How I Lost My First Bra

When I was in the fifth grade, our family moved, and I went from a school that had nine kids in my entire grade to one that had multiple classrooms per grade. Compared to an average elementary school, my new one was still on the small side, but to me it was massive.

The impressive number of fifth graders wasn’t the only thing that surprised me. On the first day of school, a boy asked me out. I had no idea what that meant. Go out with you? But where? I unwrapped the elaborately folded note and tried to decide which box to check. Yes? No? Since I didn’t know what I was or wasn’t agreeing to, I hesitated. Finally, a girl in the class explained that it meant I would be his girlfriend, and since I barely even knew his name, I said no, thank you. Ladies, if you can’t remember his name, it’s a good idea to say no to all advances. Don’t be dumber than ten year old me.

In addition to courtship requests and footwear expectations (I didn’t know why the canvas sneaker with the blue Keds logo was a better shoe, but everyone agreed that it was), there was one other thing this small town girl was unprepared to handle.

Bra snapping on the playground was rampant. To me it was horrifying, and embarrassing, and life changing. Not because my bra was snapped, but because when the boys grabbed at my back to catch the elastic, there was none. I wasn’t wearing a bra, because I didn’t own one. I also didn’t need one, a fact that unfortunately could still be argued today.

As a new girl, I wasn’t immediately targeted for snapping, but it happened before too long. After the first instance, I marched home after school and demanded my mother take me shopping. To her credit, she didn’t let on that needing a bra for the boys to snap was hilarious, and while she smiled that condescending grown-up smile, she didn’t tell me I was being silly. I mean, I was headed to middle school the next year, so this milestone wasn’t completely ridiculous, even if my motivation was.

We headed to the only store in town that sold pre-teen undergarments, and looked at the selection. All of the girls’ bras came in boxes, and were sized small to extra-large. Did I want white or soft pink? White please. Size small, obviously. I didn’t try it on, but we did take it out of the box to look it over. It wasn’t very sexy, but I didn’t care. I really loved the tiny rosette in the middle, and I just knew that even though it would be under my shirt, this bra would make me look at least thirteen.

I was excited to be buying my first bra, but it was still embarrassing. We were the only ones in the store, but my eyes were darting around like a meth head looking for a narc. The older woman at the counter (looking back she was probably only forty, but that is ancient to an elementary schooler) smiled knowingly at my mom and rang up our purchase. If only I had known how unembarrassing that actually was, and in a few short years I would know that true embarrassment was buying tampons at the grocery store from a classmate. A male classmate. Coincidentally, they were also white in a size small.

When we got home I tried on my new over the shoulder pancake holder. I was immediately disappointed. It was itchy and uncomfortable, and I didn’t look older. Dammit! How was I going to wear one of these things every day for the rest of my life? It was one of the first times I realized being a girl kind of sucks, and part of my role as a woman would be to handle seemingly unreasonable societal expectations without complaint. Leg shaving? High heels? Pantyhose? Long hair (but not on your legs, pits, or upper lip)? Boys didn’t have to worry about all of that nonsense. It wasn’t fair.

No matter. I was a sucker for peer pressure, and if I would be mocked for not wearing a bra, then a bra I would wear. There was no way for me to wear it and not fidget with it, but that was okay. Everyone would see my discomfort and know I was packing some grown-up undergarments. It could only do good things for my street cred.

The next morning, I was excited. I was going to school a woman. I checked myself out in the full-length mirror. Did I look different? Yeah, I think I did. More mature, definitely. I was a little itchy, but whatever. I got to school, and thought about my new bra all day. Mostly because it was so annoying. How could something so small be so irritating? I couldn’t wait to get home and take it off. Of course at recess, the boys were focused on kickball and didn’t even attempt to snap one bra. This was another life lesson. We girls take so much time in our clothing and appearance choices, and the boys are too focused on sports to even notice.

After school, I went home with a friend. My only friend, really. She was new to town, too, and wore long, flowing hippie skirts that matched her long, flowing blond hair. Her hair was long enough to sit on it if she tilted her head way back. I loved going to her house. She lived in a tiny apartment with her sister and her young, single mom, and we got to do whatever we wanted. After we got tired of watching soap operas and drinking our weight in soda, we decided to go hang out at the park across the street.

My bra was still annoying me, so I took it off at her house and carried it in my pocket. It wasn’t fitting in the pocket of my jeans comfortably (apparently the only thing smaller than my teeny tiny bra was my teenier tinier pocket) so I put it inside the tire swing while we swung, and left it there when we hung upside down from the parallel bars and practiced doing cherry drops.

Of course I forgot my brand new bra in that tire swing, and remembered it only when I had walked almost all the way to my house. I died a thousand deaths thinking about who was going to find it while I walked back to the park to retrieve my forgotten undergarment, and was relieved to find the park deserted when I got there. I vowed to never tell anyone about leaving my bra at the park, and was thankful it was still there. How would I have explained to my mother that I lost my bra at the park on the very first day of owning it? Even as a fifth grader I knew that it would have sounded much fishier than it was.

I got home, and my mom and my grandma were sitting at the kitchen table. We chatted for a bit, and mom suddenly blurted, “Hey! Show Grandma your new bra!” I hesitated, torn between the teasing that was about to be unleashed, and the joy of knowing I was in the middle of  what would no doubt become an epic family story. There was nothing to do. I slowly pulled it out of my pocket, shrugging sheepishly and explaining that it was too itchy to wear all day; and they did what any reasonable parent and grandparent would do. They laughed until they cried.

I eventually got used to wearing a bra, but more importantly, I got comfortable issuing a stern, “DON’T TOUCH ME!” to the bra snapping gang.

6 thoughts on “How I Lost My First Bra

  1. The first time a boy snapped my bra strap was the day I began wearing one, at 11. He noticed immediately and went right for it. I’m not quite sure why it upset me so much, as I’d seen boys do it to everyone else, but it made me MAD. .. so mad that I kicked him in the shin.
    The ironic part? This boy ended up being my first date and kiss 2 years later, as well as the first boy to receive the honor of removing my bra, although that would come another year later. With all that bra snapping he did for 2 years, you’d think he’d know how to remove one. In the end I had to remove it for him, and then his open mouthed stare killed the mood. Come on teenage boys, you’re not supposed to stare and drool. Sigh, they still stare and drool like idiots at 17.
    Do they do this at all ages, or is it a teenage thing?

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