Monday, April 9, 2012

My Life Story: The Unexpected

One evening when I was ten years old everything changed.

I came home from school one day and found my mother talking to my dad on the phone.

"Ok, we'll go after you get home from work," she said to him.

When the phone call was over my mother announced,

"Courtney, when Dad gets home from work today we're going shopping."

Shopping, my love. My one great love of life. I had inherited a love of clothes from both sides of my well-dressed family. My dad was preppy in his day, popped collars and Converse. My mother wore bright colors, patterns and always, always a fabulous pair of shoes.

Twice a year--back to school and my birthday--my mother would take me to Salt Lake where we'd spend hours at Nordstrom trying everything on, from shoes to lipstick and dresses to hair accessories. The more successful my dad's company became the more we would pack white Nordstrom sacks into trunk of the Audi.

But this shopping trip was unexpected, there was no special occasion, just a weekday in Utah Valley, like any other day in my fourth grade life.

We took my dad's car when he got home from work. My mother didn't have her shopping face on at all I thought as we started out for University Mall. She looked, in fact, anxious.

"You need a bra, Courtney," Mom said to me, looking at the road.

I was shocked, completely. This bombshell was dropped on my lap in the middle of my childhood. I had no idea my chest had grown. Didn't my body look like all my friends, flat and concealed?

"It doesn't, Honey."

A nice lady, busty, brown hair with wispy white details helped us in the lingerie department, the one department we had never shopped in before, the one department that would never be a mystery to me again.

Trying on each contraption I wondered a thousand things, what did all this change about my life? Bras and boobs? Did this mean my childhood was over? Could I still play with my paper dolls and make believe with my friends?

I picked out two bras in white, Mom liked the eyelets on the cup and the glossy stitching around the straps. I wanted to melt in a puddle of puberty when we went to the counter to buy the things. My mother handed over her well-worn credit card and made flowery conversation with the lady.

"Isn't this a wonderful day for Courtney?"





On the car ride home, down the hill into the valley and back up to the foothills where we lived, my mother talked to me about my body, boys, the secrets of womanhood opening up like presents I didn't know were coming. When I was five years old my mother came home from a neighborhood meeting about sex education, climbed in bed with me and told me everything--the mechanics of it all, the science behind procreation, but she didn't talk about the emotions, attraction, passion and lust. That talk was reserved for the night I got my first bra.

Through the streets we drove, passing yellow street lights that illuminated my form like a body scanner, back and forth, back and forth searching, searching. Why was this my life? An early bloomer, my body filling out before my childhood was over. I felt embarrassed and betrayed by my body. I kept wondering what I did to deserve this situation, had I eaten too much sugar?

"Page didn't need a bra until she was much older, but I was like you. I was ten when I needed one."

My heritage was of early bloomers, busty women who wore specialty bras and endured the attention all the while. My gorgeous aunts Liz and Cindy, my grandmother Marion, my mother, and now me.

The attention, my mother addressed that too.

"The boys, they will notice tomorrow Courtney, you might want to tell a couple friends, but don't tell everyone. You don't need to talk about it with your whole class." I was a social girl, one who liked to make connections and share experiences, but thankfully this was one I could keep for myself.

The next day I woke up and started dressing for school like any other day, except this morning I put on the white eyelet bra and looked for a shirt that would camouflage any of the resulting lines. I prayed all day no one would notice, I told a few friends at lunch recess, begging them not to tell a soul. Everything I did, from raising my hand to PE, I did gingerly, hoping to slide by without attention. All went well until late recess. I was on the monkey bars, hanging upside down when my shirt inched its way toward gravity, revealing my white bra wrapping around my torso, covering up my bubbly chest.

"YOU ARE WEARING A BRA?" said the boy, huge grin on his freckled face. It bothered me that my body would cause such a fantastic reaction to him, even if my mother had warned me in the discussion about why boys like breasts. I flipped down from the monkey bars and headed towards the gathering of my friends on the black top.

"YOU ARE WEARING A BRA?" he continued to follow me. I turned to tell him to shut up when my best friend Wendy came to my rescue. She put her arms around me, shielding me away from his eyes. His eyes were the weirdest part, they were jumping and sparkling, like I had just made his day.

By the last bell of the day it had been leaked that one my friends had spilled my secret to the boys. This boy in particular had watched me all day for proof--evidence he found while watching me on the monkey bars. I went home wondering how many days of my life would feel like this, betrayed by a friend, harassed by boys and full of shame and guilt for something I had no control over at all.