21 Women On the Start of Their Longest Love-Hate Relationship: Them and Their Bras
They're uncomfortable. (Why must the underwire always poke through?)
They're a nuisance. (Pesky straps be damned!)
They're too damn expensive. (Why do they cost more than the shirt that goes over them?)
But, then again, they provide support. (Yay!) They make us feel sexy. (Oooh, yeah.) They are our friends against the cold weather. (Thank you!)
So it goes with bras, starting in our tween years and lasting for decades. Bras are the longest love-hate relationship we have, and it's an ambivalent one from the start: We first get our bras when we're young, gawky teens, in shopping scenarios that are just as awkward as we are.
The struggle only gets more real as we grow. We seek advice from other women on sizing and fits, we debate whether bras are even good for our bodies, and we struggle with how much of our lingerie conflicts with our feminist selves.
"At the time, it just seems like the most face-clawingly hideous thing ever to have happened to you," writes Dazed & Confused about one's first bra moment, which inspired filmmaker Natalie Neal's new short film, Seashells. "But in retrospect, getting your first bra is a pretty seminal moment."
So we asked our readers on Tumblr to share their "first bra story," recalling the moment the love-hate relationship started. As it turns out, no matter your bra size, the struggle is real — and it sticks around forever.
Someone else thought it was OK to point out that it was "time" for a bra.
"My mom insisted. I was really upset about it. I didn't want to have breasts and wear bras. I wanted to play with boys and of course a bra would end that. She ended up forcing me (literally) to get a baby blue sports bra with skinny straps. I cried." — captainessburg
"I was 11, maybe. And my mom said in front of my family that I should probably start wearing a bra. And I refused because I was so embarrassed. But then I looked through her drawers and found one she bought for me, and I put it on immediately." — likeohmygodseriously
"It was the summer before 5th grade, my first year of middle school. My mom said I was "developing" and that I had to wear bras from then on. My first bra was a thin sports bra I wore under baggy T-shirts because I felt awkward." — rachelpasser
"My mom gave me some of my sister's hand-me-down bras when I was in 4th grade. I hated them and refused to wear them. By the time I did, I needed a larger cup size than my sister." — thatmennogirl
Our bras arrived around the same time as our body insecurities.
"I remember the research I had to do about training bras over our dial-up Internet, then having to go to my mother and ask her to take me bra shopping. The only reason I even thought I needed a bra is cuz boys started teasing me about my nipples." — serenify13
"I unfortunately developed early — probably a B cup by fifth/sixth grade. They kept getting bigger but I insisted on wearing a sports bra through eighth grade, until mom had enough and told me I had to wear a real bra for high school, as I was a C cup by then." — warriorbeyoncepadthai
The struggle with size started early.
"It was a really old-fashioned bra, my grandmother bought it for me, and it was an awkward fit. I later learned you need to measure these things so they're accurate for you." — peachyarbiter
"My grandmother sent me a gold lamé bra. I didn't really know what to do with it and actually needed a real one at the time." — rainetoday
"I bought it myself and it was way too small." — ierotrash
"I developed mosquito bites at around 9 or 8. When I noticed the little bumps, I told my mom, and she in turn made me tell my dad (much to my embarrassment). My first bra was a training bra, and I didn't get a proper bra until I was in middle school." — dillydallydilettante
Embarrassing bra shopping experiences were a rite of passage.
"I grew up with my dad, and he didn't know what to do. So he let a female neighbor take me bra shopping. She took me to the Goodwill to get it, and I didn't know any better. I wore the wrong size for YEARS because of that first experience." — desperationandgin
"I was 10 and took my 14-year-old sister's bra and tried to wear it like it was natural, but it looked ridiculous on my little child body, and everyone caught on." — geographika
"I was embarrassed to go shopping so my mom told my sister and her friend that we were going out shopping for 'beeper covers'!" — cdi2827
"It was cheap, itchy and uncomfortable, from the girls' section at Mervyn's. By the time my mom bought me a real bra I needed a 36B with an underwire. I was 11 and terrified." — morefrommiranda
Bras suddenly gave us a way to measure our bodies against other women's.
"At 12, all my friends had already developed their breasts. They talked about bras and their boobs constantly. My boobs never really came through until late in high school, but I bought a training bra just so I wouldn't feel left out." — yhtorod
"I remember in fourth grade, I was the only girl in the class who needed a training bra. One of my main problems with it was that the straps always fell. One day, a boy caught me adjusting my strap and yelled 'EWWW!' I sneered at him and walked away." — cheshirepierrot
"I don't remember getting my first bra, but I remember in seventh grade my friend asked me why I didn't wear bras. I told her because the training bras my mom kept buying didn't fit and were very uncomfortable." — cynicalbitchmuppet
"I actually never got a training bra because I was bigger then the other girls in my year, so while I was wearing this really cute purple one that I picked out, everyone else was wearing these little white ones. It was kinda embarrassing." — the-little-light
Getting our first bras was inextricably linked with becoming a woman — for better or worse.
"I was 11 and very ashamed/embarrassed about it. One teacher pulled me aside when the class was walking to lunch to ask if my mom had bought me one. The whole time spent shopping was awkward and I wish buying a bra wasn't seen as becoming a woman." — lookingupatthesky
"I couldn't wait to get my first bra, so when I finally went shopping for it with my mom I was super excited. I was about 12 and it was a big deal for me. In the end we got a pink bra with polka dots that was a little too big for me at the time." — eotteonsaram
And we've been struggling with the goddamn things ever since.
"I am 24 years old, currently wearing a 36F. I hate bra shopping but in recent years I found a bra that minimizes them a bit and I have about six of them. I know they fit, so I just order them and don't have to go out and try anything on. Maybe one day I'll save up the money and have some kind of operation to reduce them, but for now I'll deal because they aren't really that big of a nuisance and my partner really enjoys them. Haha. All in all, not a bad experience." — samanthaisadora4