I was 10 when I wore my first bra. The day I first wore it to school, I had on a white sweater and a blue plaid skirt. Never one who liked slips, it never occurred to me that the bra might be visible under my sweater. My mother must not have noticed either, because she would have said something before I left for school.
But at recess, in the bright sunshine, it was a different story. And my classmates let me know, with one girl snottily noting that I was “showing off.” I think one of the boys may have snapped the back of it. That was 55-years ago.
I wish it were the first time I had been body shamed. It wasn’t. Just the first time that my budding development was denigrated.
It would not be the last. In eighth grade, I had blossomed into a size 7 junior. One of my new spring dresses had a fitted bodice with a flared skirt. It was a plaid of green and yellow shot through with white. I remember feeling pretty wearing it. Again, had my mother felt it indecorous, she wouldn’t have purchased it.
When I opened my locker between afternoon classes, the note fell out on the floor. It said something about liking how big my boobs were and asked if I had a p_ _ _y to match.
I don’t remember screaming, but I may have. I did run sobbing down the hallway, bumping into other students and into the girl’s bathroom to cry. A sympathetic older girl asked what happened, and I showed her the note.
She lent me her oversized mohair sweater and walked with me into the principal’s office to turn in the note. While also sympathetic, there really was nothing the principal could do.
I wore the sweater the rest of the day, clutching it tightly about my body as if it had the power to make me invisible.
Through out the rest of my high school years, I made myself invisible by becoming overweight. I didn’t have to worry about boys looking at me lustily. Or so I thought. It seemed older men at my parents’ restaurant where I worked were not as choosy as the high school quarterback in their flirtations.
But at 18, I started to slim down. At 20, I was 110, a size 5, and a yeoman in the Navy.
But no matter how tiny the size I wore, I still retained an hour-glass shape dominated by my curves. The comments I got from fellow sailors walking along the hallways where I worked were nasty. One day as I walked to my car, a group of them leaned out a window and mooed at me.
But a particularly embarrassing moment was when the Lt. Commander who was head of personnel at Naval Nuclear Power School, Vallejo, called me into his office to dress me down.
Our command had a picnic at the beach the prior weekend. I wore a one piece, turquoise bathing suit. Half the afternoon, I was also covered up with a T-shirt I borrowed to keep the sun off me. I remember seeing officer wives wearing bikinis.
The LCDR told me he was sorry to do this, but he had to put a note in my file that I had been inappropriately dressed at the party. An officer’s wife had complained that the suit was not modest enough in covering my chest.
My shame was equally felt when I learned that a group of officers had taped me at another picnic while playing volleyball, showing it frequently at their next duty station in Idaho. Evidently my breasts were the star of the movie. I hadn’t even realized I was being filmed.
This was hardly the last time I experienced obnoxious comments – nor even one of many stories of outright assault I could recount.
Years later, for example, one of my bosses at the California utility where I worked asked me over a work-related dinner why I kept myself in such great shape since I didn’t have a boyfriend.
He was also the same boss who queried me one day why I had worn red shoes to work, and asked me didn’t I know they were “f – – k me” shoes?
I had worn them because they coordinated nicely with my outfit, I answered.
This, guys, is what young girls and women face on a daily basis. And I have barely scratched the surface of what I personally dealt with. Multiply it by millions of other women.
And you, guys, are the ones usually doing this to us – though obviously from my story, women love to slut shame other women too to make themselves feel better somehow. Since I have never done that to another woman, I am not quite sure how that works.
But hey, sisterhood and solidarity and all that jazz.
So now you know why we seek empowerment, add #MeToo to certain tweets and take offense at the Donald Trumps of the world.
It’s also why we would like to hear Dr. Christine Blasey Ford be allowed to tell her own story in a dignified setting, and let Brett Kavanaugh tell his.
Then let the chips fall where they may. But let them fall without bias or undue shame.
Because the story she has to tell is true. It has simply happened to too many of us, whether the particulars in this case are exact or not.
And because if Brett Kavanaugh did push her down on that bed, grope her and put his hand over her mouth so her scream would not be heard, his judgement was bad then.
And it would be unfair to ask more than half the population of this country to trust his judgement for the rest of his life on the highest court in the land now.