I’ve always said that I’m glad my kid is a girl. I just didn’t think I could raise a boy. If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t think I could raise anything other than a penis or my hand...but here I am, doing it.
I took her shopping for fall clothes recently and was delighted to find that she and I have more in common than our freakishly long toes. We shop alike: Grab, try on, put back or keep, and get the fuck out. Fast, efficient, and leaving extra time for lunch.
There was only one exception: underwear.
My four year old decided she wanted a bra. Not a training bra, mind you, a REAL bra...with cups and adjustable straps. It took me about 15 minutes to get her away from those racks, sans bra and inappropriate panties, and hustle her, whining and pleading to the check out counter.
I told my mother about it when we got home.
“She wants a bra. Not a training bra with rainbows and butterflies all over it...a real one, with a matching set of bikini panties.”
"Are they made for her size?"
"Yes, the cups (air quotes) are flat, but"
She laughed. “Then why didn’t you get her one?”
“She’s four. Bras and bikini panties? Seriously?”
“Eh”, she said shrugging.
“I could be setting her up to be a....a....”
“A what? It’s no worse than the shit you used to wear.”
“Yeah, well you didn’t help me buy any of it!”
“Nope! And I’m not helping you with this one either!”
I got my first bra when I was six.
It was Fourth of July weekend and I was standing on my grandparent’s porch with my nine year old cousin, waving sparklers. She was making fun of me for not wearing a bra, pointing and laughing at my flat chest. This was the same she-devil that taught me about sex with a Barbie and Ken doll and how to steal the candy from our uncle’s army food packs.
The more she taunted me the angrier I got, until finally I took my sparkler and stabbed her in the hand with it. She ran off screaming and crying, eighties hair still visible over the bushes as she cut through the yard.
My Nana came out the side door, cigarette in one hand and the obligatory gin and tonic in the other. I didn’t know she'd been watching.
“What did ya do that for, dawlin?”
“She was making fun of me.”
She stood staring at me for a moment, blowing smoke out of her nose, before finally saying, "You come on with me.”
I was sure she was going to take the yard stick to my ass. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
She went into the spare bedroom, opened up the closet and started digging through a drawer. I stared at the lengthening ashes of the cigarette clamped between her bright pink lips. I remember thinking that if she dropped it, I had to step on it quick and make sure it was out. Because Papa always said, “Jackass, you make sure your Nana don’t burn this house down, ya hear?”
She finally found what she was looking for and turning around, held it up for me to see. It was a pale blue training bra with one of those sticky appliqués on the front of Strawberry Shortcake.
“This was ya cousin’s first training bra and now it’s yours.”
I didn’t want a hand-me-down training bra, but I knew better than to say that to Nana. She handed it over and told me to go to the bathroom and put it on.
The rest of the day she made sure to tell everyone that I was wearing that fucking bra. I was mortified. The only consolation was my cousin had a nice, red welt across her palm and was getting no sympathy. Training bra trumps sparkler burn.
My mom didn’t deal well with “girl issues”. It made her uncomfortable to talk about anything relating to underwear, boys, and especially periods. Nana used to say, “That woman just needs to touch herself, that’s all there is to it! Pain and simple.”
So Nana continued to buy my bras, panties, and other girl products as I grew up.When she passed away I was 12 and I started buying my own things.
My she-devil cousin was old enough to drive then and we would go to the mall with Papa’s credit card, buying whatever we wanted. My first run-in with Victoria’s Secret was on one such trip.
It was around my 13th birthday and I wanted something new and special to mark the occasion, but I wasn't sure what that was yet. She-devil marched into VS like she owned the place and started digging through the racks and bins. I was too busy gawking at all the leopard print and lace. Obviously this place had never heard of white cotton.
I finally started looking around, trying to draw as little attention as possible. I had a strong dislike for women that measure you for bras (still do actually) and I didn’t want one of them feeling me up in the VS dressing room in front of the she-devil.
I was rummaging through a bin when I saw a sign I couldn’t ignore. Glancing furtively around, I made my way toward every teenage girl’s destiny: the padded bra.
I found love with an emerald green, satin Wonderbra that day. The padding in that sucker was un-fucking-believable.
I took it to the counter, paid, and immediately went to the dressing room to switch it out with my plain white “Virgin” screamer.
I was so fucking proud of those things. Until I got home.
I stowed my bags in my room, made myself something to drink, and settled on the couch with a book. A short time later, my dad and mom came home from wherever the hell they’d been. It couldn’t have been 60 seconds before....
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH YOUR CHEST?” My dad was gawking at me.
“What? What’s going on?” My mom peered around him and her mouth promptly fell open.
“Let me see what you bought today”, she said reluctantly.
“Papa said I could get whatever I wanted!”
She started to my room. “Just show me.”
My dad was still yapping to himself, trying to wrap his pea brain around what was going on. “Don’t know what’s wrong with...is that green....I don’t think....”
A bright, emerald green strap was poking out from underneath my tank top and I shoved it back.
My mom started digging through my things and pulled out the Victoria’s Secret bag, empty except for tissue paper and a receipt. She read it and looked up at my dad standing in the doorway.
“It’s a MIRACLEbra”, she said with tears in her eyes, horrified. My dad looked at her, and then looked at my chest. Back and forth he went before finally bursting into laughter.
“MIRACLE! IT’S A MIRACLE”, he howled.
My face was bright red. I snatched the bag from her hand and stomped out.
“Call him”, I heard my dad say.
“I WILL not”, my mom replied.
Then I heard the unmistakable sound of the speaker phone. Ring. Ring. Ring. I stood in the hall, horror struck.
“HELLO”, my Papa shouted into the phone. He always shouts.
“DAD! THERE’S BEEN A MIRACLE!”
“WE’VE HAD A MIRACLE AT 154 blank ROAD!”
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKIN BOUT, JIM?”
“YOUR GRANDAUGHTER BOUGHT A MIRACLE BRA WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD! SHE’S GOT 'ER BOOBIES PUSHED UP TO 'ER CHIN!”
Loud, obnoxious, old man laughter.
“AND IT’S BRIGHT GREEN!”
For the next several years I became known as “The Miracle at 154 blank Road”...all because my mother was too embarrassed to help me shop for underwear.
Now it’s mine and my daughter’s turn to go through these rituals. I guess I'm about to buy her first training bra. Weird. Hopefully I'll do alright with this girly, parenting stuff and not embarrass her too much. It's definitely not all sugar, spice and everything nice.
But it will probably be fine.
After all...I have no problem touching myself.