Growing up I was a child who developed, ahem...how to say this, quite early. By the age of 9 I was in a training bra and by age 12 I was out of them Bee Dees bras and in proper lacy adult lingerie already. For those who don't know, Bee Dees in those days of the 80s and 90s had been the cutest training-lingerie brand for little girls.
Up until I hit puberty I was quite the little ballerina. But with puberty came, the buxom Anthony Clan body line. All the women on my mum's side of the family (the Anthonys) had C cup chests or larger. And those C cups on a not-quite 12 year old girl, I guess must have been a sight to behold. At the time when I started developing, I did not know who was more distressed....me...or my mum. To her it was the end of an era.
The end of her sweet innocent baby girl, and the premature advent of the teenage girl with large breasts whom she'd have to protect from all the boys and all the leering men. But I was a kid. I did not know all that. All I knew was that one moment I was my mum and dad's little girl, and the next, my mum was treating me like I was an overgrown adult in Kiki Lala clothes.
I remember one Saturday morning, I was getting ready for ballet class. I was debating whether or not to wear my training bra as it made my ballet leotard waaay too tight and then it was difficult to move fluidly in class with those straps digging into my shoulders. I walked across my room to the full-length mirror which had been placed next to the windows overlooking our garden. There were no curtains on that day as the maid had been cleaning the room and had removed all the curtains. The trees outside my window had dark leafy green foliage and I happened to glace at the foliage while getting dressed.
I heard the sounds of grass-cutting and looked outside. There was the gardener standing with shears in hands trimming the tree foliage. He was staring up at me through the foliage! He had a strange expression on his face that I could not define, but I knew instinctively that I did not like it. In disgust I crouched down, threw my training bra aside and quickly pulled up my leotard. The top was tight enough I thought, and no need to to wear that training bra, or so I thought, relieved. After dressing in my tights, leotard and puffy pink skirt, then putting my hair up in a bun, I ran downstairs on light tiptoe, pretending I was Swanhilda, in mid-flight in a scene from Coppelia.
As I ran down the hardwood steps of the staircase, I heard a stentorian roar come up the stairs from the parental people sitting in the hall. I don't know if it was my grandma or my mum. Memory fails me as to who were all the people in the hall, they were surely relatives visiting us for Saturday brunch. But one mental image is seared permanently in my brain. The sight of my mum rushing up the stairs at me.
She hissed at me in a low voice: "Where is your training bra? Why are you running down the stairs in your ballet costume without your bra? Why are you throwing your arms about in that unlady-like fashion? Your breasts are jiggling like apples. Walk slowly! Do you want them to grow into saggy watermelons and filthy papayas? That is what will happen if you don't wear your bra everyday from now on for the rest of your life! Go wear your bra NOW!"
The gardener had an eyeful, but when he saw that I was crying, he turned away. The expression he had in his eyes as I wore my training bra and leotards gave me a creepy feeling and made me feel so dirty inside. It was then that I realized that this was what my mum had been rushing up the stairs for...to prevent the consequences of the involuntary growth of x-rated fruit on my chest.
For the first time I went for ballet class reluctantly, and knew that being a ballerina was out for me.
I had the worst ballet class ever as I refused to raise my arms or to do any of the arm warm-ups at the bar. Don't want them filthy papayas to grow any larger on my chest, and for the life of me...what would saggy watermelons look like???? My teacher had such difficulty with me. She said I danced like the female zombies in Thriller. I thought that was a compliment, actually.
3 months later I dropped out of ballet school as the teacher told my mum I had suddenly lost interest in ballet and had been putting on weight the past 3 months. I was an 11 year old who weighed 38kg and in her books, I was grossly overweight and unattractive to dance the ballet any longer. When my mum asked me why I had lost interest when I had been doing so well previously, I just kept silent. Any mention of salaciously-shaped fruit might set her off again.
I wish my mum was around so that I could discuss all these unresolved issues with her. My bet is if she was, she would not even remember the training bra incident. I myself had blocked this memory out until recent times. I forgive her for all the times she acted like a Tiger Mum...but I wish she was around so that I could just talk to her and move forward. Today is April 11, and 12 years ago today, she was diagnosed with cancer. Why is it that the training bra memory comes up today of all dates to haunt me?