The Scarlet Letters: N-I-Double P-L-E

I checked out women’s boobs today like a good perv.

I have a younger sister, whom you can rely on to have made wrong decisions her entire life. Like,  dropping out of school and getting pregnant with no degree or employment. Yup, that’s her, but what can I say, she’s a mother and I’m a sans. All the judgment and scrutiny is now on me and she’s joined the ranks of women seated on the pedestal reserved for those that cannot be criticized, the echelons of instant moral superiority–motherhood. Anyway, for all her faults, I love her and we are close, sending texts and emails all day long about everything and anything but mostly about farts.

Today, she consulted me about bras to wear under an open-backed top made of thin fabric. After a few back and forths, I realized she wasn’t seeking a lift as I had assumed, but coverage for her nipples. “You know, after Nanette they’re not the same. They permanently stick out and are super dark.” OH. OF COURSE.

See, here’s what happens with pregnancy. You and your friend start off as members of the same species: women. Then friend gets pregnant and suddenly her body metamorphosizes into some other form of woman I don’t know. They have all these doctor’s visits, start secreting various fluids and they talk about what they can and can’t eat, drink and not drink, complain about not being able to take medication while taking others, and then look at you puzzled for asking questions because they assume I automatically know these things because I, too, am a woman. No girlfriend, we used to be women, as a matter of fact I still am one, but you’ve become a homo sapien gravida and these biological changes are a foreign language to me.

So baby sister who’s had a baby reminded me she was one of them…and suddenly I felt inadequate–like the girl who was last to get her period or lose her virginity. Then I remembered my mother and grandmother’s nipples–yes, as a little girl I wondered why mine were pink and theirs were so dark and large. I haven’t seen my sister’s nipples, but I assume her nipples have joined the ranks of the celestial goddesses before her, with nipples jutting out into space and areola like rings around Saturn. Me, mine are pink and protrude ever so slightly….oh my god, this is my scarlet letter, the pink nipples. I look around the gym locker room and suddenly all I see are nipples. The angry woman who I assumed was a 50-year old virgin? Look at those nipples. That’s a woman who’s suckled! She has had sex AND created a living being. What about the Zumba fanatic? Oh crap. She, too, has grown-up nipples, the badge of honor befitting her sagging breasts.

I see a flash of baby pink and turn my head to stare at a pair of perky young breasts. They belong to a girl in her twenties. My breasts are no longer that perky, but my nipples, my tell-tale nipples, look like hers. For how long have I unknowingly broadcast my inadequacy every time I took my bra off? The women see the few strands of gray in my hair, the nascent fine lines by my eyes, and then catch these infantile nipples on the same body. They know. Oh they know. I’m the fool who didn’t know until now. Are they smirking or do they pity me? At least the hymen’s inside you and only your doctor would know. But nipples? Hester Prynne, I am your soul sister, I, too, bear this stigma–oh wait never mind, you had a daughter.

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