Last week I spoke about the wonderful difference the right bra can make- and in light of Darlene’s recent discussion about cleavage and the workplace, I thought I’d share my unique “workplace” perspective on the topic. Like I mentioned, I’m a musician– a lot of my work is freelance music stuff– singing, songwriting, and in that crowd cleavage is welcomed and accepted. Freelance, though wonderful and often high paying, is totally unstable, so my stable “day job,” for the past few years has either been tending bar/waiting tables or a nanny job. For the past year I’ve worked for a sweet family on the Upper West Side, watching their three adorable kids who are 7, 4, and (next week!) turning 2. I spend most of my time with P, the easygoing almost 2 year old, meandering around the Museum of Natural History or exploring Central Park. He’s not hard work. Sometimes I have 4 year old S in the afternoons, and although she talks incessantly, she’s a loving, good natured little thing, and not much trouble. The eldest, I’ll call T- because she IS trouble. At 7 she is all about pushing limits, mouthing off, and asking inappropriate questions that make even this politically incorrect 20-something blush. A frequent topic of conversation (and much easier to deal with than sex, marriage, or the “F” word) is my breasts:

“Why are they so big and FAT? Will I get big ones? I can see your boob crack! How come I can see your bra? What do they feel like? Are you going to feed a baby with them? Mommy’s don’t look like that. How do you keep them in? When will I get to wear a bra? Does it hurt if you SQUEEZE them? Why do you have them? Where did they come from?” etc. etc. etc.

As any top heavy gal knows, high-necked shirts are completely unflattering….so I simply don’t own any. My wardrobe consists of camisoles & cardigans, V-neck T-shirts and sweaters, and the occasional lower-than-usual boat or sweetheart neckline. This was a constant problem for me in high school — I was in the guidance office at least 3 times a week to discuss my “provocative” wardrobe choices, a “distraction” to other students. I was urged to opt for more “wholesome” choices, even though my clothes were no different than any other girls’. On very few occasions did my attire *actually* violate the dress code. It was discrimination! I argued time and time again that my V-neck shirt was no different from my best friend K’s V-neck shirt, and was met with sidelong glances, and asked whether I thought my attire was sending “the right idea” to other students!  Ironically, I was a nerdy, prudish honor student who had never been kissed. It wasn’t my fault I was a 34DD by the age of 15!  I’ve never fully forgiven my teachers, guidance counselor, and principal for inflicting so much unnecessary shame on me during the hormone-induced hell that is adolescence.

Fast forward to my day job, where I am always careful to cover the girls as best I can…that is until I’m picking up toys, changing diapers and building block castles.  Watching kids involves a fair amount of bending over and moving around, so the little ones are often exposed to an amount of cleavage that would *probably* send the average man into a confused stupor… T’s obsession with them freaked me out at first- should I buy separate clothes to wear to work? Is my accidental, unavoidable cleavage inappropriate for children? Do nannies have to dress like kindergarten teachers? (What about kindergarten teachers with large breasts?!)

I approached the kids’ mother a month or so after I began work to ask her if my attire was offensive, and to my relief and delight, she smiled, apologized for her daughter’s complete lack of a filter, and lamented that her only problem with my wardrobe was that her son P would be “doomed to be attracted to dark, exotic, curvaceous women” for the rest of his life. Some problem! Of course, we can’t all be nannies, and my limited experience with corporate America has taught me that cleavage can make or break an impression, so the debate surges on.  Hide them? Celebrate them?

What do you think??