When I was a photographer in the ’70s I spent a lot of time trying to shoot young would-be models nude. Of course. As an incentive I’d shoot head shots or whatever she wanted and give her prints for her book. It worked fairly well. I didn’t ask just anybody, since just any body wouldn’t do for my purposes. Her body didn’t have to be wonderful, it had to be what I wanted.

At first I had only the vaguest idea what she would look like naked, and I shot several who turned out to be a waste of my time—she got good prints, I got nothing I could use. This was the era of pantyhose and push up bras—evil technology. I’d have her undress as soon as she got there, because it takes a while for skin to recover from the constriction. I don’t remember any girdles, though. I learned the differences between a clothed body and that same body without clothes, and my percentages improved.

I’ve been imagining what women look like naked since forever, and I’ve had a few chances to compare what I expected to what they turned out to be. For me, breasts are the toughest to predict. They’re usually cradled one way or another, and if they’re free they’re usually covered loosely, making a careful examination impossible. And nipples are hopeless.

I’ve been trying to get to Topless Day in Chico for years, and last Sunday I remembered
and actually went. My hope was that some of the women I know would show up and I’d get to further my research with some eyeball verification. I had no sexual interest, really. I’ve seen enough breasts that the thought of random bare breasts holds no interest for me, except as a visual experience, like cloud formations or a sunset.

I love breasts along with the rest of the human female form and still recognize that breasts are for babies. The rest we made up. I grew up in breasts’ heyday—Joi Lansing, Jayne Mansfield, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Diana Dors, and many more. I thought the prevalence of breast worship in the media was because of the immaturity of the average white man. I was just guessing, though.

I liked the assortment of breasts at the Topless Day observance near One Mile in Chico, from perky to floppy to barely there. Everything was very easygoing and loving with good food and even better vibes. You should go next year.

I knew only a couple of women there and long ago had given the default amount of attention to estimating what her breasts actually look like. I had hoped for a lot more women I know. Maybe next year. Of the ones I recognized, I was right on the money.

Among all the equality and camaraderie and skin clearly unaccustomed to being outside, one pair of breasts was the clear winner, and yes I know I made that up. So what. They were exquisite.

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