Buying your first bra is a rite of passage for many girls. I remember my first bra vividly. My MawMaw noticed I was developing and took me out to JCPenney and bought me the most hideous white sports bra in all the land. It squeezed my forming breasts so tightly I think it pushed them between my ribs, but I was so proud. If your tween has been inquiring about a bra, you may be tempted to ignore the request, but knowing some ways to respond when your boobless daughter asks for a bra can be more helpful.
It's important to note that the desire for a bra is as much psychological as it is about comfort and support. The pressure on girls to grow up younger and younger is enormous, and often, that means the trappings of cis womanhood like bras and shaving. While not every girl wants these things, plenty do, and it's important to handle the situation with compassion and care, whether you're letting them down gently, or encouraging them to express themselves with agency over their underwear choices.
For me, nothing is better than "screw this bra o'clock," which is the precise time I unsnap my bra and yank it off as fast as you can say "cabernet, please." But I understand that many girls are eagerly anticipating this milestone in their development. However, they may grow to loathe it in the future, and let's face it, they'll loathe that piece of laundry as much as we do. Being prepared for the conversation is half the battle, so I've worked out some strategies.
1. Ask Them Why They Want It
No, I do not mean going to them and screaming, "Why would you want to wear this patriarchal torture device when your chest could still be free?" Though, it's a valid question. Dr. Michael Dickinson told The Globe and Mail, that it's important to decipher why they're interested in a bra. Is it because they feel as though they need it, or is it because they're at a stage where it's representative of a level of maturity they desire.
If it's the former, they're probably right, and they do need a bra. If it's the latter, there needs to be a greater discussion about why they feel they need this article of clothing to feel more mature. That doesn't mean you say no — that's a personal choice — it's just a good spring board for the conversation.
2. Ask Them What Sort Of Bra They Want
There's a big difference between a younger girl who sees the almost undershirt-like training bras at Target and wants one, and the girls who want whatever they see Kendall Jenner wearing. While only you and your child can decide what's appropriate, this may lead to deeper discussions about sex and how they present themselves than you originally anticipated. That's not a bad thing — it's just significantly trickier subject matter.
If it's a girl like me who turns out needed a bit more padding in her junior lifeguard uniform, we've all been there. Let's face it, nipples are awkward, and that probably goes double when you're 11.
3. Be Honest About Bras
Let's face it, bras are cumbersome, itchy, boob manacles that are hell bent to ruin your day when an underwire pokes through during your commute. Don't sugarcoat the bra facts. While training bras look like those awesome, almost comfortable sleeping bras you wear while you're breastfeeding — they're still bras. They require outfit coordination and a lot of adjustment. Just like when you tell your daughter about the pains of getting your period, the pains of wearing a bra need to be spelled out as well.
4. Tell Them If They Change Their Mind, It's OK
If you've decided to let them wear one, allow them to change their mind. Don't put a strict edict out about bra wearing. Let them know that it's OK if they sometimes forget to wear one, or don't want to — that's their option. Heck, if they never want to wear a bra, that's also their option. This may seem like a basic piece of clothing, but it represents so much of their bodily autonomy to them, and choice is important.
5. When Do You Want One?
Shockingly enough, just because your daughter wants a bra doesn't mean she is ready for one, or wants one right now. It's possible she's just working out the idea in her head, and asking you for one is one step in that. If you encourage her to step back and really think about everything it means, she might not be 100 percent ready for it yet, and just needed to express that desire aloud. Bras aren't iPads or ice cream — they are more subject to contemplation than the other things that seem to require instant gratification.
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