant staring, especially when I was no longer standing next to my husband? The label of “that girl”* when I am in fact IN MY 30’s???
In short, noticing something sex related about a person is not an excuse to abandon social skills. They are just boobs. And my eyes are up here.
*Calling females in my age group “girls” while calling males of the same age “men” is one of my pet peeves.