In a perfect world, this would be some tranquil New Mexican view. But instead, it’s the interior of the Dick Clark American Bandstand Café at Newark Airport. I have spent rather too much of today in airports. Weather,
More specifically yet, it’s a pointy bra of Madonna’s, autographed by Madge, plus a few xx and oo s. In all its conical glory, this object is highly similar to the bras that were fashionable – at least among teenage girls – in the mid-60s, their concentric stitching creating little pointy ends that probably looked better on some people than on me. But the lack of the fit may also have had something to do with the fact that my one and only bra, when I was about 12, was a bra that, in desperation, I’d stolen from someone who was living with us as a paying guest that year. I couldn’t remotely figure out how else to obtain one – asking my mother was out of the question, since she believed that girls should start to wear a bra at the age that she did – around sixteen. Impossible to go through any more years – even weeks – of embarrassed agony: other girls in my class running their hands down my back to see if I was yet wearing one of these transformational objects; a sense of unpleasantly insecure wobbling when playing netball; wearing as many concealing layers of clothes as possible; finding curious modes of evasion in the school changing rooms.
Not that it was a great deal better when, eventually, my mother gave me 12/6, or whatever it was, and let me go and buy a bra. I went to an old-fashioned women’s underwear store on Wimbledon High Street, next door to the second hand bookshop, to try one on (where else could I have gone? I didn’t yet know, or register, that Marks and Spencers sold such things). The grey-haired harridans who were serving there tried a couple on me, which palpably didn’t fit – and then told me that because I had a narrow back compared with the (embarrassing enough, as things were) size of what I was trying to cram into the bra cups, I would need a Nursing Bra. Unsurprisingly, I fled, and arrived home in mortified tears. My mother, I later found out, went round to give them A Piece of Her Mind – which can’t have been remotely pleasant for them.