Nice Girls Can Jiggle After All…

Once when my brother Mickey was in Junior High, he brought home his pretty new girlfriend to meet our mother.  The only child of a respectable Norwegian family, Novella was a tall serious fourteen year old with a long brown page boy and a porcelain complexion.  I remember it was a warm fall day, the kind of day that translated to a broiling afternoon in the attic where our mother holed up writing.  Mickey and Novella climbed the stairs, the tap, tap, tapping of the keys of her black standard typewriter filling the air.  As usual, Goggie sat behind her huge maple desk, lost in a world of plots, cigarette smoke and Coca-Cola.

Like a young bride and groom, they walked toward her when, to Mickey’s humiliation, he realized our mother was wearing an old cotton bra tied around her head.

“Mom, I’d like you to meet Novella,” Mickey began, wishing he could fall through the attic floor.  Eyes riveted to the bra, he longed for a conventional mother who canned green beans.

“There was our mother with a bra on her head,” he explained to me later.  “I felt like an idiot.”

“She does that to keep the hair out of her eyes.”

He sighed.

“And what did Novella say?” I asked.

“She didn’t say anything, but I’m sure she thinks our family is crazy.”

Bras in the 1950s (Goggie called them brassieres) were unattractive, no-nonsense affairs.  No lace, no frills, no fun.  I bought my first bra at the dime store at the age of twelve without even trying it on.  Believing it a necessary evil, I didn’t know they were actually supposed to fit.   Two years later I added a panty girdle, wearing it for a year before realizing the belief that nice girls don’t jiggle was a  lie.

As for those who nostalgically view the fifties as an enviable time in history, I wish them latex and an ill-fitting bra on a hot humid day.

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