The fateful fourth grade day my mom and I went shopping for my first bra is emblazoned in my mind. To me, this was like the canary in the coal mine.
The fateful fourth grade day my mom and I went shopping for my first bra is emblazoned in my mind. To me, this was like the canary in the coal mine. I feared the transition from girl to woman—and everything that came with it—and bra-wearing felt like purgatory until the even scarier stuff came. (See: Periods, tampons, zits, strange body hair, S-E-X, etc.)
While I left the mall with a couple of training bras, I also left with fear about what lie ahead. Little did I know that dozens of pounds of weight gain and DD breasts would be on the horizon. And a lovely little nickname I'd hear daily from the boys in my seventh grade class: "BTK," short for "Big Tit Karla."
So I guess you could say junior-high Karla had a contentious relationship with her body and all things undergarment-related.
After a decade of ups (hi, just-shy-of-plus-size clothes) and downs (00 pants and a skeletal frame), and plenty of therapy and supportive family members and friends, I was able to make peace with my body. I still have my less-than-Beyonce-fierce days, but I've come to embrace my curvy butt, my C-cup breasts, my stretch marks—all of it.
That process was far from a quick one, though. I was an early bloomer in terms of all that puberty stuff, but a ridiculously late bloomer regarding nearly everything else, including real romantic relationships and losing my virginity. I was crushed, then, just months ago when my first "I could see myself marrying this person" boyfriend broke it off right before Christmas. I had finally been vulnerable. I had finally felt sexy. And it wasn't enough.
I spent two months or so exploring who I was, post-breakup, and who I wanted to be before I even considered starting to casually date again. That's when an email arrived in my inbox from my editor, who knew none of this backstory. The assignment: wear lingerie at home every day for a week and report back. Opener, meet can of worms.
Awkward? Yes. Challenging? You bet. Worthy of a try? Absolutely.
So I went back to the mall, similar to the one the 11-year-old me dragged her feet into. This time, I strolled in with a smile and chatted with a peppy Victoria's Secret staffer rather than a grandma-like character at the department store. Again, I left with a couple bras and panties, but this time, I also left with a fresh mindset and a new challenge to wear the sexy stuff for at least 30 minutes a day for the next 14 days. I proceeded to hop into my car, flip on my Lizzo anthem, and head home to launch my trial.
Here are the biggest things I learned during those 14 days.
Day one, I was looking forward to the new adventure. I cut the tags off my new purchases, slipped them on, and proceeded to go about my email catch-up business as I might do in a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt during any other week. (Hey, what am I supposed to do in my lingerie when I'm single as hell and have another freelance deadline on the horizon?) I felt a bit awkward about the lingerie jaunt, and a little self-conscious. I only lasted about 30 minutes before slipping into my PJs and cozying up with a book.
The next day, and all five after that, I decided to set the mood. I'd flip on some fun, girl power music a la Fifth Harmony, Janelle Monae, and the like, and take a moment to think about all that I was proud of about myself or thankful that I accomplished day. The simple act of taking time for me, by putting on a splurge pair of lingerie, triggered me to think a bit differently.
Around day three, I realized there's a good reason why my default loungewear combo was a sweatshirt and leggings: It's comfortable. The underwires, the barely-there pieces of fabric...it's not the most practical of designs. Or is it? Turns out, all those wires and all that padding can give you a real confidence boost—at least that was the case for me!
As the week went on, I was getting more and more convinced that the lessons from the lingerie (and the lingerie itself) would see a life outside of the walls of my house.
Day four, I had a three-course dinner with a married couple I'm pals with. By the time I came home from the carb- and creme brulee-fest and donned my new duds (I had a self-imposed limit of at least 30 minutes a day) I was feeling puffy and far-from-pretty.
Rather than run, I took a long look in the mirror and wondered if anyone else would even notice the "flaws" that were really bothering me, like the lack of oblique definition or the little extra skin pocket where my arms meet my torso. Nine out of ten Queen Bey's would agree: NOPE. Beyonce, you win again.
Once day eight rolled around, my lingerie lounging was still enough of a stretch in terms of comfort that I decided to give it a bit of a rest, but it had given me a real psych and body boost. Enough of a boost, in fact, that I decided to wear my sexy new duds under my clothes the first time I dipped my toe back into the dating pool the next week.
While the push-up bra certainly didn't hurt, I'm pretty sure my confidence as I walked into that first date had more to do with what was going on above my shoulders than below.