Every young girl dreams of the first time they get to go shopping for their first bra. It’s the first sign of developing into a young woman, and the universe’s way of telling you you’re growing up.
It’s one of the most magical times in a young girl’s life. Except for me.
As a young girl, I never liked my developing body. My father told me it had to be covered. I started developing at the age of 7, and at the time I didn’t even know what breasts were. I just thought I was eating too much and the food had made it up to my chest. My mother never explained the concept of puberty to me, all I knew was that my body was to remain hidden.
From then on out, I would always ask my father for his approval on my appearance. When he would take me shopping, I would always have to step out of the changing room so he could see if everything fit. If he didn’t like it, it wasn’t bought. If it was too tight, it wasn’t bought. Every Sunday as we were headed out the door to church or even just to the grocery store, I would ask him how I looked. If he didn’t like what I was wearing, I would change. If he thought the outfit looked too mature on me, I would change.
Whenever we would go to the pool, my two older sisters and I had to wear our dad’s worn out, baggy shirts and pairs of shorts over our swimsuits. We didn’t have enough money to keep up with the demands of our rapidly developing bodies. We saw all the other little girls being able to show off their cute swimsuits, while our plain ones had to be hidden behind old clothes. I thought that if we didn’t have these bodies, we wouldn’t have to cover everything. If we didn’t have these bodies, we wouldn’t be the cause for a boy’s lust.
Growing up, I thought this type of attitude toward the female body was normal. I was told it was the right way to be. The only information I was given was from the people at my church and from home. I was home schooled, so the only places I went to on a weekly basis were church and a local Boys and Girls club. I wasn’t able to see for myself how the other kids in my neighborhood lived. I was told by the people around me that I had to live this certain way, and all the other little girls – the ones whose parents let them flaunt their bathing suits and wear thin-strapped shirts – were promoting darkness.
When I came to college, the biggest culture shock for me was when I realized that there was no one to check what I was wearing. I was so used to asking my father what he thought of me, that I didn’t know what I thought of myself. I didn’t want to expose my prized possessions, but I knew there had to be a healthy medium.
At college, I became in charge of my own choices and I had to figure out for myself what was right for me. My body was finally my own, and if I felt comfortable and confident in what I wore and who I was, it didn’t matter if my father approved or not.
This is not to say that the process was easy or that I am 100 percent shame free. Two years into college I still have a lot of insecurities and moments of doubt, but I know now that my body is not something to be ashamed.
I know I am pretty. I know who I am. I no longer need his approval, even when he approves.