Happy St. Patrick's Day! Because I made a promise to Roro (no Hoff on my site for several months in exchange for her hooking me up with my beloved hair schmutz), I will not fill this space with a hairy-chested Hibernian Hoff as I did last year. (Psst! Don't click on it if you're Roro... or easily squeamish.)
I had half a notion to create an animated gif with a shillelagh-toting Hoff step dancing alongside one Michael Flatley but again, I made a vow to keep this a Hoff-free zone for now and I must stick to it. Oh curse me and my promises!
So rather than assault you with The Hoff, I will instead tell you a story that dates back to seventh grade and really has nothing at all to do with this holiday. Deal.
I was 12 years old and attending a small Catholic school. Up until then I was blissfully unaware of the judgment surrounding anatomical assets, endowments, shortcomings and all other issues that would eventually eclipse my life and all future discussions through college and beyond.
In seventh grade, I was really petite, short in stature and with a shape, when upright, that was a perfect straight line. When standing, I resembled a T-square.
There were no bumps nor curves where some of my more buxom classmates had them. I was called "string bean" and "small fry" more than once. I didn't mind so much because I liked both string beans and French fries. Those were not offensive references. If anything, they just made me hungry.
My school uniform consisted of an ugly-as-sin plaid pleated skirt, a blue blouse with a Peter Pan collar, navy blue knee-high socks and in the cold weather months, a navy-blue sleeveless knit vest.
Soon the snow melted and the temperatures increased as did the awareness of our bodies. One by one, my friends shed their sweater vests. Through the somewhat sheer blue blouse, I could see the outline of bra straps and the bump of the clasp in the middle of their backs. My wee buds didn't really need support so I was not yet outfitted for a training bra. It didn't bother me in the slightest.
As the weeks went on, more and more sweater vests were removed to reveal the tell-tale marks of Maidenform, Playtex and the like on my female classmates. I was still unfazed.
And then discussions at lunch turned from sticker albums and Chinese jump ropes to bras and makeup and periods and boys -- all things that were foreign to me. Pretty soon, the girls and boys were making size comparisons and boasting about who they "went with" (kissed). I had nothing to contribute to the exchange of war stories and certainly, nothing to compare. My wee boobs didn't even poke through my shirt.
I was suddenly very aware of my tomboyish body and I felt like Adam and Eve did when they got all weird about being naked after eating the forbidden fruit. I felt ashamed and self-conscious about my lack of a bra. Gone was my blase attitude towards them. I now wanted one more than anything in the world... but I was too embarrassed to ask my mother.
I decided that no one would be any the wiser if I kept wearing my sweater vest. It was my fig leaf. It covered my shame because through its thick wool, no one could tell there weren't straps and a clasp beneath.
Mind you, it was now May and rather hot. Sweat poured off my head but I continued to hide behind that sweater. My plan was to ride out the rest of the school year that way. I thought I was so damn clever... until Jane looked at me with a smirk and cast Jackie a sideways glance and said, "Hey Curly... aren't you hot? Why are you still wearing your sweater?"
"I'm not hot," I shot back, even though my hairline was damp and my cheeks flushed from the heat.
"You should take off your sweater," Jackie suggested.
"Nah, I'm fine," I said with mock cool. My heart was pounding. My blood pressure on the rise. In my head I pleaded with them to just leave me alone.
Jackie and Jane exchanged knowing looks and turned their attention to Mark and Billy.
Perhaps my plan wasn't working after all. But I still didn't want to ask my mother to get me a bra. That seemed UNTHINKABLE to me at the time.
I did a quick visual poll of the girls and it was official -- I was the only free-balling girl in the class. Patricia, my small-chested compadre, had gone over to the dark side. She was showing strap. I clutched my sweater tighter.
Over the next few weeks I suffered through more inquisitions and claims that I was making people hot just by looking at me. Even on the brink of heat stroke, I maintained that I was fine. But eventually the temperature got the best of me and I reluctantly removed the sweater from my ensemble.
I was part of a clique comprised of Jackie, Jane, Patricia, Rosemarie, Julie and Best Friend Since Kindergarten. We ate lunch together as a group, went shopping after school and passed around trashy romance novels. Nicknames became an important part of our friendship. More often that not, they were applied spontaneously. If someone had weird eating habits or was particularly klutzy, a suitable name sprung forth. Eventually, all but two of us had earned a relevant moniker. This was unacceptable to the rest of the group so an entire lunch hour was spent brainstorming names for me and Julie. The nameless were allowed to offer suggestions but we were stripped of veto power.
It was very nerve-wracking. The deliberations were intense and marked by extreme focus. This was serious business. After almost an hour of duds, Best Friend Since Kindergarten's face lit up. She pointed at me excitedly and bellowed, "Curly Go Bra-less!" My pseudonym doesn't do the nickname justice. Without revealing my real name, I will say this: The nickname benefited from alliteration.
I can appreciate the joke now but oh, the humiliation back then! The torment at the hands of my own best friend! That fucking name followed me right through eighth grade, even when it was no longer accurate. I wanted to kick BFSK's ass but really, she did me a favor. I went home after school that day and requested a bra. At first I blushed a lot and then stalled but then the water works started and I broke down and told my mother about my nickname. She got misty and then really annoyed. It really pained her that I was made fun of at school. She said something about those "cheeky wee beggars" and then promised to get me the goods ASAP.
The next day she presented me with my first bra. I'll never forget it -- it was slightly padded with embossed lace and a pink bow in the center. I loved it... and I'm pretty sure it would still fit my wee bumps today.
Happy St. Patrick's Day and sláinte!
Curly Go Bra-less