What does it mean to be an aging woman?
What do we do with things like sexuality and bodies and all the messy parts of being human?
What does it mean to buy and wear a padded bra?Leslie Leyland Fields writes one of my favorite essays in Everbloom. It's laugh-out-loud funny; it's poignant; it gets at what it can mean to be a woman and to grow old. Leslie Leyland Fields is the author of more than 10 books, including her most recent, Crossing the Waters. She lives with her family in Alaska and commercially farms fish as well as leading a writing retreat on Harvester Island (with some drop-your-jaw authors coming). She is a fantastic writer and y'all I totally stopped her in the bathroom at the Festival of Faith & Writing because she was wearing the most fantastic black and white polka dot skirt. And red lipstick. So I obviously just had to say something.
Here's an exclusive sneak peek at her essay in Everbloom:
My First Padded Bra
by Leslie Leyland FieldsThe year I was to turn fifty I had plans. Big plans. I was going to get my first manicure. I was going to run my first marathon. I was going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with Joni on her fiftieth birthday. Then, my hips and joints started getting cranky. My budget for international travel seized up. I forgot about the manicure. Instead, I had a party with fifty friends. And after that, I did it. I bought my first padded bra. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. It wasn’t premeditated. I was traveling and ended up in a department store, slinking undercover through the lingerie section. (Never quite sure I belong there.) Then— brain flash—I could repay my husband for Mr. Momming the week I was away with a sexy little something. Usually it was the foreign import section for me, but the padded bras beckoned—objects of both fascination and repulsion. I had never worn one. They looked like foamy dishes and came in an astounding range, from little tea cups to Italian restaurant-size bowls. And the sizing is the same as batteries. But no size was my size. (Even batteries come in AAA!) Then on a little end rack, I found it. A flirty, spongy little number that looked small enough to fit. I’ve worn sports bras most of my life. Not the fitted ones—the stretchy fill-as-you-can kind. I’ve felt their power all these years. No matter what I was wearing on the outside, underneath I felt sporty, ready to break into a jog or an aerobic routine at any moment. And often I did. My bra inspired me. I’ve always taken pleasure in my boyishness and the freedom it brought. I’ve felt like Peter Pan refusing to grow up, my chest proof I was still young, nubile, and mobile. Despite our culture’s unflagging obsession with breasts, I’ve never felt insecure about mine. They may be less decorative than others, but few have enjoyed the same utility. Mine have fed people—six, actually—grew them from mewling newborn to stalwart near-toddler. A full six years logged on these breasts, boosting closeness, intelligence, and immunities for us both, a whole string of benefits conferred from my milk-rich low-fat deposits. But my freshman year of high school I would have traded with anyone. Breasts were so much in demand that year that tissue-stuffed bras became something of a norm, a trend I joined while hoping for nature to take its usual hormonal course. I soon gave up on the venture, especially after my tissues crept unbidden out of my shirt one day in plain view of the boy I had a crush on. When I saw his eye wander downward, I should have simply yanked out a tissue with a flourish and blown my suddenly stuffy nose, winking seductively like, Aren’t we girls inventive creatures who can stow the most necessary items in such mystical places? I do recall a few other moments, in college, when I layered a second bra over my first, aiming for some kind of collegial shape to my body. To at least belong among the freshman femininity parading before the male upperclassmen, whom we knew were surveying the goods as we clicked by on our heels, swishing our skirts. (Yes, we wore high heels and [modest] skirts. This was a Christian college where “the men looked like men and the women looked like women.” A great obsession of conservative Christians in the unisex hippie days of flowing hair, platform shoes, and jeans.) But this new bra—all foamy and thick, plush in just the right places—was more. This was not a tame bra; it was leopard-spotted. ... You'll want to read the rest...