It was 1958 and I was in 7th grade at one of the junior highs in Big City. I was a country kid and had come from a small town school, tossed into classes with the cool, suave town kids that were so much more progressive than us country kids.
Fortunately there were six of us girls who had gone to school from 1st grade on, so we were all in the same boat. I guess our mother’s didn’t realize that we were growing up because none of us were wearing bras at that time even though all the town girls were. We knew this from having to shower after gym class every day.
Do you remember how embarrassing it was to have to undress in front of all those girls wearing your little undershirts? But even more embarrassing were those ugly gym uniforms we had to wear. They were anything but sexy.
Our first school dance was coming up, and us small-town girls had managed to talk one of our mothers into giving us a ride into school so we could attend the dance, and another mother to come and pick us up. This was all a big step for our parents not knowing any of the kids from town or what they were like. We assured them that there would be parent and teacher chaperones at the dance walking around through the crowd and surveying the hallways so there would be no city boy that was trying to take advantage of any of us. We were country hicks, you know, and weren’t up to speed on things like going steady or necking in dark corners or things like that.
Planning for this dance consumed all my free time - what to wear, how to do my hair. I thought through each and every aspect of the upcoming dance. I dreamed about it at night, I practiced conversations I would have while dancing with a boy, I saw myself floating in his arms and perhaps putting my head on his shoulder. I was simply flushed with excitement.
What kind of jewelry, where would I get it, could I borrow it from Big Sister, should I wear gloves, what kind of perfume. On and on I went. It was in this kind of dream state of minute imagining that it suddenly hit me: I had not yet graduated to the stage of development where I wore a bra.
I vaguely remember slamming the bedroom door, throwing myself on the bed and sobbing my heart out. Eventually, mom, who needed me for some errand, came looking for me and found me in a state of despair. She couldn’t imagine what had led to this latest drama. I blurted out that we simply had to go to town to deLendrecie’s and that I had to have a bra and I had to have it before the big dance.
Mom assured me there was no rush, a little spaghetti strap tee shirt like I wore would be just fine and to calm down. Her solution made me even more hysterical, the floodgates were wide open and Niagara Falls couldn’t compete with my waterfall of grief. Not just tears now, but the snot running down my nose and wild gulps for air.
I pleaded and begged for a bra, I simply HAD to have one and if I did not, I could not go to the dance. Mom did not get the connection and just shook her head and walked away. She was just so out of tune with things.
I had thought through every tiny aspect of the party and so I told mom that when the boy would dance with me, he would put his hand on my back and he could feel if I had a bra strap there. If he couldn’t feel one, I was ruined, a freak, he would know I had a tee shirt on. I would be humiliated and ridiculed forever. I needed that bra. I needed that strap on my back. It never occurred to me that my underdeveloped front side might be any sort of giveaway to anything.
So off we went that weekend to deLendrecie’s. I was beside myself - my first bra. I can’t say it exactly had what you would really calls "cups,” but then I had nothing to put into cups and understood, then and there, why some of the girls praised the blessings of Kleenex.
No, my first bra was kind of like flat knit material that covered the front part, had the straps over the shoulders and the all-important requisite of fitting around my chest with the hooks and eyes at the back - where the boy would rest his hand and know I was a woman.
Let the party begin.