Big Girlhood

Big Girlhood

The Tricky Path Through Puberty
By Hatheway Rawlinson

Her eyes glance down. “Girl, really…it’s time,” my best friend says in an exasperated tone, as if her voice, too, could roll its eyes. Her eyes glance back up to meet mine.

I furtively peek down at my 13-year-old treasure chest and then back up to meet my best friend’s gaze.

Four white training bras, handed down by my sister, are layered on top of each other like an avalanche of snow covering two little mounds. The eight straps make my shoulders swollen and gouge red grooves in my skin, marking my puberty-stricken denial to Big Girlhood. She was right; it wasn’t working any more.

Deep inside, I’m waiting for someone (anyone!) to walk me through the next obstacle course of womanhood. Since “the talk” is absent in my household, my shaky legs and a timid voice hold me back from confessing to my elders about “my situation.”

With terror strapped to my chest, my bestie Sasha—my only confidante at this very, very dark time— and I hitch a ride to the mall. I have tunnel vision as we drive in a rusted blue Volkswagen to the store, then rush into JC Penney’s lingerie department, where unknown dangers lurk.

I stumble into a bra-rack haunted by the low-growl of an imaginary clerk’s voice, “What do you think youre doing here, missy?” as she looks at my blossoming buds with an accusatory snarl. Sasha, a more mature girl in this department, helps me pick out the best fit. In other words, we both close our eyes, surge through the jungle of twisted bra straps and cups all seemingly gawking at our panic and leap toward safety: the dressing room.

My very experienced friend demonstrates clasping the bra in back, a sophisticated move on her part, and a better alternative to my previous pull-over-the-head strategy. She even shows me how to unclasp it.

Anxiety rolls off my shoulders and excitement for the new woman I’m becoming falls over me. A quick purchase later—no sneering sales clerk in sight—and away we go.

That evening the world hushes to a quiet and I pull out my new golden halo of a bra. With a few looks in the mirror, I breathe and flash my metal-laced brace-face smile. All is well.

A strong feeling washes over me: I am now a loud and proud owner of a bra! Hear me roar!

Today, though, just one at a time will do.

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