One of my earliest pre-teen memories was the recurring dialogue between me and my mother:
Me: I need a training bra.
Mom: There’s nothing to train.
Oh, how I wanted a bra. After all, I was officially a two digit number (10) and any day now (it would be another four years), I was going to be blessed with Mother Nature’s Gift of Womanhood: the coveted period.
I obsessed about wearing a bra. Underneath that non-stop desire was insecurity. Desperate to be deemed “normal” by peers, hungry to fit in. I’d seen other girls in my 5th grade class, their white bra straps winking on shoulders like an unspoken Calling Card of Coolness, of Belonging.
A training bra signified a ticket to my Belonging.
I read and reread Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret — folding the well-worn page where the tween protagonist does the ‘special’ breast-growing exercises while chanting the now famous words:
I must, I must, I must increase my bust.
If You Wear It, Boobs Will Come
My poor mother never heard the barrage of requests to get a training bra. It didn’t matter that I didn’t even know what a training bra was. I remember my unarticulated logic went something like this:
A training bra is a requirement, a prerequisite for boobs. I am doomed to walk the Earth as the only female in the world without “real breasts” if I don’t get that training bra. Why can’t my mother understand this??
In hindsight, my thought process was Field of Dreams: if I wear it, my boobs would come.
Adolescent Blind Spots
No sooner had the sacred day arrived, the training bra in my pre-teen hands, that I started getting teased by a boy for sporting hairy legs.
Him: Why don’t you shave that?
Me: [horrified but hiding it] I don’t want to. [insert failed attempt at looking bored shrug]
I’d been so consumed with wearing that dang bra that I hadn’t even considered what was going on south of my torso!
Contemporary Boobs and Legs
It’s with a chuckle that I look back at that pre-teen girl who was yearning to develop so fast, she didn’t consider the beauty and wonder of her changing body right-then-and-there. Of course I didn’t. That’s youth, isn’t it? We are so hungry to grow up, eager to see what’s next, what’s next, we don’t appreciate the gift of the moment as its unfolding.
Now almost half a century on this Earth, I find myself grateful for my breasts and legs but not because of what other people will think. I appreciate the health of my body in general, and the gift of this existence.
Now, the bra is more a nuisance, a small harness more appreciated off than on. Hair removal is no longer something I do to please the “popular kids” but to please myself.
What a gift this life is. The memories of my mom and I discussing the much-desired training bra is something I treasure. Even the boy who looked at my hairy legs with horror, while shame-inducing at the moment, was special in its own way. In hindsight, that moment was a hallmark of my continuing journey into womanhood.
It’s the ordinary moments, the ones we often take for granted or hunger to rush through, that are often the most precious in retrospect. It’s why Memory Lane is flooded with commentary once we reach young adulthood. We cherish the past, the experiences we can merely capture with words — a scratch we just can’t quite itch.