Topless in Manhattan…

…or Another Example of what I Love about New York

Today I was walking up Broadway just past noon, when I noticed a young woman in tan jeans walking ahead of me. She had shoulder-length red hair and was carrying a handbag. It dawned on me that her back, which was bare–I presumed from a halter top — in fact did not show evidence of any ties or straps from a halter top. Was she, gulp, topless? It was impossible to tell from her unassuming demeanor, or from the expressions of people passing her from the opposite direction, so I deduced she was not topless. But I sped up to gain on her to make sure. A ricochet look into a storefront window gave me the confirmation: sunglasses, earrings, pants, swinging handbag, — she was dressed and accessorized like any young woman on the upper east side, but with no top.

I assume she was doing a performance art piece and had not had a wardrobe malfunction. I love that she could expect to take this stroll without incident, and even more that we would experience it with such nonchalance. I would have loved to include a photo of her with this post, but I felt so provincial when I reached for my phone, that I immediately abandoned the idea as obscene. Our paths coincided for a long block, then I left her standing on a corner waiting for the light to cross 14th Street to Union Square, where she would add a bit of excitement to occupy wall street’s new protest there.

I imagine she’s now at home enjoying a t-shirt in the privacy of her home. I feel grateful for everything that her action brought up for me: titillation, wonder, pride; and thoughts of women’s issues, performance, audience.

And the art of it endured; I was shocked at my initial reaction when a couple hours later, I saw a buff man without a shirt, sweaty from running, pass me. I thought, that guy’s topless, too! Oh, right he’s a guy.

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