I first began noticing it last spring at the fifth grade graduation. It felt like it had happened overnight. All those little girls who had been in my son’s second grade reading group were suddenly sprouting boobs. It seemed to be part of a right of passage, as if these girls had to arrive at graduation wearing some kind of bra.
Ready or not, here they come.
When we arrived at the middle school orientation in August, they took my breath away. Boobs everywhere. Not that I hadn’t had an eyeful all summer, but really, it was startling to me to be surrounded by so many young girls with obvious breasts. How had this happened?
Then, last Friday night, as we waited for the high school football game to begin and I was quietly observing the young women around me, my mind started drifting back to a moment still vividly etched in my brain. A day so humiliating that I have tried to bury it deep within my memory bank. A day most girls wait for with baited breath but I cringe to recall. The day I got my first training bra.
I’m the oldest girl in my family. That means I got to be the first one to experience all that great adolescent girl stuff. It also means I was my mom’s experiment, the one she joyfully wanted to share each passing milestone with. She waited for my breasts to bloom like she was awaiting the birth of twins. She could barely contain her excitement at the prospect. Unfortunate for her, I was a very late bloomer. And it didn’t help that I was almost a year younger than most of my classmates.
By the time I was in seventh grade, it was obvious I was lagging behind my peers.
At slumber parties, my friends would practice that required sleepover right of passage: slipping your bra off while still clothed. In the locker room, back when gym was an everyday occurrence that included donning a hideous gym suit and taking a shower, my friends proudly displayed their pretty training bras for all to see. I tried to dress as quickly as possible, hidden behind my locker door.
I had a steady boyfriend, Joey. He didn’t seem to mind my lack of development, maybe because most of our dates involved playing Ghost in the Graveyard around the neighborhood and boobs weren’t required. But, never fear, he noticed. About half way through the school year, I decided to break up with Joey because I had an undeniable crush on Chris. The next day, Joey pushed a note into my locker that said Chris would “never go with you unless you pump up your flats”! I know this, because I still have that note in my diary.
It didn’t help that I had a short hair cut. My mom’s attempt to make me look 1970’s trendy only enhanced the fact that I could pass for a boy. Once, when Joey and I were still an item, we hopped on the bus to go downtown to the movies. As we boarded, the bus driver looked right at me and said “How are you boys today?” Joey snickered. I wanted to die. A few weeks later, one of the counselors at school approached me in the hallway and told me I should get my ears pierced because from far away I looked like a boy. Seriously, he said that, then he walked away chuckling. One right of passage my mom would not allow me was pierced ears. Not even after we went for a family photo shoot and, while wearing a smashing pantsuit I had made in sewing class, the photographer mistook me for a boy. Luckily, we had to do a re-shoot and I made sure to wear a skirt.
So, my life went on kind of like that, until we neared the end of seventh grade. Then, with no previous warning, my mom decided it was time.
One day after school, I walked in the front door of our house, followed by my older brother, two of his friends, and my best friend. My mom, usually off doing some important something when we arrived home, was like a child on Christmas morning as she waited by the door. Next to her sat a large bag from Weise’s Department store.
I know you can feel this coming….
There I stood in the entryway, totally unaware of the horror that was about to occur. My mom quickly pulled from the shopping bag two training bras with matching underwear. She handed them to me like I had just won Olympic gold, never stopping to think that this might not be a moment I wanted to share with anyone, especially not my brother and his friends, or my best friend who also happened to be the class gossip. Everyone in the room exploded into embarrassed laughter. Really loud laughter. And my brother, the meanest of the mean kind, made some wise cracks about how I might be ready to wear a bra when I got to college. I burst into tears and ran to my room, sure I would never emerge again. I could hear my brother and his friends reliving the moment outside my bedroom window. My friend was long gone. She’d probably run home to call all of our other girlfriends on the phone and fill them in on the big moment.
Really, bra might be stretching the description of what these were. Glamorized undershirts might be better.
Even that was probably more than I needed. But, I so desperately wanted one.
A few hours later, when my growling stomach forced me to come out of hiding, the yellow and white striped bras with matching underpants were sitting outside my bedroom door. I quickly shoved them into my closet and knew I would return to them as soon as possible. After dinner, I slipped into my closet to try on a bra for the first time in my life. Again, it was really more like putting on a kiddie bikini top but, to me, it was magic.
I made two mistakes my first day at school in my new training bra.
First, I somehow didn’t think that word could spread so quickly or that people would be so mean. It wasn’t just my brother and his friends, but all those classmates that my friend had actually called. It was like an episode of Mean Girls come to life. I have one note (why did I keep these things?) that was signed by six or seven girls and boys in my class, congratulating me. My brother and his friends, just a year ahead of me in school, would follow me down the halls trying to snap my new undergarment.
Second, I should never have used the Kleenex on my first day. Yes, cringe along with me. Somehow, I thought no one would notice if I magically appeared larger over night. Not huge, mind you, I wasn’t crazy. But I did enhance what God gave me ever so slightly and hid it under a sweater at breakfast so my mom wouldn’t notice. She didn’t, but when I took the sweater off at school, my best friend did. Oh, the agony of remembering that moment.
I went home and put those bra/undershirts in the back of my drawer and I don’t think they saw the light of day again until I was well into eighth grade. Even then, it was probably too early.
I have noticed one big difference between the starter bras of my middle school years and the ones most girls seem to be wearing today. It helps to answer my questions about how those girls could have grown so quickly.
A ‘teen starter bra” from a recent online article….
Guess there’s no need for Kleenex when you’ve got one of these!
I have a year to decide what to do when my fourth grade daughter is ready for fifth grade graduation. I certainly know what I won’t do.
Here's the link to the article, just in case you need to brush up on this stuff...http://lingerie.lovetoknow.com/Teen_Girl's_First_Bra