Look at me while we’re talking

If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone staring about a foot below your eyes, read on.

We’ve had a few requests for styling advice on how to draw attention away from what the Victorians called an ample Look at me editedbosom, and we’re following that up elsewhere.

In the meantime, how about some alternative approaches to the issue of being stared at in the wrong place?

Back in the 80s I was working at an ad agency, one of London’s biggest. Clients ruled. You did what they wanted, even if they wanted it at 8pm on a Friday when you’d got theatre tickets. (Now it’s even worse; they have your mobile number.) I was in media, which wasn’t so bad, but the account managers had to be ready to indulge their clients’ every whim.

There were quite a few women at our agency, including the creative director, which I realise now was pretty rare. One of the account managers had big breasts. She didn’t wear low cut outfits, not at work anyway. Suits and shirts were the uniform at the time. And yet one particular client always carried on his conversations with her cleavage, not her face. Apart from that, theirs was a professional relationship; he didn’t say or do anything else inappropriate – unlike some others at the agency I could still name. The chairman used say to young women – joke, ha ha, very funny – “Come in and lie down” when we arrived for meetings.

So one day she held a meeting and spent the whole time staring at his crotch. Eventually, business concluded, she looked up.

“I take your point,” he said, “And I’m sorry.” They smiled, shook hands and she’d fixed it.

“These things are not always sexual; it’s just curiosity. It can feel threatening when someone is peering at your bosom, but it’s not always meant that way. There’s a difference between looking and leering.

I teach yoga, and on our training course we were advised not to wear low cut tops. I’ve seen bad things happen when people wear the wrong clothes in yoga, especially when they’re doing headstand. Things pop out. I’ve seen things which I can never unsee, men and women. I’d recommend proper shorts that fit, stretch and are long enough to cover all the options, and proper tops that give you space to move, but plenty of leeway for stretching in every direction. Your yoga teacher will thank you.

When I face the class and demonstrate a forward bend, everyone – male and female – is going to stare down my top if there’s a view.

It’s not about sex, it’s just interesting.

For me, it’s like leaving your curtains open and the light on when it’s dark. People are just going to have a quick glance in your front room to see if there’s anything worth looking at. It’s not threatening, just natural curiosity. As a teacher, I don’t want my class distracted from what I’m doing with my arms and legs, so my T-shirts generally come up to my collar bones.

One of my students is in her 60s. She has small breasts but she doesn’t wear anything under her t-shirt. I so wish she would. I find myself staring in horror, in the hope that one day they’ll just disappear under a nice sports bra.

Other students with larger breasts have spent years hiding them by bringing their shoulders forwards and hunching over. Don’t do this. Just don’t. It’s bad for your back, it restricts your rib cage and you don’t get enough oxygen into your lungs and around your body. Do yourself a favour; lift up your sternum and take some deep breaths or you’ll find it more difficult to breathe deeply later in life.

Give your breasts proper support, cover them up if you like, but lift them properly. Consider your lungs and your spine instead of worrying about people looking at your chest.

Maybe people will look. Maybe not. We can decide whether to let it bother us or not.

Hitler used to unnerve people by staring at their feet.

My dad told me that, and it might even be true. My dad was generally dead set against everything that Hitler did, but if he felt that someone was deliberately being mean to him, and trying to make him feel small, that’s what he’d do to them. Shoe staring. It’s a milder approach than crotch staring.

It doesn’t always work on me because I’ve got some pretty amazing shoes, and I’ve come to expect it, but it’s another tool for the box.

Here’s another staring observation: the up-down-up versus the down-up-down.

If someone looks at you in an appraising kind of a way, starts at your feet, looks up then looks down again, it feels horrid. If they start at your eyes, look down then back up again at your face, it feels quite good. It’s even better if they smile. It’s that simple.

Get someone you like to try it on you, and make sure you do the down-up-down first, followed by the up-down-up. Feel what happens.

So if you’re the owner of an ample bosom, bear in mind that some people pay thousands for what you grew on your own. If people stare, they probably don’t mean to offend you. And some decent upholstery added to a good posture are much better for you than flattening and slumping.

And if someone does stare a little too hard, just look down.

Sarah McCartney

About Sarah McCartney

I’m a writer, perfumer and yoga teacher, and I like sharing what I know.