Yesterday, we went out to buy my beautiful girl a training bra, because…well, because she’s going to need one really soon.
She’s quite young for this – the first in her class to get one, by my reckoning -- but she’s always been a precocious kid. She’s both the tallest and the youngest girl in the class, and she prides herself in being able to beat all but one of the boys, 2 takedowns out of three. The lone boy who can kick her butt is apparently also chasing her tail, which at her tender age would normally have me considering a third-grade smack-down. Given, however, that he’s 5’ tall, handsome and well-mannered, I’m instead considering negotiating an arranged marriage. I figure this will save me a lot of time and energy later, not to mention giving me a perfectly legitimate reason to forbid her from spending time with boys until she’s married.
We walked into the girl’s underwear section of JC Penney, my husband in tow. K's dad has always considered himself a liberated man and he volunteered to come along on this assignment. Or maybe not. Actually, I think he just wanted to go to Bob Evans for breakfast and considered this a tiny side excursion that would only temporarily delay his returning to doing preventative maintenance on his motorcycle in my family room. (This final point is the subject of a later blog post.)
You should know, right up front, that I hate to shop. Mr. Bean? He loves to shop. Doesn’t care what it is. He loooooves spending money.
This was not going to be a quick trip. Not that picking out a first training bra for a precocious almost 9-year-old is a particularly daunting and time-consuming experience. But I’ve found that training bras are at once simpler and more complicated than I remember.
Let me explain.
In 1976, when my mother took me out to buy my first training bra, we went to Higbee’s. Because that was where you went for these things. I was introduced to the sales lady in the lingerie department, who was described to me as a “Ladies’ Fitter.” This woman took my mother and me back into the fitting room, where I was made to strip to my white, slightly baggy, brief-style underpants (because little girls did *not* wear colors or bikini underpants in 1976, unless they had stolen them from ill-reputed older sisters). I was then measured for my bra size. Which was embarrassing enough, but then the Ladies’ Fitter dashed out onto the floor to fetch both of the two styles of training bras they had. They were white. I had my choice of scratchy, stretchy lace or baggy cotton. I was made to try both on, and then to walk out into the main area of the fitting room to jump up and down in front of the single, shared mirror, while the other women in the fitting room smiled with amused, knowing smiles. It was, in a word – mortifying.
I left the store fifteen minutes later, with three white scratchy stretch lace bras, each decorated with one minuscule pink flower. I think we paid about $3.00 each for them.
Now, of course, things are different. Training bras are sized in kid’s sizes and are simple, bandeau-type things. No more lady with the tape measure. Woohoo. And they now come in a dazzling array of colors and styles! We had pinks, and greens, and hearts, and flowers, and paisleys and pink camouflage and cheetah prints and little faux-diamond thingies, with matching panties and socks! I grabbed a couple different sizes and K and I retreated into the fitting room. I suggested that Mr. Bean head over to the shoe department or perhaps housewares.
We found the right size and discovered that they were on sale, 3 for $9.00. My daughter walked back out onto the sales floor.
It was then that she and her father lost their minds.
K: “We found the right size, Daddy! How many can I get?”
Dad: “Well, sweetie, you can get as many as you want at this price! Ooo! Look! And they have matching unders, too!”
Wrong answer, Dad. K lit up like the Fourth of July. She is, if nothing else, her father's daughter.
An hour later, we were in possession of 12 matching ‘tween bra and panty sets, in festive colors and patterns. I was $85.00 poorer. Dad was in a shopping frenzy, checking out sleep sets and skirt and legging combinations.
I looked at him. “You’re gay; you know that, right?” He stuck his tongue out at me, “I’m just supporting my beautiful little girl growing up.” Then he stopped dead, looking horrified. “Gawd! What did I just say? OK, that’s it; we’re stopping at the auto parts store on the way home! I gotta buy an oil filter or somethin’.”
But K was delighted, and thanked her dad and me with a big hug and kiss for “being so cool about this.”
I’m looking at a bright pink, eyelet lace bandeau and matching panties, remembering that Saturday afternoon in 1976.
And I’m trying not to be too jealous.