We both saw them and audibly gasped with young, unbridled lust. My best friend and confidante in all things girly, Peaches, and I were at our neighborhood Newberry’s. We ran up to the display, and each grabbed one. What was the object of our affection as 11-year-olds? What got us squealing with delight? Training bras. Pure white training bras with names like My First Bra, Lucky Start and Teen Form. “You have to try this on. You so need this,” Peaches said as she looked through the rack. The cup sizes were so small they started at AAA and went up to an enormous A. They were pretty and soft and utterly enticing. And with things like ‘Gro-Cup’ technology, they were not only beautiful, but they were scientifically advanced.
Peaches and I grabbed a handful and went into the dressing room. Remember I was only 11 and had just started getting what pediatricians call ‘breast buds.’ Breast buds are the hard, nickel size lumps that girls get under the areola that signals the start of puberty. Sometimes they are sore and tender. Other times just puffy and can show up as early as the age of seven. But once you get them, you are at the beginning of your lifelong relationship with your breasts. I was ready to face my boobs head on and strap in.
And even though I had nothing more than swollen nips, I was Dolly Parton compared to Peaches who was the definition of ‘Flatty Patty.’ “You need one, you really do. As your best friend you know I’m not lying when I tell you if you don’t get one your boobs will sag. That’s a fact. Everybody knows that. Why do you think they invented bras?” I had no logical answer. Peaches was only six months and one whole grade older than me but years ahead in mammary knowledge. She had older sisters. She’d seen the evolution of breast development up close. I believed her. I needed a training bra.
The second she was at the door I rushed my mother, “I need a bra. Even Peaches says so.” She scoffed. “A bra? What do you need a bra for? You don’t have anything,” she said in her blunt Dutch accent that never failed to make me feel stupid for asking a question. “Yes, I do...look.” I turned sideways so she could see my protruding nipples through my t-shirt.
“Bras are to hold things up, and you have nothing to hold up. And besides bras make you sag. That’s a fact.” What kind of crazy Old World folklore did I hear my mother spout? As I stood there slack-jawed, she continued, “you have to build up your chest muscles when you’re young so when the breasts come in the muscle supports them.” I reminded her that she wore a bra and didn’t sag. “I have to wear one for work.” My mom worked in an old-timey Los Angeles restaurant where the waitresses dressed like serving wenches---which meant low-cut blouses with plenty of cleavage. She worked during an era when sexual innuendo and general harassment was the norm. The female servers knew the rules: ‘Tits equal tips.’
And then fashion changed and so did I. Bras became passé. I blame my braless transition on the hit TV show from the early 80s, Charlie’s Angels. The show was about a trio of beautiful girls starring Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson, and Farrah Fawcett. They were all detectives at an agency run by unseen Charlie, who sent them out in disguises to solve crimes. Sexy disguises. Farrah Fawcett became famous overnight, not only for her luxurious long locks and shiny white teeth but more so for her protruding eraser nips. You could see her nipples in almost every outfit she wore. The bra budget for the show must have been zero. None of the women on the show wore bras and women worldwide followed suit. So, inadvertently, I was following my mother's advice but purely on a fashion basis.
Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith Image via Pinterest
Thirty-odd years later and I still get all tingly when I see a pretty bra. I can't wait to try it on. But today I wear them to feel sexy, not out of necessity. And I definitely would feel strange if my nipples showed through my clothes. Thankfully, my breasts still pass the pencil test. I attribute that to good genes, regular exercise, and good luck. Of course, my mother would like to take all the credit for my perky breasts, but I’ve got to give credit where credit is due, to the Angels. Charlie's Angels that is.
Featured image: © Bruce McBroom/MPTVImages.com