sustainable fashion. 24-year-old San Francisco
native currently residing in Los Angeles.
I grew up with my mom. She’s the only real family I have. Although she grew up in a different culture where nudity and sex were still considered taboo, she gave the female form the appreciation and praise it deserved. She was always open and accepting of her body, and I was lucky to grow up around a female figure that wasn’t afraid of natural imperfections- scars, bumps, moles, lopsided lines. I remember frequently dancing around the house naked with her, and looking through her nude sketches from when she attended art school after she emigrated to America. I would ask her how she felt about being in the presence of so many nude models. She always replied, “it’s just natural. Everyone has those body parts and they all look different.” Because of this, I never felt ashamed of my body.
Bodies were mysterious and amazing to me. No matter what type, age, color, or sex, the human form became my favorite, ever-changing shape. As I got older, the female form fascinated me more. I even began to see my own body in a new light. I was observing and discovering something so familiar, yet so new. I thought breasts were beautiful and intriguing- all of their soft lines, bumps, curves, and concave shapes. Most importantly, no two looked the same.
At a certain age, I realized breasts held more significance than just the shapes and body parts I knew them as. I learned that men would gaze at them, young women would be unsatisfied with them, mothers would nourish with them, and menstruation would make them painful and tender.
A couple years ago, I became sick. I have fibromyalgia and hormonal imbalances- these issues caused chronic joint and muscle pain, ovarian cysts, and breast cysts. I quickly realized that these lumps were effecting my daily life. My body was in constant pain and changed rapidly inside and out. I could not wear a bra because my breasts had multiple pockets of painful lumps and cysts, and I had wounds and scars from ongoing biopsies. I already felt like a personal part of myself was being taken away from me and I no longer felt like my body was my own. I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror and I began hating the beautiful shapes I once loved. The physical pain manifested into mental pain; I was in fear of the very vessel that permitted my physical existence and that quickly turned into an anxious, depressing, and challenging time. After feeling violated when a stranger touched me for “not wearing a bra” I became even more resentful of my body.
Doctors couldn’t seem to find the solution after multiple invasive tests. The lumps felt like lumpy frozen peas and you could make out the shapes from outside of my skin. It made me anxious and upset to look at my own breast in the mirror. Although my ovaries and breasts were in pain, I was so grateful that none of my biopsies came back cancerous; however, my chest began to ache in a different way- for the women that are diagnosed with diseases and experience emotional and physical pain from their breasts, for the women that don’t even get the chance or luxury of having a biopsy. Healthcare is a privilege I’m thankful for everyday. These scars always remind me of that.
The remaining lumps and scars have become a part of my body. I love my breasts again, imperfections and all. Once I accepted that my human form is not perfect, I appreciated all of its nourishing gifts and faulty systems. My body and mind were in a disagreement- angry at each other and struggling to stay as one binding unit for me. I began slowing down my mind to support my body and learning to be patient with the chronic pains and hormonal issues that reside indefinitely.
The doctors visits didn’t heal me, but they did help me. The healing came afterward. Oddly enough, the first thing I did was get a nipple piercing. Why fear a biopsy needle? Why become triggered and anxious? Although I was left with scars, I wanted to be punctured by a needle that was almost identical to those used during my biopsies. But with this needle, I could give myself a shiny gift in return. For the first time in two years, I wasn’t afraid of someone touching my breasts or putting a needle in it. For the first time in two years, I didn’t have to change into a hospital gown whenever I took my shirt off. For the first time in two years, I felt like my breasts were my own. I was comfortable.
Elppin provides a similar comfort. My breasts deserve something pretty and shiny, and a reminder that my body is my own. Anything that leaves a mark is meaningful. In the end, these piercings will also become one of the many scars that spread across my chest. And they’re all reminders of my breast story.
My Elppin is a reminder to stay present within my own body.
My Elppin is something that respects, appreciates, and celebrates a woman’s body.
My Elppin is a golden and shiny, but lumpy and imperfect talisman.
My Elppin brings attention to an important part of me, and shields it at the same time. I wear it like a boy scout badge, a bright adornment that I earned during my journey of self acceptance.
The first time I saw Elppin, a fellow coworker wore it on his chest. It was bright, loud, and strong but also delicate, beautiful, and imperfect. He gifted me my first elppin, and he later became my spiritual best friend. I loved seeing a nipple pin on a man, and I think that’s why it was so striking to me. Elppin is genderless, just as nipples are. In the future I see mothers, fathers, and partners wearing elppin. I wish to see elppin as a badge of body acceptance, as a piece of beautiful jewelry to adorn upon your chest, as a connection piece between individuals, and as a reminder of those who have breast stories regardless of gender.