Years and years ago, I was at some hoity-toity event with my mother in D.C. I can’t recall the occasion, only the dress code — black tie. There was an “older” woman, maybe in her late 40s/ early 50s (you never know with Black people) who was wearing an outfit fit for the occasion, but not so flattering for her shape. Her beautiful gown had a plunging neckline. Her boobs had plunged as well.
Mum used the woman’s attire as an opportunity for a teachable moment. “You need to know what’s appropriate and what is not,” she observed. “There comes a time when you need to cover it up!”
I thought about her comment later as I sat through some boring, too-long speech and wondered what, exactly, made the look so inappropriate. No, her bosom didn’t sit perky. These boobs looked about how you might expect a middle-aged set to look — not at the navel, but not under the chin either. And while there are some women pushing 50 whose girls sit on high, most women’s breasts don’t at that age without a good bra or a good surgeon.
For that woman, gravity had taken effect and nature its course. But did that mean she should cover up? Hmm.
I never reached an answer on that one. I was probably 22 when the event took place and I felt forever young with plenty of time to figure out an approach to growing “older,” right? Eleven years later — where did the time go? — 40-something doesn’t seem so far off.
I thought about that woman and her boobs and my unresolved thoughts about what’s appropriate last night when I was reading about le scandal, i.e. what Halle Berry wore on her most recent visit to Jay Leno’s late-night show. Her strapless Reem Acra dress plunged to her navel — much like the gown of that woman at the fancy event so long ago — and revealed lots of Berry’s ample bosom. It was doing a lot for a sit-down interview, but she looked damn good in it. I’d go as far as to say, flawless.
Still, Berry’s been receiving some negative feedback for her wardrobe choice. No one’s complaining that she doesn’t have the curves (or cleavage) to rock a teeny dress, but some say that, enviable shape or no, at 46 it’s time, or even long past it, for her to put away her sexy (or at least the showy manifestation of it).
NaturallyMoi.com covered this kerfuffle, and while most readers had a positive “damn, Halle, damn!” reaction, others went in on Halle B., saying she looked “desperate,” “nasty” and was — sigh — “too old.”
“She’s a mom now,” read one comment. “It’s not about her any more, she should be setting an example for her daughter.” (Please. It’s not like her daughter was up watching Leno.)
So it’s not just about how high — or not — the breasts are that determines who should bring ‘em out, but how old a woman is and whether she has kids, too? Meh.
Let’s call this fuss what it really is: another way to police women’s bodies — even good and grown women who are long past their “giving two ****s” years. And it’s unfortunate that some women have bought into it so hard that they try to enforce these arbitrary rules on other women, too.
Look, grown ladies are just that: grown. And they know all the rules about what they are “supposed” to do, and they’ve decided, frankly, not to give two damns. Let them live. Or look away.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.