The Best Time a Girl Called Me Out in Gym Class for Not Wearing a Bra

Oh man. I can really relate to The Best Time I Stopped Wearing Tight Clothing.

Only instead of a complicated relationship to tight clothing related to puberty, it was my relationship with puberty in general that was mega weird.

I’m thinking about what a strange little kid I was because I just started a new blog, Info for Leads. I recently moved all my marketing posts from this blog to that one. But to find them I had to sift through posts from Anarcho Capitalism Blog and Birmingham SEO Blog (both RIP), which I ran for a time concurrently (roughly 2010 to 2012).

So now, at 30, I am doing the same thing I did at 25 — run a politics and economics blog and a marketing blog separately concurrently.

You can change in scope, but you’re not really going to change much in kind.

You know how skinny women will say there’s a fat woman inside of them?

Inside of me is Lucille Bluth. This is who I am. This is who I have always been. Even as a little kid.

I never liked kids, especially when I was one. I was one of those people who would sit in the car and think about “the good.” Now I’m an adult who writes blog posts exploring what “coercion” means. When I’d start talking about “the good” with adults I’d never met, they found it charming. Kids were less amused. When you’re a kid talking to an adult, there’s no pressure to be interested in them or their opinions. It literally did not occur to me until a few years into adulthood that taking an interest in other people will help me find people who will talk about things that are inherently interesting to me. <

I think being alienated from other kids is a lot of why I absolutely could not wait to be a teenager. Teens were so cool, walking around the mall with their cool hair and cool clothes and autonomy. They made out with people and smoked and went to concerts.

So, I guess in an effort to “The Secret” myself into puberty, I begged my mom to buy me a pack of menstrual pads. And then wore them every day until the pack ran out. Years before I got my period. When I told my mom I was out of pads but still not menstruating yet, the look on her face was priceless. For as weird as I am and as close as we are, it was kind of nice to know I could still surprise her.

Similarly, in 6th grade some of my friends were growing boobs that necessitated training bras. Or, in the case of my best friend, full-on old woman bras from Walmart. Again, in an effort to trick my body into speeding up the process of becoming a woman, I begged my mom for a training bra. I wore the thing faithfully for some time. Probably two weeks. Until I realized that it was less comfortable than just a tee shirt and the boobs I hoped it would spur into action were in no damn hurry to arrive.

All that to say that by the time I did get tiny little arrowtip-shaped proto-boobs, I was done with bras. So for all of 7th grade, I wore a pink windbreaker every day to cover my booblets so I didn’t have to wear a bra. To be fair, the windbreaker was awesome. There was a place in the mall that did embroidery so I had my mom get them to put a pink-and-red flower on the chest. I wanted a geisha on the back, but it was too expensive.

I was always cold, too. So it’s not like I was uncomfortable in a jacket all the time.

Everything was going fine. I mean there’s nothing less “teenager” than covering your nascent boobs with a pink windbreaker with a pink flower embroidered on it, but whatever. That was on hold.

Everything was fine except for gym class. Gym class was horrific in general, between having no coordination, strength, speed, or friends. But then the girls also had to change clothes in the locker room together. Out in the open. No privacy. By 7th grade, nearly everyone was wearing a bra, whether they needed it or not. This made changing together tolerable for most girls. But it was unacceptable to put your boobs out there for public consumption. Girls who dared do this were shamed for being clueless or lesbians, neither of which were permissible in Alabama in the early aughts.

I guess sports bras had not been invented yet. Most days I retreated to a bathroom stall to remove my jacket and change from my normal tee shirt to my gym tee shirt. But days when I couldn’t get a stall required a complicated maneuver wherein I’d put on my gym shirt before I took off my everyday shirt so that at no time would my boobs be exposed.

My gym outfit was a cute little number I got from Limited Too, a plain lime green tee and matching lime-heavy plaid shorts. It was not technically anything close to athletic wear, but let’s be real. I wasn’t performing feats of athletic prowess so I didn’t need my clothes to perform either.

The only problem with my gym outfit, other than the nutrolls it took to get it on my body, was that the plainness and fit of the tee made it crystal clear that I was not wearing the bra propriety required that I wear to cover and smooth my little arrowheads. But like hell I was going to wear a bra all day for an hour in gym class. Plus, we’re all girls. It’s not like they’re out out.

What I thought was a minor faux pas was apparently an affort to Ariel, queen of the hot 8th grade girls. Ariel took underwear seriously, at least as far as I could tell from the fact that she wore a thong every single day despite the fact that she wore jeans most days. In my memory she wore jeans with holes going up the sides to reveal her thighs and had tattoos, despite being way too young to have gotten them legally.

One day I was walking by Ariel, who was seated along the gym wall, and she called out, “Hey.” I couldn’t imagine what she would be saying to me. We had never spoken. I’d never even caught her looking at me. “You need to wear a bra.” Not like a sisterly piece of advice. Like, “What the fuck is wrong with you.” People laughed. I died.

And then I starting wearing a bra.

I still fight with myself over my appearance, which is a manifestation of my struggle over who I am. Am I Sex and the State, or Info for Leads? I want to be a high-earning, badass businesswoman, so I buy wool sheath dresses from Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. But I also want to be a crust punk, so I buy thigh-highs from Modcloth. I can’t wait to be grown and look like Claire Underwood. But I’m not ready to give up looking like a suicide girl.

Which leads to some interesting places. Like the time I dyed my hair purple then bleached my own hair twice to fix it. Again, a pretty girl took me aside. This time at work. And this time with a sisterly tone. “You need to see a professional about your hair.”

I did.

It’s green.

I’ve changed in scope, but not in kind.

One Comment

  1. Sarah

    You have my sympathy with what the mean girl said/did in your gym class. I had the smallest breasts in my junior high gym classes, and we were required to shower after each and every gym class, and the showers were completely out in the open, no privacy of any kind.

    It could have been much worse for me however. There was one girl in my seventh grade gym class who was thin, but she had HUGE breasts for her age. I may not have been as good at gauging cup sizes back then, but I suspect that she was already bordering on a D-cup at the time.

    There were several girls in that gym class that would on many occasions sneak up behind the large breasted girl and reach around from behind and squeeze her breasts as she showered. That would get a large percentage of the other girls laughing. It was obvious that the girl felt humiliated when that was done to her.

    Making matters worse was the fact that the gym teacher would see that happening and would do nothing to stop it. In fact it often seemed like she found it amusing, as she seemed to have a slight smile on her face as it was being done.

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