Inspired by the mysterious Topless Bowery Lady who recently set the Internet aflame, and the publicly acknowledged legality of being topless in the city, our pal Jamie Peck took it upon herself to take off her own shirt in the outside air recently and see what happened. At the beginning of her adventure, which she chronicled for The Gloss, she found that she was initially nervous — Could she do this? What would happen? — but went through with it anyway in the good fight against social conventions. She headed to Central Park on a Sunday afternoon, took off her shirt — “it turned out to be like ripping off a band-aid; once I’d done it without anything bad happening, I relaxed,” she writes.
And then she did all the regular things a person does while lying in a park on a summer day; resting, chilling, reading, chatting. Did anyone even notice?
At one point I thought a guy was giving me the thumbs up, but it turned out it was directed at a baby. The sun and air felt nice on my skin. I would tentatively say from this experience that it’s possible to toplessly sunbathe in the park without causing a commotion.
Testing things further, she got up and walked around, putting on a hat and sunglasses, and buying a bottle of water and a popsicle. “The concession stand guy didn’t bat an eyelash at me. He’s probably seen weirder,” she writes. She continued through the park, taking photos with tourists, petting dogs, and getting compliments, until a park employee intervened and said it wasn’t appropriate. Still, since the park employee had trouble actually making eye contact, this interaction seems to have been mostly just awkward.
About an hour into the park walk, Peck was stopped by a cop, who admitted that he knew the law…but that there were kids around and toplessness was not appropriate — and also, that she was just doing it for attention. Peck refrained from comment, walked away, and eventually put her top back on.
She told us, “I wanted to argue with the cop more and really expose his presumptive asshole line of reasoning, but I know too many people who’ve ended up getting arrested for absolutely nothing after mouthing off to a cop, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my weekend topless and in jail.”
Her end take:
I don’t think it’s yet possible for a woman to walk around topless without having people assume she’s pulling some sort of stunt, which is a shame. Granted, I was doing a social experiment of sorts, but it would be nice to be able to do it just because it feels good. (Also granted, many people ignored me. Kudos to them, for they are the future.)
As for the present, it seems like lying on a blanket in Central Park topless is cool, walking around topless is sort of okay, maybe, and confronting a cop or park employee while doing so is moderately unpleasant, as those things go. Peck also reveals what may be the key issue with bare boobs in public: Underboob sweat. So, now you know. Do with that what you will.
Related: This is shaping up to be quite the summer.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 28, 2011