DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 55-year-old woman who has metastatic breast cancer. In 2009, I had a bilateral mastectomy and chose not to undergo reconstruction. I have surgical and radiation scars, as well as a big tummy.
I’ve often wondered if it is ever appropriate for someone in my position to sunbathe topless or semi-topless in the privacy of my backyard. I have neighbors on either side of my home, and two at the back. The neighbors to the sides have no view of my backyard, while the two at the back have limited views.
GENTLE READER: What exactly do you mean by “in my position”? That you have unfortunately been the victim of illness? That being middle-aged, with scars and “a big tummy,” you do not conform to a narrow social standard of beauty?
If the venue were a topless beach, Miss Manners would vigorously defend your choice. She is highly offended when people complain that only those whom they consider comely are welcome to enjoy the sun.
And if your backyard were completely private, she would have nothing to say against your habit. Even etiquette does not apply when one is alone and unobserved.
But your actual position seems to be that you would be topless in view of some of your neighbors. So she recommends either a shirt or a screen.