Humor Non-Fiction posted March 10, 2022

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Toilet Paper and Tea Strainers

by Shirley McLain

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I don’t know how teenage girls think today about the size of their breasts or if they look good in a sweater. Back in the 60s, when I was in seventh grade, my mind seemed fixated on the topic.

I went to Texas during the summer to hoe cotton to buy my school clothes for the coming year. I stayed with dear family friends who owned a cotton farm in Levelland. We got up early and began hoeing before it got hot. It was hard work and hot, but I had a good time.

Before school started, I bought several pullover knit sweaters when I purchased my clothes. You know the kind that conforms to your top and will make everyone envious of how well you look.

Being a 7th grader and still growing physically, I determined I was not large enough in my bra size for these great sweaters. On two separate occasions, I decided that when I wore my form-fitting sweaters, I would help mother nature along and pad my bra. It was the only thing I could do to give me that full-figured look I wanted.

I got up the morning of school and began to dress. I padded each bra cup with what I thought was half a roll of toilet paper (TP). I put on my beautiful green sweater. I knew when I got in from school, I had to have a story about what happened to all the TP. But that’s another story. Anyway, I felt beautiful when I caught the bus to school. I looked wonderful with my big bosoms (I thought).
It was lunchtime, and everyone headed down the hall to the lunchroom. I was laughing and talking to the kids around me, and I noticed I was getting strange looks from a few girls. I then felt something scratching underneath my chin. I automatically felt to find out what was happening. To my complete mortification, it was TP that worked its way out of my bra and up my neck.

I did the only thing I thought of; I immediately pulled it out and blew my nose on it. I smiled at the girls around me and made the smartest statement I thought of, “I don’t have pockets.” In my mind, I swore I would never use TP again.

A few weeks after the TP incident, mom and I went to town on a Saturday. I decided to wear another of my great sweaters. Knowing I wasn’t going to go through the TP thing again, I had to think of another plan and 
I came up with the perfect one. My mother made iced tea every day, and she had two tea strainers that didn’t have handles. They were nicely rounded and would work perfectly inside my bra cups (I thought).

Mama gave me a couple of strange looks when I came out in my sweater, but she didn’t say a word. We headed to town to the Montgomery Ward Department Store. I felt so proud and looked beautiful once again in my sweater.

We got inside the store, and Mom went to the racks to pick out a new blouse. I think since it was Saturday, everyone was in that store. It seemed to me that it was wall-to-wall people.

 I was also looking through the rack. I guess Mom had asked me something, and as usual, I was in my own world and didn’t respond. The next thing I knew, I felt her elbow nudge me. I then answered her and went on with my looking.

After a few minutes, I noticed some girls standing across from me giggling. I knew they were laughing at me, but I hadn’t the foggiest idea why they would be.

Another five minutes went by, and I heard Mama say, “Shirley, what is wrong with you?”

“Nothing, why?”

“Look down,” Mom said.

My world ended again. I knew what was wrong. I told my mom I was going to the car. I ran out of the store and got in the car to hide. It seemed when Mom elbowed me, she flattened my right tea strainer, and I hadn’t seen it, but everyone else in the store had.

That taught me a lesson, and my bra padding days ended.



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