banner_all-nipple-covers_1All I can say is that they didn’t have “nipple petals” when I was at an age where I could even consider going braless. Or if they did, I didn’t know about them.

I’m talking about those little adhesive flower-shaped thingies you stick on your breasts, presumably to prevent your headlights from showing through your top. (The banner above is from I do remember being embarrassed when that occasionally happened–like when someone told the kind of story that also made my arm hair stand up–but I could never figure out why I should be embarrassed, precisely. What did the phenomenon really betray about me? That I was secretly aroused? That my mouth said no, but my nipples said yes? Not hardly. It usually happened when a cool breeze blew through.

So I’m in this store, Pookie & Sebastian, on Third Avenue, and you can’t wear a real bra with almost any of their otherwise adorable dresses. That’s a problem for a gal who is feeling the effects of gravity, has nursed twins, and, well, probably should never have gone braless in the first place. And probably should never have walked into Pookie & Sebastian in the first place, but of course I have to do that at least 30,000 times before I finally get the message.

Today’s excursion beat it into my head pretty good. I held up a cute little strappy number, and then thought aloud, “Oooh, can’t wear a bra with this.” The very blonde and tanned salesgirl, whose back was to me as she stacked skinny jeans on a high shelf, thought I was speaking to her. Without turning around, she chirped, “No, you can’t, but we have these really great…”

At that moment, she stepped down from the stool she was on, and swished her hair around to face me. Her eyes landed on my boobs.

“…nipple petals,” she said flatly, as if she wished she could inhale the words back into her throat. It was clear from her expression that she felt my nipples were beyond petals. Potential protrusion was the least of my problems. Any nipple issue that I might have if I were to go braless would be overshadowed by the fact that I was braless, and the effect that would have on onlookers. I don’t think I need to paint a picture.

She pulled her eyes from my breasts, up to my almost 43-year-old face, and smiled with a mix of sympathy and embarrassment. “Have you seen this blouse?” she said, holding up a loose, flowy peasant number. “It’s really great because you can…I mean…”

“You can wear a bra with it. I know,” I said, putting her out of her awkward misery. I felt bad for the girl. It was not her fault that I insist on fantasizing about wearing clothing that no longer looks good on me. She didn’t mean any harm.

It was clear, however, that she couldn’t fathom that someday, perhaps, she, too, might need supportive undergarments, even if, like me, she’s not particularly large. It never occurred to me when I was her age. I usually wore a bra, but if I didn’t want to, I could get away without it.

“It’s really not so bad, having to wear a bra,” I said. “It happens. I don’t mind. And if you get one that’s lined, no nipple-itis.” She smiled gratefully. I even bought the top, in a fit of wanting to prove to her (or perhaps myself) that there are other attractive ways to dress that don’t involve nipple petals, and that I’m OK with it.

I’m going to return the peasant top, though. It’s nothing special. Not like a strapless underwire bra that didn’t hurt or wind up around my waist by day’s end would be, if such a thing existed. “Nipple Scaffolding.” Someone’s gotta invent that.

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