Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Ode to the Brassier
Recently I heard some startling news. My granddaughter got her first bra! Besides reaffirming that she and I are both getting older, that fact immediately brought me back to 8th grade when my mother required me to strap on my first one. I know many, if not most, girls see it as a right of passage. One more step down the road to womanhood. Not me. I hated that thing. To me it was akin to being placed in a straight jacket.
I have a very clear recollection of the tension around my rib cage when I began wearing that dang bra. I swear I couldn't expand my lungs far enough to take in a healthy breath. I believe it must have been how my horse felt each time I tightened a saddle cinch around his middle. You see, when you saddle a horse you pull that strap under their bellies incredibly taught so the saddle stays in place while you ride. You tug, and you loop, and you tuck, and then you hop on and the saddle slides off to the side anyhow. How can that be you ask? Well, a horse is not stupid. They soon come to predict what is about to happen when a heavy leather object is placed on their back. They do, after all, have horse sense. They learn to expand their midsection by taking in an incredibly deep breath and holding it for as necessary. So, what did I learn to do? I would get everything all set and then knee him in the ribs so he exhaled while I quickly pulled that cinch as tight as humanly possible. I knew it was working because he would emit a sound similar to the one you would make if you were holding your breath and someone punched you in the gut. Oh, Teddy, I'm so sorry I did that to you.
But I digress. I need to tell you that, in addition to the physical discomfort my trusty Playtex Living Bra presented, it also caused some intense emotional pain early in my freshman year. Let me preface this story by explaining that I attended a parochial school from first through eighth grades. For a kid who was never allowed out of her desk for eight consecutive school years, junior high was quite an adjustment. How liberating to be allowed to travel from one classroom to the next every hour. And they even let you talk while processing down the hallway. For me, each day of ninth grade began with physical education class. Imagine my horror when I learned that I would be required to disrobe, wear a blue gym suit that was similar to the orange ones convicts wear in prison (except ours sported shorts rather than long pants), and then strip naked and shower with girls I din't know, before being allowed to redress. I detail all of this because it was these circumstances that set up one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. It all happened a week or two into my first year at John Glenn Junior High. After completing the fore mentioned requirements related to P.E., I rushed off to my second hour class: art. I was seated at a table in mixed company, shyly learning to chat with boys. Mind you, mixed company conversations were a forbidden activity at the Catholic school, so this was a totally foreign activity for me. Into the art room walked a girl who loudly announced, "Someone left their bra on the floor of the locker room." I could see all the boys eyes quickly dart from one female chest to the next. I looked down at my blouse and noticed two little nipples smiling back at me. Yep, I had forgotten to buckle up after my shower. I was, after all, quite new to the world of foundational garments. So off I went to reclaim, and re don, my white cotton bra. And then I headed back to art class where all eyes were fixed upon me as I meekly reentered the room. To this day I wonder why I didn't just abandon that bra right there on the cold cement floor. I know that's what I would do if it happened again. Would it actually have been so terrible to have my classmates peeking at my aureoles through light blue oxford fabric for the rest of the day.
Perhaps that event is part of the reason I still hate wearing a bra. Or maybe it's the simple fact that they're uncomfortable. Granted, the construction of the brassier has improved with time. We now have pretty stretchable lace, elastic straps that are supposed to prevent slippage, cups that are rounded and seamless rather than funnel shaped heavy cotton ones with countless rows of top stitching, and they even have darling little pearls or fabric rosettes attached to the front for adornment. Nevertheless, I still have to wonder who came up with this crazy contraption. And why are the required apparel. I was always told that you need to wear a bra when you're young, or you will have saggy breasts when you get older. NEWS FLASH....no matter what you do when you're young, your boobs will still sag when you're old! And this begs the question, if we're so worried about drooping body parts, why doesn't someone invent a testicle sling for men in an effort to ward of the unsightly "ball drop" that they experience in their golden years?