I'm 15, standing in the awkwardly quiet 'Angel' section at Marks and Sparks, and I want to die. My father is beside me, clearing his throat every couple of seconds and prodding me in the shoulder. "Just pick one and be done with it." Shrugging him away I circle the rack, skimming through the varieties, hmm'ing and ahh'ing at the appropriate moments as I turn the tags over in my fingers; underwired, wing, padded, t-shirt, santoni, sports. Christ. Considering my options (or rather, trying to figure out what the hell they actually are), I decide on an embellished pink thing with a cheap plastic heart dangling from the centre. I peer at the label; 32AA. This is my bra size - I actually have a bra size. Beaming, I look up at my dad, who has now turned the colour of beetroot soup, and swiftly drag him to the tills where he stuffs the money in the assistant's hand and glides out, leaving me shoving the purchase in my backpack and smiling apologetically. Who the heck am I kidding; neither of us have the faintest clue what we're doing.
For many young girls, buying a first bra is an exciting and noteworthy experience. I however, was disturbed by the ordeal, while my dad was disturbed by the price ("£14?! I could have sewed you one myself!") What my father didn't comprehend was that I had anticipated this day since I started high school. Growing up in a society saturated with images of the female body, breasts were hard to disregard. Whether bouncing around on caramel-skinned women in rapper videos or plastered on the front of billboards in shopping malls, they surrounded us daily, a constant and frustrating reminder that we were still children. Unfortunately for me, I was ridiculously late on the puberty bandwagon, and while everyone else's breasts began to swell by the year, mine remained stationary. Changing during P.E lessons was torture; I would glance at the other girls, the tiny orbs cupped with white lace or floral motifs, whilst I was still wearing vests to hide my miniscule nipples. For me, breasts were associated with femininity - they were a sign of a sophisticated, mature woman whose junk-in-her-trunk was less about sex and more about empowerment. And I couldn't wait to grow a pair.
Once I had established that it was time for my little mosquito bites to be encased in tight material that would result in them resenting me forever, I had to decide whether taking my dad along to my first bra-fitting was appropriate. As much as the experience was bizarre and rather awkward, I have to admire my old man for even attending this significant event. Starting a family with my mother, he naturally anticipated that parenting would be a balanced affair and all duties would be shared. When she was diagnosed with cancer a few months after I turned eight, the reality of raising a child alone became intensely apparent; he went from existing as part of a team to being utterly alone. Not only had the responsibility of maintaining a household shifted on to his shoulders, the man had to await the arrival of a whole lot of first's; first period, first relationship, first bra, first car (which was probably the one he was most afraid of). It was evident he had no clue; I began being dressed in baggy tracksuits and oversized men's t-shirts, my hair unruly and short. Whilst other girls were organising tea parties for their dolls, I was riding my bike around the park, gaining new additions to my already existing elbow scrapes. When I entered high school, it had a rigid effect on my dad; he was so accustomed to it being just the two of us that when I took control of my fashion and began developing a social life, it burned him.
That didn't prevent our relationship from blossoming though; the 'first's' he was severely dreading came and went, and soon I was no longer a temperamental teenager but a fully-fledged adult, complete with financial problems and unachievable career goals. It took him several painful years to finally comprehend that a pat on the head and an offer of cookies was not the resolution for everything (though sometimes, confectionary is all you need), and his acceptance, though delayed, was respectful. However, I never refuse a hug or a nostalgic discussion about humorous moments we shared such as the bra-buying ordeal, and we frequently laugh at how juvenile we both were - me physically, him emotionally. As uncomfortable as it was, I'm blessed my dad was there to share that experience with me; even if he still thinks £14 is extortionate for two triangular pieces of fabric.