When you’re motherless before your ovaries find their on-switch, and your boobs blow up like two mismatched balloons, you give yourself the sex talk. Along with the assistance of a puberty book you checked out from the school library. The American Girl, “The Care and Keeping of You,” was the most sought-after library book at my middle school.
Girls would check it out, giggle, and ooooh and ahhhh between library aisles. Then they'd leave it in their lockers because they couldn’t bring it home and tip their parents off that they had questions about their bodies. I was eleventh on the waitlist by the time my breasts finally made an appearance in 7th grade. I’d been praying for them to arrive every day. Mainly since it was no longer the “thing to do” to compare the cute sayings on your Limited Too training bras in the gym locker room, once everyone had boring underwire bras.
Just before the cancellation of this locker room fashion show, I’d begged my poor dad to spend an hour in the store with me buying some bras. He was the only dad there, bravely standing outside the fitting room. I had to try on just the right ones so I’d be the envy of everyone on the next gym day. Every time I came out shirtless, I'd have him weigh in on which bra was more compelling. Was it “justice,” “sunshine,” or wordless flowers? The stakes were high.
For so long, it was just me, my dad and my brother. So, needless to say, because I was eleventh on the waitlist, I did not have the “Care and Keeping of You” book to T.A. my “how to put on a real bra." What made the most sense to me? Well, putting it on like any other bra I’d been familiar with---training and sports. So, I snapped that sucker in my hands and pulled it over my head like a shirt. I did this for seven years, thinking, confidently, this was the right thing to do.
Then, one day I was with my Aunt at a doctor’s appointment. A little on my aunt. She is my church aunt and the one whom I let pick up the baton where my mother dropped it when breast cancer chased her off the field several years before. That is not to say I didn’t have many wonderful women, family and family friends, who supported and guided me. But my auntie-mom was the one I let in, to my heart and into my first OB/GYN appointment in high school.
After the doctor told me there was little I could do about my acne, and I had dense breasts for my age, she left. I hopped off the table and pulled my underwire bra over my head like a tight dress. She burst into laughter. I giggled too because that’s what you do when someone breaks into laughter randomly in a stuffy doctor’s office. I sniffed. Did she fart, and the thought of it hitting me made her chuckle? Did I have gum stuck to the bottom of my sock?
Finally, I said, “what is so funny?” She said, "why’d you put your bra on that way?” “Because that’s the way…” came my reply. And oh, how she laughed until she realized I was serious. “Oh, baby, no. You clasp it in the front, turn it around, and then put your breasts in.” Now it was my turn to laugh. “What? That sounds silly.” She made me try, and voila---the underwire didn’t slap me in the face as it went over my protruding chest.
They say it takes a village to raise a child and four artists to change a lightbulb. And it apparently takes seven years to learn how to put on a bra.
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