LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
[11 year old Margaret needs to wear a bra to fit in with the other girls at her new school]
My mother drove me to a shopping centre where there was a Lord & Taylor. I had on my blue plaid dress and my loafers without socks and three Band-Aids on my blisters.
First we went to the ladies’ lingerie department where my mother told the saleslady we wanted to see a bra for me. The saleslady took one look and told my mother we’d be better off in the teen department where they had bras in very small sizes. My mother thanked the lady and I almost died! We went down on the escalator and headed for the teen shop. They had a whole display of underwear there. Bras and panties and slips to match. All I ever wore was white underpants and regular undershirts. Sometimes a slip if I was going to a party. My mother went to the counter and told the saleslady we were interested in a bra. I stood back and pretended not to know a thing.
observations: I’d never read this book, and when I did recently (for a shoe reference, the sockless loafers, for this Guardian piece) it was a revelation. I think I’d always assumed it was a religious book, and I still don’t think the title does the book any favours, it sounds a bit desperate. But as generations of young women can and do attest, the content is another matter entirely. The book is a delight: a straightforward story of the year in which Margaret turns 12. She starts a new school, makes friends, tries to fit in, worries about growing up, periods and bras, has an absolutely fine relationship with her parents, wonders what religion might be about. She would reassure any young person that everything she thinks is completely normal. And the book is hugely entertaining and funny, with its descriptions of school, social events, and the girls’ secret club. Everything is reported in quite a deadpan way, but as if it really might be a young girl’s diary, not with an adult author winking in the background.
And it’s hard to think of anyone not sympathizing with Margaret’s being ejected from the grown-up lingerie department.
The picture is the (adult) lingerie department at Macy’s in New York.