Sunday, October 13, 2013


As someone who was flat-chested until my thirties, my relationship with bras has always been dysfunctional. I wanted one when I didn't need it and needed one when I didn't want it. Now, it is National No Bra Day, and I have finally been given public approval to forego wearing the thing, yet, I find I cannot. It seems I have a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to my 18-Hour and can't bear the thought of leaving it on my dresser, torturous clamps and annoying straps dangling in despair. So, I will wear my bra today, even though most days, I'd rather drown it in a pool of Woolite.

National No Bra Day began three years ago to raise awareness about breast cancer. I suspect it was started by acne-faced teenage boys, but thanks to the power of social media, it took hold. The basic premise is to "free the ta-tas" so that everyone you run into today, particularly in the frozen food section, will see that you support empowering women with knowledge about a potentially deadly disease.This is important because it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, with one in eight women being diagnosed in their lifetime. I should know. My sister is a survivor.

Still, I simply cannot toss my undergarment aside, even for a good cause. We have history! At age 12, I set my eyes on a lace-encrusted, pink beauty of a training bra called The TeenForm Embroidered Dawn. When my mother informed me that she was not going to spend money on something I did not need, I whipped out the big guns of my middle-child repertoire: a full-blown temper tantrum complete with drippy-nose sobbing. The next day, I strutted into my 6th grade classroom certain everyone would see the new me. They did not. Also, FYI - boobs can't be trained.

Soon enough, I found the answer to my bustline prayers, the padded bra! I purchased my first in 9th grade at a discreet back counter at JC Penney's. Since I was new to the whole sordid business of cup size and fittings, I just pulled one off the shelf, scuttled up to the counter, and refused to make eye contact until the thing was safely hidden in the confines of the shopping bag. The next day, I dressed for school and could not believe my eyes! I had gone from Olive Oyl to Marcia Brady overnight. I headed off  with my armload of books, envisioning long over-do popularity with the male students. Apparently, there is a law of physics of which I was unaware: If the cup size is 3 times bigger than what you put in them, and said cups are then pressed upon by Algebra I, Biology, and History of the Modern World texts, cups will invert. By the time I got to school, I was concave.
Pretty much this.

Never fear! Desperation leads to resourcefulness. As such, I discovered the power of  toilet paper. The massive pockets of empty space in the bra cups could hold half a roll each. No more concavity, no more jokes about being a walking ironing board, no more buying shirts in the pre-teen department!  Unfortunately, the gig was up in gym class later that week when it came time to undress to take our showers. I learned that day that it is impossible to die from humiliation.

Through the years, the experiments continued. There was the Miracle Bra in the early 90's which was wasted on me, a busy mother of a pre-schooler. I tried demi-bras, built-in bras, t-shirt bras, and push-up bras. Bras, bras and more bras. None of them made me like my silhouette any better than I had since 6th grade.

Then, in 2010, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suddenly, bras and the way they made me look  no longer mattered. As I watched my sister endure her treatments and the side-effects that came with them,  it occurred to me that the only thing any of us needs to worry about is whether what we put into the bra is healthy. Thankfully, almost 3 years since diagnosis, my sister has continued good health and clean scans. Early detection changed her history.

So, whether you choose to  wear your bra or not, just be sure to pay attention to what's tucked inside. Get a mammogram, get a check up, know your family history, know the signs. Early detection is a matter of life or death. I still hate my bra, but I no longer expect it to perform miracles. The only miracle I'm interested in is a cure for a disease that takes away too many of our sisters, our mothers, our aunts, our friends. Only when that happens will the ta-tas be truly free.

*Dedicated to Connie*


  1. Ohmigosh! I remember the two of us at Eastwood Mall in our pale pink oxfords, thinking every passerby would notice and nod in approval that we now had a bra line instead of an undershirt!

    But seriously, you've managed nostalgia, humor, common sense, transparency, and focus in an important reminder that has (IMHO) been pinked and pimped rather than properly promoted.

    There is a reason (well, multiple reasons) you are one of my fave people on the plant. Love you SO much, Cuz! Glad you started this new blog. I'm in!

  2. This is a wonderful post. For any of us from that era in time, getting the first bra was a big deal. In some ways I was an unfortunate one who developed way too early and too well.

    Having watched those I love during breast cancer treatment and knowing too well the consequences of the could be's, I applaud this effort on your part to get the attention of any reader who thinks only in terms of humor. Your turn from hilarity to seriousness was skillfully done. Kudos to you. You've made my day so far. Thank you.

  3. What a great post. I loved the ending and how it came full circle (no pun intended). A humorous, yet poignant way to get a very important message across. Bravo!

    By the by, I hated my bra as a young girl, but I love it now.

  4. Thanks all! And Marie, I thought of you the whole time I was writing it! And who knew bras would be even more of an issue in middle-age.