Rose: I was window shopping in downtown Bennington, Vermont, in August 2015 when several older women walked out of a store. One of the women startled and let out a very spontaneous and unintentional, “Whhoooppps!” Like, it looks like somebody forgot her shirt this morning! I tried to hold my composure but it cracked me up. She laughed too. Later, another woman all but high-fived me and said, “Nice! Rocking out with your tits out! I love it!” I don’t like the word “tits” (not offended, it’s just reductive) but I do appreciate that her immediate, natural reaction was to celebrate my bare-chestedness. But the real rose from my walk around Bennington came with my fiance walking a few steps in front of me. He went around the corner of a building first, where he encountered two male Jehovah’s Witnesses, one in his 20’s and one in his 50’s or 60’s. As soon as they saw him they approached to hand him religious material and engage him in conversation. Count two beats and here I come around the same corner, bare-chested of course. The conversation from their end stopped completely. My fiance, deadpan, handed me a copy of the Watchtower and asked them a few questions as if nothing abnormal had just occurred… none of which they answered. Suddenly they had nothing to say! They just looked at the ground and told us we could have whatever material we wished to take away with us.
Breasts, 1. Witnesses, 0.
Thorn: Most of Vermont allows public nudity, not just bare-chestedness, though it apparently remains controversial. Brattleboro, Vermont however passed an ordinance in 2008 not only banning exposed genitals, but also female (though not male) breasts. For a state as progressive as Vermont, this was a real bummer. The law apparently only applies to the business district (can’t scare those holy tourists away with free nudity!) so we drove through Brattleboro with the intention of walking bare-chested through the residential areas (where apparently nudity does not endanger anyone?) Unfortunately, the weekend traffic was so congested we had to triage the visit and head on to York, Maine instead.
Rose: Just outside of Brattleboro we came to Keene, New Hampshire. We had read that New Hampshire law allowed for bare-chestedness and that some women had recently been going bare-chested at the popular Hampton Beach on the Atlantic Coast (you can find articles about this online). Just outside of Keene we found a place called Otter Brook Lake Beach, which is a large dam and lake owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. They have a nice beach and several picnic/day-use areas. We stopped a police car and asked a young female ranger how they handled bare-chestedness. She said she had never had to, nor been asked the question, but she was professional, listened with an open mind and gave us her supervisor’s contact information to continue the conversation. So we called the supervisor, who was also female and very open-minded, respectful and professional. She said she didn’t know the law in this regard but promised to call back the next day with an answer. It took her three days, but she did call back with a supportive affirmation that it was legal for women to be bare-chested in public in Keene, New Hampshire and therefore Otter Brook Lake Beach. She thanked me for giving her the opportunity to research the topic first, and then offered me encouragement in my bare-chested adventures (which I call breastcapades, tm). She also asked me to contact her before a visit so she could train her rangers that day to leave me in peace. Bravo all around to the Otter Brook Lake Beach law enforcement staff.
Thorn: I’ve mentioned this in another article, but one day in Washington D.C. a pickup truck with two men slowed to take pictures (normal). If someone asks me if it’s okay to take a picture, I will almost always stop, stand still and wait for her or him to take a well-lit, focused photograph. Show the world, right? But if someone does not ask, even if I see them struggling to get a photo, I don’t change my behavior. So, as these fellows weren’t asking, I weren’t stopping, which meant they only got photos of my bare back, which clearly wasn’t what they were trying to photograph. So the passenger started yelling things like, “Yo, turn around! Hey, yo! Turn around! Let me see!” Etc. I just kept walking. So then he whistled at me like a dog! My fiance squeezed my hand and we just chuckled to ourselves and shook our heads.
Rose: This rose started out as a bit of thorn, but that happens a lot. We were at Roaring Point on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a small, local county beach and two women in their 20’s approached me to ask me why I wasn’t wearing a top. I responded by asking them why they were wearing tops, not in a confrontational tone, but simply one of curiosity. This stunned them more than I expected, not because I pushed back, but because it hadn’t occurred to them there should be a reason to wear a top. Women always wear tops. I thought they were friends, but they said they had never met before. They said they came together out of mutual disapproval of my bare breasts (See? Bringing people together) and decided to approach me together (because two is more than one… see how that works?) Anyway, one of the women said she had spent the whole afternoon pretty much hating my guts but after about 20 minutes talking to me was starting to really change her mind and then looked around and said she was actually kind of wanting to join me. I asked her what was stopping her and she said her husband would not approve. I didn’t push. Not my place to tell her when and where to make her stands. So she didn’t join me, but it was a pretty remarkable migration to witness. The other woman, who had also said she disagreed with what I was doing, ended up hanging out with me in the water for more than an hour, all the while holding onto her disapproval, probing me with questions about bare-chestedness and generally being super curious, but eventually just chatting with me about whatever. I seriously think she forgot I was bare-chested.
Rose: This blog has had more than 5000 views from 29 countries in just 3 weeks! I appreciate and encourage those who have shared and commented. Thank you!