“Do you want me to come in?”
“No! Mom! Don’t open the curtain! I’m undressed in here!”
As it was there was an edge of the curtain that didn’t quite meet the door frame and I could see out quite clearly – past the racks of teen fashions, past the circular rotating bra stand and out to the mall itself. It was horrifying to think that anyone out there might see in as clearly as I could see out.
“Just slide your hands up behind your back honey, like you’re trying to scratch between your shoulder blades.”
“I can’t get the hook thingy to catch other side, how are you supposed to do it when you can’t see what you’re doing?”
Suddenly there was a sharp sound of rollers on metal rod and the curtain was flung aside. Before I could utter a protest the gap in the doorway was filled by a rather large saleswoman. He permed hair had been set at the salon a few days ago – I could tell because it stood up at the crown, a cowlick exposed by a couple of nights of sleep. Obviously, she didn’t know the silk scarf on the pillow trick like my Mom did.
She peered at me over bifocals, a wire chain swinging down each side of her face. There was a pale raised mole in the crease beside her left nostril. She must have left her lipstick behind on her coffee cup because there wasn’t any left on her lips.
“Let me help you dear,” she demanded. “Turn around!”
Clutching the 30 A to my chest I spun around as commanded. The saleswoman’s chubby fingers handily placed hooks in eyes and adjusted the slides on the shoulder straps.
“Let me see,” she barked, turning me harshly with her hands on my shoulders. I looked up at her. My Mom was trying to peer in over her shoulder without much success. “Too big,” she announced – and it wasn’t my breasts she was talking about. “We’re going to need a 28 double A.”
The curtain clattered closed, leaving me flushed with embarrassment gawking at the baggy triangles of fabric wrapped around my chest.
In a moment she was back with the smaller size and she bullied me around until she had it done up and professionally adjusted.
“There, that one’s perfect for you,” she announced, turning her large body sideways to allow my mother a view in.
“How’s that honey?” Mom asked.
“I feel like I can’t breathe,” I answered.
“Nonsense,” the mole lady answered.
“You’ll get used to it,” my Mom offered more gently.
I made a move to remove the restrictive device – my first bra.
“You might as well just wear it home,” Mom suggested.
“Oh, okay,” I said unenthusiastically.
That night at home my Mom came in to say goodnight to me before I climbed into bed.
“Night, night,” she said giving my back a little rub as she hugged me. Then, she felt it – my bra. “Honey, are you still wearing it? Your new bra?”
“Yeah,” I answered, embarrassed.
“Oh you don’t wear bras to bed,” she informed me. “No, no that’s not necessary. Bras are only worn during the day.”
“I know,” I answered. “It’s just that if I take it off, I’ll have such a hard time putting it back on again in the morning.”
My Mom started to giggle. “Oh honey!” she said. “You’re such a nut!”
Not a nut, just practical, I thought. Despite my restricted air intake I figured if I never took it off I’d save myself a lot of trouble.
“Tomorrow I’m going to show you another way to do it up so that you can see what you’re doing. You’ll get the hang of it eventually.”
And so I did. I took it off, slung it over the arm of the rocking chair, and climbed into bed. There’s been a bra dangling somewhere in my bedroom every night of my life ever since.
Jennifer M. Smith has lived on the water with her husband aboard s/v Green Ghost, for thirteen of the past twenty-one years while travelling extensively by sail. She currently lives a land-life in Burlington, Ontario, where she works to develop her creative nonfiction and memoir writing skills.
See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.