Copyright 2010 by Janis LeForge
Victory! Doubting Mom convinced. She finally relented, and I got my first bra. It’s white, no nonsense (read no lace), as plain as can be, I’m still ecstatic just to possess one. I can’t wait to wear it. I’m zooming too far ahead of my story; just basking in the glory of it all. Let’s go back to yesterday. I was still a child then; a typical soon-to-be 7th grade (Junior High!) preteen girl. A girl, who needed, wanted, craved a bra. Something to show the world, a sign, that “you’re not a kid anymore” - what song was that from?
I remember sitting in class behind the newly confident Mary Rinsof. She with the long blond hair pulled back in a sleek pony tail. At the tip of her ponytail on her back, I could see the faint outline of the magical garment. Occasionally; just a glimpse of a strap (very daring). Worn under an opaque blouse or dress, I could almost see it. I could imagine myself with one: the power, the beauty, the sophistication of it all. Plenty of my friends and classmates had one (mostly the ones with older siblings). A large percentage of them only required a “training bra,” but to me, a bra was a bra. It looked just as impressive from the back. I, on the other hand, was in dire need of a bra. Why couldn’t she see that? Was my mother blind? (At the time she was pregnant with my soon-to-be fourth little sister. Her mind was obviously elsewhere). I was desperate.
My parents: Loretta and Bob. Loretta was the boss, in charge of all our fates. Bob just went along. My Mom’s standard answer, even if you just looked like you were going to ask a question, was a sharp “NO.” My Dad had two: “ask your Mother” or “what did your Mother say?” I just couldn’t win. I tried to be clever. I would word my question so a “no” would actually be a “yes.” “Do I have to go braless ‘til fall?” I’d say. “Yes” she would reply. (What happened to the standard “no”? She was smarter than I thought.) I begged, I pleaded my case, I made promises of lifelong servitude, I cried; nothing budged her. I was doomed. I, of all my schoolmates, was quite developed for my age. Second only to Ann Hooper, who was a year older. Would I ever get a bra? Who would help me?
Salvation was delivered in the form of three 8th-grade boys. Unlikely allies - unknowing even. It was summer - the favorite time for all kids. No school. No homework. Hot, exciting, freedom time. Fireflies in a glass jar for the little kids (my sisters). For me freedom was riding my pink and black bike for miles. I painted it myself. It was blue in Loretta’s day. I wheeled off to friends’ houses, to the pool (diving and water ballet lessons), to the PTA carnival at school. What a great way to kick off the summer! The only rule was - be home by dinner. (And the usual question “do you have your dime?” meant to be for an emergency phone call, it was never used). What an innocent time. The carnival was full of treats: the food, the smells, the music, the people, the games, too much to take in. All my friends had gathered there. We ate soft creamy cones; we played the midway games, just hung out. It seemed summer would last forever.
People always called me “cute.” Not pretty, not gorgeous or exquisite, just “cute.” My hair didn’t help. Mousy brown, cut short to try and keep the curls in check. I had bangs that appeared to be the right length when they were wet and being hacked at by my Mom, but too short and kinky when they dried. In my favor, I was barely 5 feet (not taller than the boys as many of my friends were at this stage - statuesque was not a compliment to a girl back then). My weight was proportionate to my size. I was dressed in my favorite red Keds, black short shorts (“who wears short shorts?” - I wore short shorts) and topped with a crisp white cotton sleeveless blouse - very prim and proper. No lipstick yet - that would be another longer battle down the road. Being the oldest of five girls was tough. I had to blaze the trail (while setting a good example) for the rest to follow. But I wander, back to the carnival.
Ice cream, hot dogs, cotton candy, fun/silly games: darts to break a balloon; Ring Toss; rubber ducks; baseballs thrown at wooden milk bottle replicas. Games with cool prizes like stuffed animals, trinkets, Chinese handcuffs, posters, kupee dolls, squirt guns, feather boas, plastic jewelry, on and on ... Did I mention the squirt guns? The day flew by. It was getting towards dinner time; time for Cinderella to leave the ball and head for home. I wanted to tell them of the adventures of my day. Little sisters would be impressed.
Enter the boys - the 8th grade boys. So mysterious (remember I only had sisters) – so interesting, so different, so dangerous. These three were not jocks. They were greasers; but just mini-greasers. In my opinion they were very cute. Mike Akman, their leader, tall and lanky, with brown hair and eyes. Jim Cash was a little shorter than Mike and stocky with a blond crew cut and blue eyes. Eddy Something had the start of a few pimples, but was still adorable. I knew them from school. They were older, cooler, more enticing than the boys my age. Surprise, they were paying attention to me. They started to follow me home. They were talking and joking with me. How did I get so lucky? What was the secret spell I had cast over them? My head was spinning with excitement. I was almost giddy. It seemed I was popular!
They began to talk to each other in hushed tones. What were they saying? Were they talking about me? How pretty I was? How funny? How dumb? I soon found out. They surrounded me. I stopped my bike, almost falling off. We were in the ditch by the side of the road; tall grass and weeds. The prize squirt guns came out. The boys no longer seemed so friendly. They were still laughing and joking; but not with me, at me. I had no clue what they planned to do. I was a little afraid. They were still smiling. Not to appear intimidated, I smiled back. BAM! They all started to squirt me. They knew what they were doing, had a purpose. I still did not understand. Was this how boys showed that they liked you? It wasn’t so much fun any longer. They were really laughing and pointing at me now. What were they saying? I looked down. My white blouse was soaked, almost invisible. Realization hit me! I grabbed my bike and took off for home. I could hear them hooting and hollering after me.
I sped as fast as I could. I cut through Country Gardens subdivision with its winding confusing streets. I had traveled this route many times. Shortly, I was home; by this time crying and out of breath. I ran to the kitchen. My Mom was there making dinner. She gave me a curious look and barked, “What have you been up to?” Safe, but still sopping wet, I just blurted out, “some boys did this. THIS is why I NEED a bra…”
When a friend of mine read this story she laughed. She told me she had been quite the opposite. She was a tomboy and did not feel the need (or desire) for a bra. Her mother had taken her to the store and bought her one. When they got home, the first chance she got, she went out in the yard, dug a hole and buried it.
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