My eldest daughter is experiencing the first throes of puberty. She is not impressed. Not impressed at all. During the summer holidays I mentioned that it might be time to get her fitted for a bra. She all but got down on bended knees and begged me to wait just a little longer.
She said in a rising wail: ‘Why? Why do I have to be a teenager? Why can’t I just be twenty five and skip that part?’
I said: ‘There are good things about being a teenager.’
She said: ‘What are they?’
I could not think of anything off hand.
She flounced out of the room, triumphant.
I have relented about the bra fitting for now.
This is mainly because I remember the utter humiliation of going for that first bra fitting with my own mother. I really had nothing to show in the breast department at the time. Not like Busty Brindle, the girl in my class at school who all the boys used to yell at when we did the 100 yard dash in P.E., and whose chest wobbled like spectacularly unstable jelly.
All the other girls in the class, myself included, were fascinated by her development, but I don’t recall that any of us were particularly eager to join her. We did not want to be full of feminine allure and the object of ogling. We wanted to keep on playing British Bulldog and pick our scabby knees.
My mother on the other hand was keen to get the bra fitting out of the way as soon as possible. She deposited me with the lady with the tape measure in the Marks & Spencer’s fitting room as if she were the first person to have invented bosoms.
I don’t know who was the most embarrassed, me, or the tape measure lady. She did her valiant best, but there really was nothing to measure. My maternal grandmother, who was nothing if not eccentric, used to describe her breasts as ‘two fried eggs on a plate’. She used her bra to keep emergency fivers and the odd treat for sulky grandchildren in. On one memorable occasion she pulled a Robinson’s Golly badge out of her left bosom area for me. I was, as you can imagine, very impressed by this. I hoped in later life to be able to make my bosoms do something similar. It now seemed as if I might get the chance. As the tape measure lady was fumbling about my upper chest region in the hope that I might suddenly sprout 38 DD knockers and give her something to placate my mother with, I thought of all the things I might keep in my bra, clear as it was that I would not be keeping my wayward chest in it for quite some time.
I got as far as wondering if it would make a good place to stick a supply of Sherbet Dib Dabs when the woman pulled the tape measure from round me with a snake charmer’s flourish, and announced that I was a 28 AA.
I was absolutely sure that she had pulled this figure out of her arse.
I was proved right after I got home and tried on my bra, only to find that there was room for a score of Sherbet Dib Dabs and possibly 2oz of pear drops.
Despite the fact that I was wearing some complex elastic strapping merely to support two empty wind socks of material, my mother still made me wear the bra every day. It was clearly visible underneath my school blouse, and led to derisive jeers from the boys who, quite rightly, asked what the point was? Unfortunately they thought I was trying to be come hither, and tormented me to the point of distraction. They would not believe I was actually more keen to go thither.
The idea of burning my bra was becoming more appealing on a daily basis. Not to liberate my oppressed female self, but to go back to being the androgynous child I had been quite happy as.
In my later teens, my bosom was still more of a problem than an asset. I hung around with a group of girls my mum insisted on calling the Valkyries. They were all rather amply proportioned, and to a woman had gigantic bangers. One of my friends was so generously endowed in the bosom department she had to sleep in her bra, because otherwise her lolling boobs gave her a dead arm.
By this time I had managed to grow to a reasonably respectable ‘B’ cup, but I can’t say I was having any problems with dead arms.
The best that could be said of my breasts were that they were pert. One lunch time in sixth form, a group of us sat round reading Just Seventeen, a then very fashionable magazine for young women. We read about the pencil test. Apparently it was very important for women to have pert breasts. It did not explain why this was so, and we never questioned it, we just knew that we had to aspire to pertness.
The test for pert breasts was to stick a pencil underneath your boobs. If the pencil was trapped by the weight of your bosom you did not have pert breasts. If the pencil rolled onto the floor, you were sufficiently pert. I was the only pert one among us. As one of my friends commented at the time; ‘I don’t know about a pencil. I could get a whole pencil case under there with no trouble at all.’ She seemed proud of this. I picked up my fallen pencil quietly, and went off to dream of bosoms rolling with stationery.
It has taken me nearly forty years to come to terms with my bosom. I do not see why my daughter shouldn’t delay things a little longer. It’s not like her boobs are going anywhere. Except south.
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