Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Bra Story

Do you remember when you first needed to wear a bra? I do. Vividly. This is another of those topics, like PMS, which are a bit awkward to talk about, but which are a huge part of our lives as women. It is a big deal to go your whole life with your body being one way and then wake up in the morning and you have a whole new set of body parts. Not only do you have to navigate a new body shape, but you have to enter into a new department of the clothing store: The Lingerie Section. Help! 

I was around eleven years old when I got my first bra. I remember asking to speak with my mom privately and telling her, "Mom, my breasts hurt. I think I need a bra." For some reason she said, "Honey you could have asked me that while your dad was still in the room. You don't need to be embarrassed." I remember saying internally, "What?! This is an extremely embarrassing crisis. I would never talk to anyone else about this!" 

I received my bra education from a book called The Body Book. This was a book created by the American Girl corporation. It was written to help young girls transition into womanhood in an inviting and informative way. It talked about everything from dealing with pimples to periods. It also had a helpful section on breasts. I think this book was actually really good. It helped me to not be quite as freaked out as I would otherwise have been about all of the changes that were happening. 

My mom and I shopped for bras at Kohl's. Actually my mom called them "foundational undergarments". For some reason using this funny technical-sounding term helped me to calm down about the whole thing. It felt less personal, like an obscure medical term instead of embarrassing underwear. Also not everyone knew what we were talking about--a secret codeword. Even though this helped lessen some of my bra anxiety, I still wanted to make our shopping trip as short as possible. What if someone saw me in that section of the store? What would they think of me? They might suspect me of being in possession of breasts! God forbid! 

So I picked out the first sports bra I tried on and bought a couple versions of the same one in different colors. The next day when I was wearing one of the scandalous garments under my clothes I felt suddenly aware of everyone's breasts. It was something I had never thought about before, but all of a sudden they were everywhere. Not only that but I had the terrible feeling that everyone could tell I was wearing a bra. It was like carrying around a stolen object in my pocket and feeling the heat of guilt. I thought every person who looked at me was looking at my chest. 

This paranoia died down for me and I came to terms with both having breasts and wearing a foundational undergarment later in my teens. It took a while to be comfortable in my skin again. I didn't like the way that my new form attracted attention from guys. 

As I think back on this event in my life I wish it hadn't been as traumatic. I wish I had been able to accept the changes in stride instead of undergoing the deep sense of shame about my body. I wonder if the shame came from the culture that surrounded me. The Christian culture I was apart of in church, at home and in school was hyper-sensitive about what was considered modest and what was OK to talk about. The female body was so private that it was made to seem sinful. I felt my curiosity about its functions and mechanics was wrong, instead of normal. We can do a better job of helping young girls to feel comfortable with their changing bodies. I think one way to do that is too make it a little less taboo of a topic. I don't mean that we need to bring it up in every conversation with them. But can we make it seem approachable and normal? 

1 comment:

  1. Oh Lucy! I have tears in my eyes from laughing and enjoying this post, despite its 'traumatic contents'. I too have a similar story, as do many other of our gender, I suppose. Glad that time of life is far behind me!