The Great Bra Incident of 1988

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Frame your story as an adult recalling the events of their childhood.... view prompt


Coming of Age Middle School High School

The Great Bra Incident of 1988

My face still flushes with heat, and bubbles of "not good enough" pop in my belly when I think back to the time my eagerness to grow up was so much larger than my boobs. In 1988, bullies came at you head-on rather than hiding behind a computer screen. I'm sure other incidents molded me into a teen. Still, after the Great Bra Incident, I was always careful to never be the "first" to do something. The only laughter I encouraged happened when I set the rules and made fun of myself. That was easier than letting others beat me to it.

I was around 12 when I decided that I was a woman, and, as such woman, it was high time I wear a brassiere. My best friend, Nora, despite being two years younger than me, was a C cup when her mom made her wear one. Nora insisted she hated wearing a bra, yet she always bragged about how much attention the boys gave her.  

I, on the other hand, never got attention from the boys or anybody for that matter. I was a mousy little bookworm with oversized navy blue glasses and metal braces that obviously weren't working. At least not to the boy who nicknamed me "squirrel." 

Nora and I came up with the great idea that I wear a training bra she'd outgrown. That morning I layered at least 3 tank tops over the bra before putting on a baggy pink t-shirt. I was a woman, but I didn't need to flaunt it. I walked a little taller that morning as I went out to catch the school bus. I looked around at the kids on the bus and gave my best womanly smile. A small boy who looked around eight popped his head over the back of the seat. 

"Why are you smiling so weeeiirrdd?" 

He sat back down quickly as the bus driver barked out a command for him to turn around and sit. My confidence started to wane as I gave myself an inner pep talk. It was too late though, as I was beginning to spiral into a bad case of the what-ifs. What if someone notices? What if someone laughs at me? 

I braced myself as I walked into school. I considered leaving my jacket on, but I figured that would attract more unwanted attention. I was the kid who preferred not to be noticed, and as I went to my classroom, I realized that no one noticed. I breathed a sigh of relief, and my confidence swelled up again. I wondered if that was how the cool kids felt all the time. Rather than going straight to my desk and opening a book as I usually did, I visited with my classmates. I didn't tell anyone about my secret over-the shoulder-boulder(pebble?)-holder. I was on cloud nine. Was this why it was so easy for outgoing Nora?

During a class bathroom break, I stood in line, waiting my turn, when I felt a finger slide roughly down my back, snapping the back strap of my dumplin'-holder. My stomach dropped to the ground. I froze, afraid to turn around when I heard it. I'd recognize that sound anywhere: mean girl giggles. I turned slowly to see my assailant, popular Tawny Brown, smirking at me as her adoring friends surrounded her. Did you ever notice how mean girls travel in high-pitched, giggling packs of hyenas?

"Oh my gosh," Tawny said, looking me up and down. "Like you need a bra. Don't you know you need boobs for a bra?" She flipped her long blond hair back, and her friends (hyenas) seemed to take her hair flip as the cue to laugh even harder.  

My shoulders hunched forward as I crossed my arms to hide the area everyone was currently staring at. I looked down at the ground, frantically searching my frozen brain for some witty response. Unfortunately, the heat I felt on my face meant it was tomato red, and I wasn't likely to escape her torment.

"I…it's not…." My tongue swelled and my mouth was dry as a desert. I looked up at her and then at the boys and girls staring and laughing at me. Even those not belonging to Tawny's pack whispered and pointed, glad it was me and not them caught in Tawny's booby trap. 

"What? It's not what? Spit it out, or should I say tit it out?" she asked as the laughter erupted again. 

I focused my gaze back on the floor, silently begging the tile to swallow me up and drag me to hell. Hell could not be worse than this. 

"Ok, students, back to class. Break is over," said our teacher. She looked around at the laughing students. "Did I miss a funny joke? Anyone care to fill me in? Tawny? What's so funny?"

The laughing died down to snorts and snickers. 

"No, Mrs. Roberts. We were just goofin'. Right, Jessica?" said Tawny, elbowing the girl next to her. 

“Ummm…yea, like, we were just kidding around, Mrs. Roberts. Tawny is so funny,” said Jessica.

"Is that so? Mallory, do you agree? Is everything alright?" I wasn't sure why Mrs. Roberts directed her attention at me. I bet she noticed I was the only kid not laughing.

"No, Mrs. Roberts. I mean…yes…I mean…everything is fine," I mumbled. I glanced up at her and attempted a smile. If I told our teacher, it would only mean more punishment from Tawny later. Everybody knew that. 

Mrs. Roberts bent forward as she tried to catch my eye as if she wanted me to say more. I resumed looking for the portal to hell on the floor. 

"Ok, then," she said slowly, looking around as if to give another student the chance to speak up. No one did. "Line up, then. I hope everyone is ready for the vocabulary test!"

Most of the students grumbled about the test coming up. For a short moment, I let myself believe they'd already forgotten about me until Tawny bumped against me, scratched her nail down my back again as she stage whispered, "Itty bitty titties thinks she needs a bra." 

I hung back to hide at the back of the line. One girl walked past me and squeezed my shoulder. I looked up at her but quickly focused on the floor again. The pity in her face made the tears that I successfully kept at bay threaten to spill over. Tawny would not see me cry. I forced a smile on my face and tried to think of anything else. 

I survived the day by doing what still, to this day, I am a pro at: hiding. I hid in the bathroom on our breaks. I hid in a book in the library at lunch. At the end of the day, I welcomed the smell of old puke and vinyl seats of the school bus, relieved that no one from my class was on my bus. 

My dog, Weasel, waited as I got off the bus, his whole body shaking with excitement to see me. I knelt on one knee and buried my face in his fur, taking in the smell of sunshine and dirt. I cried out all my embarrassment, shame, and anger into my faithful friend as he patiently wagged his tail. 

I let myself into our empty house and made a beeline to my room. I took off the layers of shirts and ripped off that bra. I threw another t-shirt on and buried the breast bags under the coffee grounds and egg cartons in the garbage, along with every crap feeling I had. I made sure my parents wouldn't find it; I didn't want to think about that thing ever again. 

I couldn't tell you how school went the next day. Maybe I pretended to be sick and stayed home. I couldn’t stay home until graduation though. Most likely, someone else grabbed the mean girl's attention, and my bra was no longer front and center in their minds.  

I bet you're wondering when I finally caved in and strapped on another double-barreled booby holster. No clue. In high school, I'm sure, most likely around the time Tawny and I became friends. We never talked about the Great Bra Incident, and I am sure I'm the only person who remembers that day. I wish I'd known how to stand up to the bullies back then. Still, I survived to become the strong independent woman I am today. Isn't that what matters most?

July 13, 2021 20:01

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Gip Roberts
20:38 Oct 14, 2021

Excellent story about a situation that's all-too-real. Good way with words when you wrote: "In 1988, bullies came at you head-on rather than hiding behind a computer screen." Good way with words in every sentence for that matter. Mallory and Tawny becoming friends in high school was both rewarding to read and true to life. Oftentimes, bullies mature as they get older; it's just so sad that nothing can ever erase the trauma once the damage has been done.


10:58 Oct 15, 2021

Thank you! I agree - Things that happen at that age tend to mold us into who we become as adults. It makes me sad that there are bullies at all even if we learn as we grow older that most bully because of their own insecurities. Who knows though? Maybe it's just instinct and how the alphas are established early in life (maybe there's a good story right there ;-)


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22:36 Jul 22, 2021

Hi, I got this in critique circle. Not the kind of thing I would usually read but I really liked it. It captures that uncertainty and low self confidence really effectively, shines an uncomfortable light on some uncomfortable feelings and then gives a final, hopeful strength at the end. In terms of crit.... I like the way it captures teenage language and slang terms, I don't think you used the same phrase for bra more than once, which is clever. However in some other places you do use the odd word more than once in a sentence and you coul...


23:54 Jul 22, 2021

Thank you for the feedback! This is my first submission. You make excellent points - the example of the bus sentence troubled me also but I couldn’t pin down exactly what was wrong. I was worried about the hyena metaphor not making sense but I see in your example how it would have worked. Thanks again - critiques (the good and the not so good) are good to me!


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Robert Daniels
00:28 Jul 19, 2021

Good story. I love stories like this that short how we were totally embarrassed about something as a kid but learn to overcome it.


01:27 Jul 19, 2021



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Lynn Penny
16:25 Jul 18, 2021

This was very creative and strangely accurate. I honestly had the opposite problem where they grew too fast and I had a great hatred of bras, but this put me right in the mindset and It was a weird experience. 10/10 would read again!


18:52 Jul 18, 2021

Thanks so much!


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