“It is not necessary to wear a bra to keep breasts healthy. Girls and women who wear bras do so because they feel more comfortable wearing them . . . No matter what size breasts a girl or woman has, she can buy a bra that fits her.”
—It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, Robie Harris
Maya says, “When do you think it might be a good time for me to get a bra?”
I say, “A girl usually knows when it’s time. Do you think it’s time?”
She nods, “I think it would help, my chest is so sensitive.”
We plan a day when it’s just the two of us and we can go to lunch to celebrate another growing-up milestone. I remind her that even after she has bras in her underwear drawer, it doesn’t mean she has to wear them.
“This is a choice for girls and women,” I tell her. At times I miss those carefree braless days, and I don’t want her to be in any hurry. Recently a dad picked up his sleepover daughter and I was bra-free under a soft cream t-shirt while flipping pancakes. He was working to avert his eyes from my chest and I was embarrassed on behalf of both of us. Yes, I was comfortable, and yes, it was probably not appropriate for a woman who has nursed babies for more years than it took to get a master’s degree to be slinging hotcakes braless.
I remember the first day in sixth grade when I wore a bra under my red soccer t-shirt. I was sure everyone was going to be able to tell. If they couldn’t tell from the new bulk, I’m sure my newbie bra adjustment (I would put my thumb in the center of my chest and pull down the riding-up strap) clued them in.
But Maya says it’s time so it’s time. Time to go bra shopping, or bropping, as we call it.
I explain the two different measurements in a bra. One is the chest size and the other is the cup size. The first size is A but there is also double-A and triple-A.
“What will I be?” she asks biting her lip.
I shrug, “Hopefully we just find something that you like and feels comfortable.”
At Bon Macy’s the woman with the yellow tape measure around her neck whisks by and I tell her I’d like to have my daughter fitted. I silently will her not to say, “She doesn’t look like she needs a bra.” But no she’s a crisp professional who slips into the dressing room with us and measures outside Maya’s t-shirt. We find a relatively small selection with choice of white or nude. I can see Maya’s disappointment.
“What were you envisioning?” I ask.
“Something more colorful. Like a camisole, but without the bottom part.”
It’s almost 1:00, so we head to lunch.
Another memory surfaces as I remember helping my grandma pack for a trip at a very young age.
“Hand me my brassiere,” she had said.
I didn’t know what one of those was, but stayed silent. Between the big panties and the thick strapped, four clasp, mega-industrial strength bras in the drawer she indicated, I guessed the bras. As I handed it to her I remember thinking, “I could fit my entire butt in one of those cups.”
When Maya and I return from lunch, I check out the camisole section and in the very corner I find bright pink, turquoise, and yellow bralettes with rainbow-striped straps.
She takes them to the dressing room and emerges with a dimple-punching grin, “That’s what I was thinking of.”
We buy three smalls that remind me of colorful kites plus one of the dull white ones.
As she gets more comfortable with her new undergarments I wonder who will teach her about bra removal without lifting her shirt. You know, the procedure made famous by Flashdancer Jennifer Beals who removes her bra in the presence of her gentleman friend underneath her sexy gray ripped-neck sweatshirt? Do moms do that? A friend and I used to remove day bras and put on workout bras in this fashion while driving to the gym. I was a bit of an expert back in the day.
Now when I hug her, I feel her shoulder Braille as my fingers run across her straps. They remind me that she’s growing. I can’t remember the last diaper of hers that I changed, or the last onesie I snapped, but I will remember the spring day when she was ten going on eleven that I touched her back and squeezed her unlined shoulders, walking out of Bon Macy’s with her bropping bag and she said, “Thanks, Mom. That was fun.”