Ellen Leary, a contributor at Carnegie Hill News, shares a personal experience with the trials of early adolescence.
As the youngest in the group at camp, I trailed behind in a futile game of catch-up. This manifested itself in more pronounced physical ways during the later years. At twelve, when the girls were all wearing bras, I was still in an undershirt. The girls in the cabin made a practice of loaning and borrowing each other’s bathing suits. There was an unusually long line of buxom girls waiting to borrow mine. This was in no way a reflection of my popularity, but rather the fact that I was in possession of a dark blue, one-piece bathing suit that was known as “Fish-whistle,” as it had a label in it, which read: “Even the fish will whistle.” Nothing whistled when I wore it because I didn’t fill out the top. It lay crumpled on my concave torso like a badly flipped pancake. The only thing that stuck out was the rubber nose plug hanging around my neck. I prayed each night for breasts, but looked each morning, I had the same flat chest I had the day before. I lived in silent dread of becoming the next unsuspecting victim of Seymour Hammel, the class clown, who routinely ran his finger down the backs of all the girls in the group to determine who was wearing a bra and who was still in an undershirt. I gave him a wide berth. Finally Mother Nature rescinded the joke of delayed adolescence that she had been playing on me and I started to develop. Too shy to ask my mother for a bra, I just kept quiet and prayed. When she finally took me shopping for a “training bra,” the saleswoman looked hard at my chest and said, “You don’t need a training bra, you need a real bra.” My agony at having unnecessarily gone without for whatever the longed-for “training bra” period might have encompassed, paled before the ecstasy of finally owning a bra! That night I slept with it hooked uncomfortably tight around my torso, suffused with happiness. In order to maximize what little endowment I had, I tightened the bra straps to their highest setting, and for a considerable amount of time I walked around with two bumps just slightly beneath my shoulders. The next summer at camp, when I undressed victoriously to reveal my prized possession, Tamara Guzik and Ellen Wimpfheimer already had their periods.