I got a bra fitting for the first time last Sunday.
Hey, I’m 16 years old and I’ve always kinda joked that my chest is too small to need a bra anyway. I’ve more than survived on ‘training’ bras and bralettes. I guess that looking at enough girls at Westlake High School, models on Instagram, fashion sites; breasts that look good have a roundness that you can really only get with padding. Besides, everyone has real bras; no, everyone has bras, and I’m the only teenager in her right mind that has never hooked one before.
My mom is very supportive of my transitioning (from Asian to white). On the way to the mall, she asked me what the process is and what to do, and I (having researched on eHow, as I do with most American cultural things: see my post on shaving legs) pleasantly informed her that a bra specialist at a department store such as Nordstrom would be able to fit me.
My mom was visibly uncomfortable as her lips formed the word “bra” at the counter (she nearly whispered it). (I hid behind her).
The lady brought me into a back fitting room, and when I explained to her that I’d never worn an actual bra, she did a double-take. Said, “Girl, it’s time.” I guess she was incredulous that I’ve never had a real, underwire-and-all bra before. For good reason. I’m an affluent-looking high schooler with no reason to not give into peer pressure by now and get a bra (the sexiest people in my grade got underwire bras in sixth grade). No reason except besides me being Chinese.
Bras are this lacy sign of womanhood, sexuality. That’s a side that Chinese people apparently don’t recognize or want to face.
(My mom told me these stories: that when she was a teenager, no one spoke to any schoolchild about periods, or puberty, or bodies, or, God forbid, anything that could remotely suggest at the existence of sexual intercourse. So, my mother went to the bathroom one innocent day at school and found her underwear/pants dripping red-brown. She thought she was dying. Horrified, when she got home she told her mom, who then told her to shut up and not ever to talk about it.)
Dad: I bought those for you. *points to counter*
Me: What?! *pretends to look confusedly at counter*
Dad: Those… things!
Me: Oh, pads?
Me: They’re called ‘pads.’
Dad: Uh huh.
Me: Say ‘pad.’
Me: Say, “I have a pad of paper.”
Dad: *grinning* I have a pad of paper. Okay, okay.
My mom’s never had a bra fitting before. I think it’s interesting to see my relative comfort with my body and having a total stranger wrap measuring tape around my bare breasts—how that correlates with liberal America’s entire body-positive motto these days. Versus my mother, who was shocked when I mentioned it, and rightfully so. Maybe degree of comfort with nakedness is one measure of assimilation, American-style. It seems as if comfort with bodily functions is a hallmark of it. If Americans think conservatives are conservative, they ought to go see China.
I just found this gem of a daring piece this morning—I’d meant to publish it that week in November and never got around to finishing it. So today I was sitting in the community lounge at Ballet Austin before class, meaning to complete some of the thoughts and put it up by the end of the day. But as I reread it a second time, I realized I was reading it as reader, not as the original author. Meaning, I found the viewpoints fascinating and provoking but not intrinsically my own. It was like I was reading a New York Times Op-Ed.
And I recognize that that effect always comes about when you don’t touch a piece for a while—but at the same time I think I’ve changed since November. I have the same interest in my Asian-ness, but I’m less angry about it. I think I used to let myself luxuriate in some condescending awe of the difference between the Chinese part and the American part in Chinese-American—at the remarkable ineptness of Chinese culture in an American context. Ha.
I still feel those things, but here’s the big thing: I’m no longer bitter about growing up with wikiHow teaching me to shave my legs and buy bras, rather than my mom. I think it’s cool that, because my household is culturally Chinese, I had a choice to make in the first place: whether or not to adopt such ‘American’ practices. It’s cool that my parents, knowingly or not, ultimately let me make those decisions for myself. And if anything, it speaks to me and my own need for conformity that I’m wearing a 30C and know what that means.
Isabella – 3/11/17,