Today was one of those perfect Seattle summer days. The sun shining, temperature in the high seventies, not humid, and a light breeze blowing to keep it comfortable. It was the kind of day I love driving in my car with all the windows rolled down and the stereo cranked up with Melissa Etheridge singing California and Ann Wilson belting out Queen City.
On days like this people pour outside to make the most of it. Pedestrians everywhere. A woman working in her flower garden. People walking their dogs and riding bikes. The little city park near me fills with children, boys playing basketball, and families barbequing picnic dinners.
On the other side of a tall hedge from the park is the parking lot for a small office complex. There’s a corner in the shade, a perfect spot to park my car on weekends when no one else is there, and read.
That might sound a little odd. Why not sit on the lawn under a tree at the park and really be outside? But I love the privacy of that corner and being in my own mobile personal space, surrounded on two sides by giant leafy bushes and maple trees which attract squirrels and birds. I open the moon roof, roll down the windows, and enjoy being outside with the comfort of being inside.
So what does any of that have to do with boobs, burdensome or otherwise? As I was sitting there I noticed in the side mirror that a man had passed through the hedge into the parking area. He was wearing only shorts and sandals, no shirt. And it struck me in a visceral way that he was enjoying the perfect Seattle day in a manner that is off limits to women.
Men can go topless, women can’t. Boobs make all the difference. I don’t think most of us spend much time thinking about what that actually means though. It’s usually considered in terms of being an unfair nuisance.
But as I sat there I got to thinking about what it would be like to strip off my shirt and bra. Exposing skin that is normally clothed to the outdoors air feels wonderful. It’s different than being inside. On a really warm day the caress of wind on bared skin is soothing and sensuous. Women can strip down to just a sports bra and most people don’t bat an eye these days. But it’s not the same thing.
It’s those darn boobs. They’re why we can’t go around completely uncovered. And keeping them covered, even if that’s all that’s covered, is missing the best part. Wearing a tank top or sports bra leaves a lot exposed, but it’s truly amazing how much those little bits of cloth accomplish in creating a barrier.
My thinking about this naturally wandered on to swimming. Sure women can be naked in a cramped bathtub, if they even like taking baths, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about what it’s like to be fully immersed, freely moving, with no artificial barrier between you and the water. I don’t have the words to describe the incredible, luxurious sensation. It’s literally like nothing else in the world.
Do men even notice it? I have absolutely no idea, I’ve never even thought to ask one before this.
I don’t have a history of skinning dipping or anything of that sort to draw on. My experience is mostly relegated to large, semi-private hot tubs with friends. But today my mental meanderings took me back to a day twenty-eight years ago when I was visiting a close friend in California.
We’d met in college in Washington, but I had to leave school after our second year and she transferred down to UC Santa Cruz, closer to where she’d grown up. I visited just after the start of the school year. She and a roommate were renting a small house only a few blocks from the beach. We went swimming in the ocean a few times while I was there.
The first time was it was dark, lightly raining, and we were fully clothed in jeans and sweatshirts for our midnight dip in the sea. A generous quantity of imbibed beer prior to our stroll to the beach was responsible for some of that. My lifelong magnetic attraction to water and her ‘what the hell’ attitude in life did the rest. It was a great night.
The next time it was a sunny afternoon and we were properly attired in our one piece bathing suits. We were swimming in the deeper water beyond the breakers when my ‘what the hell’ friend, who, unlike me, wasn’t terribly constrained by American attitudes about nudity, pulled down the top of her swimsuit so it was down around her waist. Emboldened by not being too close to shore, though remarkably, no beer this time, I did the same.
Fantastic, amazing, and unbound are the only words I have to describe how that felt.
As we go through life we collect experiences, and later on savor our memories of perfect days or perfect moments. That time in the ocean in the company of a friend I cared deeply about, with the glorious feel of water on unfettered breasts, is one of my treasured memories of perfection.