Sunday, November 26, 2006

Spinny’s First Bra*

(If you happened to know me any time between 1992 and 2001, you could be forgiven for sniggering at the title of this post, and making jokes about parachutes and engineering done by Harland and Wolff. For they were The Buxom Years. (All gone now. Sorry.))

I was a Late Developer.

The accident of my birth meant that I was ‘young in my year’ at school, but even still, I was small and skinny long after everyone else had sprouted bosoms and developed hips.

Towards the end of first year, virtually everybody acquired bras, whether they needed one or not. (I didn’t.) Our standard thin school white blouses made it obvious. We all, bra-wearers and non, took to wearing t-shirts under our shirts. But you could still tell.

Why didn’t you ask your Mum? you might be thinking. But we didn’t talk about stuff like that – we still don’t.

Then, towards the end of second year, my Mum produced two bras from Dunnes Stores. One for me, and one for my sister, who was a year younger. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my sister’s was bigger than mine, a 32AA to my 28AA.

My mother was obsessed with fair treatment of me and my sister, so she got to do everything else exactly a year after I did. So I was so humiliated that she got hers at the same time as me and didn’t have to endure that extra entire bra-free year at school.

Not that anyone ever said anything about it, it was just that everyone knew, and you knew that everyone knew. It was traumatic. I remember counting down…Sinead has one now, oh God, so does Siobhan and she’s even flatter than me. God, please don’t let me be the last one.

Now, it seems ridiculous. I see girls with boyish, flat-chested figures and I’m envious of their ability to find clothes that fit, and to run, and their sag-free future. And now I know that the vast majority of men really don’t give a shit about breast size, and the few that really like big ’uns are a bit (very) weird.

*Inspired by Realdoc’s recent post about, well, lots of stuff, but includes the First Bra Issue


  • Yes my first bra experience was really traumatic in that my mother took me to the only big posh department store in Belfast (it had a big marble staircase, maybe you've been there spinny) and announced loudly to the lady in the lingerie department that I needed my first bra. She managed to gather as big an audience as she could, 10 or 11 people, and they all stood around appraising me for a bit. I was then taken into a fitting room and stripped naked from the waist up, still with the audience, whilst various garments were tried on...excruciating. I think it took me 10 years to recover.

    By Blogger realdoc, at 6:50 PM  

  • oh god, the horror.

    i really don't remember going to get my first bra. i suspect i may have blocked it from conscious memory.

    By Blogger surly girl, at 6:58 PM  

  • I used to get a tape measure out every week and pray feverishly "please, PLEASE let me get up to at least a 32 AA size. What's WRONG WITH ME?" When it finally happened they took on a life of their own, but honestly, the waiting ...

    I used to stick cotton wool in my trainee bras, in desperation. Then the cotton wool fell out when I was getting changed for PE, and everyone saw it.

    See, there's always someone who has it worse than you ...

    By Blogger Betty, at 7:28 PM  

  • See - first kiss? Not traumatic at all. But first bra? Oh god, the horror. Like surly, I have no intention of dredging up any memory of it. Brrr.

    I love bras now, though, oh yes.

    And I too used to be notoriously buxom, but no longer. Not exactly sure what happened there, but I'm not complaining.

    By Blogger patroclus, at 7:36 PM  

  • I was a very late bloomer.
    Police would stop me driving because they thought I was a joyriding middle schooler and I didn't shave until the last year of high school.
    So yeah, no bras but it did make gym class really unpleasant.

    By Blogger Nigel Patel, at 8:05 PM  

  • My mam ordered mine from a catalogue so I got to try it on in the privacy of my own bedroom. I was about 15 and already quite weird in that I preferred books to cheap cider, along with being a clear foot shorter than most people in my year at school (and the one below me), so I'd kind of gotten used to not being normal and the bra thing didn't bother me. At least it meant no-one could ping the strap in physics.

    By Blogger violetforthemoment, at 9:48 PM  

  • ditto realdoc. Same Mum, same experience. The memory still makes me shudder only to be outdone by her announcing in a city centre restaurant to my granny, auntie and little sister that I had eventually started my periods, while the sniggering waiter was in the middle of taking our order. The shame, the shame.

    By Anonymous Tedward's Missing Ear, at 10:20 PM  

  • I didn't get the changing room experience because my mother insisted on making my first bra, to save money. It kept spontaneously coming undone in class.

    By Blogger GreatSheElephant, at 10:48 PM  

  • oh yes - can relate to all the judy blume-esque angst

    was similarly young in my year and small and child-like for AGES

    and then...

    and then there was the whole 'have you started your periods?' angst


    puberty sucks

    By Blogger Urban Chick, at 10:57 PM  

  • violetforthemoment writes:

    "was about 15 and already quite weird in that I preferred books to cheap cider, along with being a clear foot shorter than most people in my year at school".

    I'd have got on with you.

    As a bloke, reading this, it just sounds awful. It's terrible how there's this mixture of well-meaning parents and cruel department store attendants who unite to make you feel so self-conscious. It's just dreadful.

    I've got 7-year-old daughters. I really hopwe they never have to go through all this.

    By Blogger looby, at 11:38 PM  

  • Looby - I think as a father the best thing you can do is pretend it isn't happening! I'm going through this idiocy again lately, have been loitering around the bra department in Pearson's for at least 15 minutes most Saturdays for about a month because I want to get a fitting instead of just guessing my bra size as I have done for the past 9 years, but I end up just running away because the assistants are: too young/chewing gum with their mouths open/laughing together about something (tomorrow that could be my chest they're laughing about! Flee! Flee!)/look like they've got cold hands etc etc. Am pathetic.

    By Blogger violetforthemoment, at 12:22 AM  

  • Noticing that other people had begun growing hair 'down there' after PE lessons was a stressful experience. Years later, with a fair crop myself, I did my first naked scene in a play and my director threatened to attack me with gaffer tape.

    By Blogger corin, at 3:10 AM  

  • I hit puberty quite early, so I was actually one of the first in my year to have to endure bosoms and periods and I don't think that experience was much better than being one of the last.

    I've actually been complaining about my hormones since the age of eleven...

    By Blogger Kellycat, at 7:25 AM  

  • Oh god, just had a flashback to 1st year and my friend Louise showing me a stain in her knickers and asking me if I thought her period had started, what with me being the expert in these things...

    By Blogger Kellycat, at 7:26 AM  

  • I think boys do have the better end of the deal overall, although there is one horror that females never have to consider:


    Cue Gollum-like grunting at one's fleshy alter-ego... "Go away... just fuck off...." while classmates recoil in horror, flick it with towels and condemn you to several years of John Inman impressions...

    By Blogger Tim Footman, at 10:57 AM  

  • My first bra wasn't too bad - it was a fairly un-scary soft affair, just a bit of cotton with a rubber band round the chest. Unfortunately I grew out of it very quickly and graduated to proper bras, and my mum decided to wear them (she's quite flat chested and never acutally wore bras up to that point). Now that's quite embarrassing. Seeing your mum wearing your first bra while sunbathing in the garden. Hmmmm.

    By Blogger Loganoc, at 11:42 AM  

  • It's not so much my first bra - I was a shy teenager with the figure of a 12 year old boy and a rack like Dolly Partons; my body and I were not comfortable with each other - however, as when aged 22 I had my heart unceremoniously broken, forced to move back home and was still in the slobbing around in the no effort, grey underwear stage of my heart ache, my mother demanded I go shopping with her. She dragged me to the lingerie shop, loudly announced to the immacculate shop assistant my boyfriend had dumped me (and it was evident why) and called for the fitting of an accentuating bra... I left the shop having been told to throw all my old bras away (based upon the horror I was wearing), get back in the saddle (exact words) and ,unsurprisingly on the brink of tears, looking like a female impersonator with such comedy breasts I should have been called Chesty La Rue.

    "Now now Bridget you'll never get a boyfriend if you look like you've just staggered out of Auschwitz."

    Sorry that's over long and irrelevant, I'm just still a bit traumatsed 10 years on...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:09 PM  

  • I am 36 and still waiting to fill a bra.

    By Blogger Lardy Big Bot, at 1:08 PM  

  • I'm more of a leg man, personally, Spin.

    Got any first garter belt stoies?

    By Blogger Robert A. Swipe, at 1:59 PM  

  • And what about us poor sods developing man-boobs?
    My once manly chest has started bouncing disconcertingly when I walk downstairs.
    They don't sell man-bras in M&S (well I assume they don't and I'm certainly not going to ask some sniggering cashier) …

    By Blogger dive, at 4:07 PM  

  • I think you may have hit a chord with this post spinny.

    By Blogger realdoc, at 4:28 PM  

  • Blimey Realdoc, I think you're right. What an awful lot of comments.

    I've just remembered that there was one well-developed girl in my year who had full-on proper breasts when we started in First year. The boys giggled at her quite a lot. Maybe that would have been worse.

    My Mum coped with the whole periods/puberty thing by lending me a really old-fashioned book she had borrowed from the school Nurse, and buying a packet of sanitary towels and hiding them in her drinks cupboard. Which was the broom cupboard. Any time I had a cold she would ask 'Any sign?'

    Well, at least I didn't have to endure a 'talk'.

    Anyhow, it's probably worse for boys. I was thinking it must be terrible being the most under-developed lad in the showers. I hadn't even thought about the unexpected hard-on.

    In conclusion, puberty is clearly awful for everyone.

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 5:35 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger violetforthemoment, at 8:05 PM  

  • Where do we send our therapy bills for all these reopened wounds, spinsterella??

    (I managed to spell pretty much every word wrong in my previous attempt at this post, hence my deleting it in horror. It was due to quick typing, honest.)

    By Blogger violetforthemoment, at 8:09 PM  

  • Oh god - I feel all uncomfortable, nervous and sick reading all these comments. I remember my first bra - my mum gave me one of hers. It was old and grey and really plain. The whole experience was awful. I used to go bra-less quite alot as I couldn't bear to wear them. I went to a posh school and all the other girls had really nice ones which made me hate mine even more.

    And then...I remember when I was wearing mum-bra one day - my dad gave me a hug hello and then recoiled in horror exclaiming really loudly: "Oh my GOD! You are wearing a BRA!". Cue the end of childhood - enter the isolation of puberty.

    Just dreadful.

    Thankfully I have a boy child - so I guess I'll just have to remember to ignore the strangely stained sheets at some point in a few years time.

    By Blogger rockmother, at 11:31 PM  

  • my first bra experience was extremely similar to realdoc's. my grandmother (barmaid's daughter who thought she came from money and had more pretensions than Hyacinth Bucket) took me to the most posh department store in town (only place she would shop), and as we were stepping off the escalator she announced in full voice to her favorite sales assistant (who was standing on the other side of the department, a good 50 feet away), "Ronnie! This girl here wants to wear a brassiere!" (Yeah, real classy.) Everyone in the store turned and waved. To this day I have no idea where she got that idea. I never said i wanted to wear a bra. I didn't have boobs. thanks for bringing back such a painful moment.

    TF: god, that sounds awful. i always envied the boys because i thought they had such an easy go of it, but i can't imagine the embarassment of that. you have my sympathy.

    By Blogger Chaucer's Bitch, at 12:34 PM  

  • What can I say?
    All you folks are much younger than me and nothing seems to have changed over the years.
    There was much stuffing of tissue (which never worked)in my tiny bra.
    I never had boobs until I had my first cub, I was 30 then.

    By Anonymous lupa, at 4:15 PM  

  • Right on sister. I'm still waiting for mine.

    By Blogger Kieran, at 1:55 PM  

  • Bras. Awesome.

    By Blogger LC, at 2:12 PM  

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