I recently went bra shopping. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, just a comfy casual contraption that would give my subtly-endowed bosom a little shape, a little support. Browsing the racks of Women’Secret, Spain’s answer to Victoria’s Secret, I found a few options and hit the dressing room.
Before we go any further, here’s a breakdown of my time spent in dressing rooms:
5% trying on new clothes and deciding against them
5% removing gunk from the corners of my eyes
90% evaluating the outfit I wore to the store
I tried on the first few bras to no avail. But the last option, a simple cotton thing with no padding, seemed perfect for me. It felt right, and when you know, you know. I looked down to check the price and what do I see glaring up at me but a tag that reads “MY FIRST BRA.” At 23, I’ve been in bra jail for at least 11 years. This was not my first bra. I quickly removed it, put it back on the hanger, inconspicuously returned it to the rack, and made a beeline out of Women’Secret into bra-less ground, hoping no one else in the store noticed I had just unwittingly tried on a child’s bra.
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My first run-in with adulthood came when I was around 9 or 10 years old. Noticing the first tiny hints of ladyhood popping up on my chest, visible even through my coarse polyester school uniform shirt, my mom gently suggested that I might start wearing a bra. I immediately rejected this idea. My refusal was in no way related to my feminist ways; I was simply not ready to enter the bra stage of my life. I was just one of those kids who enjoyed their childhood so much that I didn’t want it to end prematurely. I still had time.
At school, my best friends and I would half complain/ half brag to each other about our mothers’ sudden perception of us as young ladies. We were all receiving similar suggestions from our mothers and we all felt the same: It’s too soon.
The issue was laid to rest intermittently but always came back. All the girls in my class would change for PE together in the girls’ bathroom. The ones who already wore bras would change out in the open in the sink area while those of us who were still fighting the good fight would change our tops in the stalls, or out in the sink area facing a wall.
Not too long after our “Bras are so ridiculous” informal pact with my friends, it was PE as usual. I changed in one of the bathroom stalls and when I finished, I came out to see my best friend Miriam standing in the sink area with her shirt raised above her head, chest full of bra. “Traitor!” I yelled. Miriam had gone the way of the moms.
Things were never the same after that. It became harder and harder to resist the moms’ casual comments; to be the only ones sneaking into a stall in the bathroom before PE; to hide our chests through our school uniforms; to pretend it didn’t hurt like hell when we would playfully punch each other or accidentally run into things chest-first; to resist the urge to go shopping for “unmentionables,” as my mom would so discreetly call them. Some of us reached a sort of compromise by wearing camisoles instead of bras but eventually, we all gave in.
I don’t remember the day I gave in to The Bra, but I’m sure it involved a trip to the Limited Too. My little sister, three years my junior, was always much more eager to grow up than I was. Around the same time I got my first bra, so did she. We would go to the Limited Too together and browse the brightly colored sparkly training bras and fight over who got which, since we obviously could not get the same ones even though they’d be under our shirts.
I’ve since come to terms with adulthood, but bras and I still have our days.