I'm in South Africa.
Yes, right now as I'm typing this.
I could go on and on about the beauty of the country, how fresh the air is, how hospitable the people are, or how the effects of apartheid remain heavily influential on the social and economic conditions within certain communities. But that's an article for another day.
This article is about my breasts.
Or, more accurately, what occurred because of my breasts.
I've been blessed to study abroad (it’s actually more like a mission trip, but whatever) with 16 really cool students in my honors seminar class. We've been taking flight after flight, bus drive after bus drive, and experiencing tons of things we can cross off of our bucket lists. I'm having tons of fun... now.
As in literally just today. And it's all because of my breasts.
OK, I'm exaggerating. But there's a reason for my theatrics.
Throughout the whole trip ("whole" is a pretty loose term considering we've only been here for five days) I’ve felt more or less like an outsider. My classmates and I have been stuck together for basically 24 hours of the day, but I haven’t felt like I’ve been there. I’ve been feeling like I’m invading a secret club, or seventeen-wheeling a huge friend group.
Yeah, I talk to most of them, but they’ve mostly responded with one-liners. Or, if I did have a really good conversation, it’s only been with one person at a time — usually when they’re forced to talk to me because no one else is around.
They gravitate towards one another, always laughing and sharing inside jokes. The conversation flows smoothly and freely like the dozens of rivers we’ve driven by. They huddle up near each other when we stop for breaks (and if they’re near me they’ve always conveniently found a reason to stand somewhere else) and don’t choose to sit next to me if there are other seats available.
I started wondering what I was doing wrong. Am I boring? Do I sound stupid? Am I annoying? Do I smell?
Every day I felt less and less included in everything we did — hell, even my professor only spoke to me thirty seconds at a time. I knew there had to be something about me that was different from everyone else, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it was. I talked pretty frequently (for an introvert, once every twenty minutes is frequent, okay) and tried to learn more about them, but I couldn’t sever that imaginary wall between me and them.
And then came the black bra.
I pulled it out of my suitcase without thinking, just throwing something on since we’d be walking around all day and I couldn’t care less to look cute. As I looked in the mirror to do my hair, I noticed there was a very noticeable lift to my assets. And with that lift came a lift in my spirits.
I took tons of pictures today and ran my mouth like it had diarrhea. I laughed more, said whatever came to mind and participated in every activity instead of usually standing on the sidelines.
I had fun. And even though every experience has been enjoyable so far, today I finally felt like I was studying with my class and not observing.
And surprisingly, I didn’t feel like an outsider. I finally got to join in on those conversations — some of them actually came up and talked to me first. I wasn’t forced to awkwardly stand in the corner pretending to be on my phone even though there’s no service.
It was a great day. And after settling into my hotel room for the night, I pondered the sudden change in everyone’s attitude towards me. As I passed the mirror I thought to myself, “it must’ve been the boobs.”
And then like a half second later, “Oh my god, was it really the boobs?”
Of course, it wasn’t the freaking boobs. I’m still a B cup. It was my confidence.
Confidence is one of those things we all need but pretty much no one has (like common sense). This whole trip I’ve been second-guessing myself, terrified of saying something stupid or doing something embarrassing. I’ve been dwelling on the fact that I’m not a member of the group so much so that I’ve never tried to be a member of the dang group.
A lot of us are afraid to put ourselves out there, especially with people we don’t know that well. We’re scared of being ourselves because we think people might not like who that person is. None of my classmates found it interesting to talk to me because I was subconsciously closing myself off from them (and I have resting bitch face which doesn’t help). I felt comfort in being out of place because I was scared to be in place. I was scared to open up and show who I really am.
It’s a struggle that I know many of us face, especially those who are already naturally shy. Pair that with insecurity and you have a person with like three friends, who everyone thinks is either very weird or a stuck-up snob who doesn’t like to socialize.
All my life I’ve been doing this — and it’s taken a black push-up bra to alert me to this fact. Today I’ve decided to be the push-up bra for all of you facing the same issue. Sometimes people actually are annoying, boring, stupid, or smelly, and that’s why they have a hard time making friends. But sometimes we do it to ourselves because we’re so uncomfortable with ourselves that we think everyone else will be.
As we step into the new year, let’s all make a vow to leave our insecurities and doubts behind. Let’s vow to be ourselves freely at all times and fearless of saying, doing, and thinking whatever we want, whenever we want.
And let’s never forget to leave the house without our push-up bras.