Yesterday I posted a picture of my naked breasts on the Internet.

Okay, in a private, strictly moderated Facebook group. Still. Posting your naked boobs on the Internet is the modern version of the trust fall. “We’re not slut-shaming” your future hypothetical never-going-to-be-boss will say, “but we can’t trust her judgment.”

But that’s the whole point of posting your boobs, or it was the point yesterday. We were in a discussion of trust, and headcount, and blah group dynamic blah and all of a sudden this other thread popped up like “Is it cool with you guys if I post a sexy selfie?” Which is code for “I trust you.” No, really, it is. Discussion ensued, with demos on how to take a better selfie for sexting purposes, and then, well, boobs got a little out of hand. Nipples showed up. Including mine.

And then a funny thing happened.

My relationship with my body – like most women’s – has always been a little, well, fraught might be the right word. I constantly measure myself against too-fat, too-thin, too-young, too-old, always too-something according to the magazines, tumblr, constant streams of targeted advertising peeking at me from the side of my screen like “oh hey here I am again, were you building up too much self-esteem, fatty?”

At the same time, my body is fucking awesome. I have used it to run half marathons. It can deadlift 350 lbs and make that look casually effortless. It can do pullups and clean-and-jerks and snatches and the splits. And if I’m being perfectly honest, while I don’t fit in a whole lot of my clothes right now, I have exactly the sort of body that I fetishize, that I love to touch, that I stare at when it passes me on escalators and sidewalks. The kind of broad shoulders and rolling curves that you see on sculptures.

But about that funny thing.

There they were, my breasts, in all their vaguely sack-like glory, on the internet. And the thread went on. There were breasts of all shapes and sizes. Breasts that had nourished children, breasts encased in scraps of lace, teacups and handfuls and overflowing mouthfuls of breasts. And – leaning back into the trust fall – every pair of breasts got compliments. Every pair was beautiful, perfect. Breasts with lumps, breasts with crooked areolae, breasts that I’m sure the owners stare at like I stare at mine, damp and still flushed with the heat of my morning shower, finding imperfections and flaws and too-somethings. Oh, they’re too big for wrap shirts and wrap shirts are cute. They’re so small, I wish I had a real handful. They’re droopy. The left one is way over there but the right one faces front. All the things that we see about ourselves.

But for a few minutes, we weren’t the only ones staring at our bodies. We leaned back into the eyes and hands of strangers, and were caught in the kindest way. Flaws became assets. Nobody thought that mole was anything but a beauty mark. We could confess what we didn’t like and be met with a “really? Because I was enjoying looking at exactly that.”

The funny thing was, scrolling back, I forgot for a second which breasts were mine. Saw myself, just for a moment, as a stranger would. One more pair of perfect breasts, black shirt, who do I tag with this… oh.

This morning when I showered I tried to look at my body as gently as a stranger might. It’s a start.

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