Padded bras for kids.

Ahem. I fear I have become a little dull. Writing about insects and home renovation. In the list of Topics To Avoid Like The Plague When Writing A Blog, these are numbers 3 and 4 (numbers 1 and 2 are personal hygiene problems and favourite cleaning products).

Well today I’m writing about a subject that involves sex, which is always a good crowd puller, although today I wish my subject wasn’t about sex. But it is. Yet it shouldn’t be.

Whilst searching for slippers in the childrens’ section of Monoprix I found myself in front of a whole range of padded bras. Nothing strange there. Well, it is a bit strange when you realise that nowadays padded bras outnumber the non-padded ones by about five to one, but anyway, that’s not the point. The very disturbing thing about these rows of padded bras were they were in the children’s section. Not by accident. On purpose. They are for little girls. We’re talking TEN YEAR OLDS and upwards.

Mothers of ten year olds may be thinking I’m very naive and that yeah, these padded bras for children are everywhere and have been everywhere for ages. Or maybe they’re just rife in France. I have no idea. All I know is that I find the concept of making little girls’ breasts look a lot bigger is creepy and perverted. TEN YEAR OLDS. Even 12 year olds, 13, 14 year olds… what does it mean when underwear manufacturers are selling “bigger boobs bras” to such young girls?

Oh but I am naive. I’m totally out of touch. It’s nothing, just sexualising kids in yet another way, the way everything is sexualised nowadays. I should lighten up. I mean I don’t have to buy those bras for my little girl, do I? But that’s not the point. The point is that someone, somewhere, thought they could make some money by selling bras for children who don’t need bras and then adding a ton of padding so that those children look like they do need bras. Why balloon our little girls’ breasts? To make them look like women, to make them sexually attractive. Bloody hell, it’s already hard enough when you’re 18 to fight off men’s stares, wolf-whistles, and hands, imagine a ten year old having to deal with all that.

We don’t sell cod-pieces to little boys. We don’t sell special padded-pants to make them look like they have large willies ready for adult action. We don’t glue fake stubble on their faces.

I read an article in the Guardian the other day (which I can’t find now of course) about people who like having sex with much younger partners. This was written following the whole Jimmy Savile scandal which still makes me feel sick to the stomach. The writer was saying that it’s about power, not sex. The older partner is interested in the power he/she gets to wield over someone so much younger, less-experienced, less sure of themselves. This in turn indicates the older partner is actually hugely lacking in self-confidence and is searching to feel powerful by having much younger sexual partners. Yup, that makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is how this ‘preference’ has permeated our society. The “ideal body” resembles a 16 year old body, not a 36 year old one.

Most young girls now grow up thinking their worth is largely built on their sex appeal. Ten and eleven year olds trying to be women as fast as possible will love those padded bras. I can just see their mothers trying to dissuade them. I can see the little girls happily carrying their new padded bra back home and trying it on, coming downstairs with their new boobs, Mum and Dad choking on their tea, looking at each other in panic, wondering how on earth to deal with the situation. Try telling an eleven year old that her boobs will grow in time, that she doesn’t need a padded bra at her age, that having boobs doesn’t matter – the rest of the world is telling her it does.

(NB: I have chosen the title on purpose because I bet some parents/kids are actually using those words as a search term. Maybe, just maybe they’ll read my post and MIGHT spend 20 seconds thinking about it. Or maybe not. Any comments on this topic are more than welcome. Léonie is only just coming up to 2, so I’ve got a few years to think about this one…)

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Tomboy Tomgirl

When I was ten and soon to be going to big school, I was faced with a dilemma.

Skirts.

Back in 1983 at Ousedale Comprehensive, girls were not allowed to wear trousers. I hadn’t worn a skirt since the age of five when I got to choose what I wore every morning, and every morning I chose trousers, jeans, shorts, tracky bottoms, but NEVER a skirt or a dress. I was a self-defined tomboy. I had short, scruffy hair, ran circles around the lads when it came to tree-climbing and riding bikes down hills, could burp on command and never backed down when challenged. I rarely got into physical fights though, I used to fight-talk instead and leave them wondering what had hit them. People mistook me for a boy all the time and called me ‘lad’ and ‘sonny’. Sometimes I let them believe I was a boy, if the situation suited me, but often I corrected them, proudly stating “I’m a girl, actually” and grinning at them. I thought I had the best of both worlds – the brains of a girl and the brawn of a boy, albeit a small, scrawny sort of brawn as I was tiny and wirey. I knew what I wanted and was bolshy enough to get it. I hung out with the girls and the boys at school, although I was never interested in the whole football malarky, which is probably why the girls’ company suited me too. Everyone accepted me as I was. The tomboy girl in jeans.

And then, in the Easter break, my step-dad sat me down and told me I was going to have to start wearing skirts as it was my last term in primary school, and after summer I would be in big school where skirts were compulsory. So maybe I should get used to wearing them now rather than in September, as I would probably have enough big changes to deal with then, without the extra odd feeling of breeze on my legs to get used to. He used bribery. I wanted a pair of white leather slip-on shoes like the other girls in the school (I hadn’t rejected all girls’ things, just skirts), so he promised to buy me a pair IF I wore them to school with a skirt.

I remember that first skirt. It was knee-length, different shades of beige and brown, made of material that looked a bit like sacking. I think I had accepted Dad’s bargain but had chosen a skirt that was as rough’n’tough looking as possible. But I still felt very uncomfortable in it. My legs felt too vulnerable; every movement I made meant my skin felt the air brushing against it. I walked to school feeling totally naked. I thought everyone was staring at me, staring at my legs. No-one was of course, until I got to school, and then all hell broke loose. “WOOOOAAAAHHH!! BULLETT’S GOT LEGS!!” (Bullett being my step-dad’s surname and my nickname) “LOOK AT HER! LOOK AT THOSE PINS! NICE LEGS BULLETT!!” The boys ran riot. It wasn’t anything to do with fancying my legs – when I was ten they were stick thin and utterly shapeless – it was just the sheer pleasure of pointing out that I was indeed a girl, a ‘normal’ girl, and despite having spent years being a total tomboy, I was now having to conform to what girls look like. I hated it of course, I hated the attention my legs were getting, I hated everyone pointing out that I had “changed” but I stuck to my guns (no pun intended but it might be why the name Bullett fit so well) and walked right past them on my skinny stick legs, determined to ignore it all and continue being just as much a tomboy as I ever was. Which isn’t so easy when wearing a skirt, or at least, is wasn’t for me back then.

I did continue being a tomboy. And as soon as I got home every afternoon I changed back into my jeans. But I didn’t mind wearing skirts any more. And my dad was right; in September when I started at Ousedale Comprehensive, it was one weight off my mind and off my legs. And a year later, when my body had totally metamorphosized over the summer, from stick insect to Flake advert curvaciousness, I went up into 3rd grade wearing a mini miniskirt, having discovered the joys of attracting boys.

But I remained a tomboy, despite looking very much like a Guns’n’Roses groupie. I still scrambled up trees and messed about in the river and stood up to the big boys teasing my little brother and never backed down when challenged. I realised it isn’t anything to do with what you wear. And then I realised it isn’t anything to do with “boyishness” or “girlishness”. It’s about confidence and being assertive and not complying to stereotypes of what girls are like and what boys are like.

I think I mostly have my Mum to thank for that attitude. She taught me some fine lessons. She told dirty jokes and swore like a sailor and said she’d rather I had my first sexual experiences in my bedroom rather than in some muddy field somewhere. She trusted me, gave me a lot of freedom and taught me to follow my intuition. She was a fantastic flautist, pianist and music teacher. She had a great mind and went back to studying when she was in her fifties, doing a couple of A-levels, a degree and becoming a magistrate. When my parents held dinner parties she would have everyone laughing. She flirted like a pro. I was proud of having a mum like mine.

So this is partly to say thank you to my mum for raising me the way she did. For encouraging the tomboy-tomgirl in me. For being a tomboy-tomgirl herself.

This morning she was carried back off to hospital. She only came out a month or so ago. She is suffering from what they think is anxiety disorder. For years she was diagnosed as bipolar, but she doesn’t go “up” anymore. I have tried everything to get through to her, so has my Dad, so has everyone. But nothing is helping her and now I am frightened we will lose her. We already have lost her in a way, but every now and again I see glimmers of the old Mum and I do wish she would come back.

Mum Bullett, dig deep down and find that feisty bit of you that never gave up. You can do it. Otherwise I’m coming to get you and chucking you in a plane to France. I’m the one wearing the trousers nowadays. But I think you need to wear them too.

Mum Bullett.

Lie Down on Lady Facom

I took our car to the garage yesterday so they could find the oil leak (which turned out to be a diesel leak) and when I went back an hour later to pick it up, I found myself standing next to this stunning chick, leaning up against a giant gas bottle:

Lady Facom

What the hell is this contraption? I thought, and what is this woman doing painted on it, brandishing a spanner? If you look closely you’ll see it’s one of those soft padded things that slide under a car, upon which you can lie and prevent your back from getting sore/dirty. Mechanics spend a lot of time lying on their backs underneath cars (when the car lifting machine is overbooked, which it often is apparently) so they use this mini-mattress-on-wheels to ease their backs. But why oh why adorn it with a hot babe in red knickers, hold-up stockings and a cut-off top? Will lying on her somehow make the mechanic feel happier about changing the oil on my car? Will she help him remember his spanner, thus saving him a potential extra bump on the head as he slides back out to get it? Surely her presence can only hinder the mechanic’s work. What if he is so excited by her that he lies face-down on her, and then can’t find where the car is? What if he has an erotic accident and is then too embarrassed to stand up and has to lie under the motor until the garage shuts? What if the mechanic is a she? And what if she isn’t particularly turned on by other women? And who the hell at Facom headquarters had the idea of putting a life-sized sexy-looking woman on a piece of garage apparatus anyway?

All these questions went racing through my admittedly understimulated mind. I took a photo of her to ponder over the matter further and to share her beauty with you. Yes, she is slightly cross-eyed, but wouldn’t you be, lying under cars all day? One of the mechanics in the garage looked a little uncomfortable when I took the photo. I asked if my car was ready. He said yes, but it was still up on the car-lifting-thingy. “That’s fine, I’ll drive it off”, I replied. “Erm, usually we drive the cars off” he said nervously. But it was too late, Lady Facom’s existence had pissed me off and I was determined to show him that a woman could handle the manoeuvre. I climbed up into my car, started it up and backed it down off the ramp. He looked relieved. I thanked him and drove off. I am planning on breaking into the garage one night and glueing scratchy iron bristle-brushes onto Lady Facom’s fanny and underarms.

Plan B

Sometimes I feel my Plan A is not working. Plan A being : raise my two gorgeous children with father of aforementioned children in happy, loving, open-minded family atmosphere, see both children off to university/decent jobs, go travelling together, go grey together, enjoy each other’s company and get really good at cryptic crosswords and/or cultivating rhododendrons

However, for the past couple of weeks Plan A has not being going to plan.

L’Homme is currently suffering from Technician-On-Tour Syndrome (T.O.T.S) which basically means he gets so used to living a life of freedom and adult organisation/social codes/wild fun, that he can’t adapt to life with a strong-minded, loud-mouthed woman, two small, bouncy kids with high-pitched squeals and a creaky, deaf labrador when he comes home. He is no longer capable of taking other living entities into account. All runs smoothly as long as I happen to be in agreement with EVERYTHING he suggests, but the moment I have an alternative thought on something – anything – it could be a tiny weeny minor detail such as what plate to put the potatoes on, I metamorphose into a SHE-DEVIL HELL-CAT. How dare I suggest something that he doesn’t agree with? What kind of a maniac am I? I should be concentrating on “making things simple”, which means basically never having a single thought/opinion/urge that isn’t neatly aligned with his own. And what the hell am I doing out of the kitchen/laundry-room/mop-room anyway?

At times like this I secretly work on Plan B. This involves my friend Ms. Harila (who is an anagram). Her man suffers from the same awful syndrome.

Plan B would mean the two of us moving in together, with our kids, and spending our days giggling, drinking tea and then coffee, organising absolutely everything that could possible be organised, having ideas and exchanging them freely without being subjected to eye-rolling, putting 80’s pop bands in order of hairstyle ridiculousness, eating muesli for lunch, swimming in the pool, swimming in the river, painting our toenails, reading books, drinking wine in the evenings and enjoying life without the stress of (French theatre technician) male life-partners. We would have many lovers which we would swap and then chuck out when they started to get annoying. We would grow old happily as Nila, Tommy and Léonie grew up in our loving care.

Meanwhile, our blokes would be forced to live together and would kill each other by the end of the year  month  week for not agreeing on how thickly one should slice the saucisson. We would feel slightly remorseful but would soon get over it and order a load more second-hand Booker prize novels on Amazon.
Well, it makes me smile anyway.
Ah, I feel better already!

Ball-breaker

Léonie has a best mate. Although she doesn’t know he is her best mate. Only we grown-ups know that Léonie and Rémi are best mates. We have made this assumption because Rémi’s parents and L’Homme and I get along rather well and also because Léonie and Rémi were born just three weeks apart. So of course the babies will be chummy chums – OF COURSE they will, and it will make going on holiday together in the years to come so much easier. Léonie and Rémi however, are doing their best to scupper this potentially sweet relationship, Rémi by vomiting at Léonie’s feet, and Léonie through physical torture. They had a bath together last night and we parents crowded around them, cameras in hand,  smiling and cooing “how lovely they are”, “qu’est ce qu’ils sont mignons”. And then Rémi started frowning. And then gurning. Really gurning. Impressive, competition-winning gurning. And then he burst into tears. “Oh come on Rémi” cooed his maman, “What’s wrong? Look at Léonie playing! Here’s a toy!” and we tried to make him look as cheerful as Léonie. But Rémi was unconsolable and it was only when we looked a bit closer that we saw Léonie had rammed her foot into Rémi’s groin, crushing his little “zizi” and thus inflicting much pain upon her little friend. We rearranged their legs and feet and all was well in the world, until Léonie shifted back into her original position and quite happily continued to squish Rémi’s bits to kingdom come. And then she turned around to the camera and did a typical French raspberry sound with her lips which roughly translated means “Am I bovvered?”.

As Rémi’s papa said “Si jeune et déjà casse-couille”. Translation : “So young and already breaking balls”. I should hope so. Like mother, like daughter.

... erm ...

... ow ... (Léonie: "me? I'm not doin' nuffin'.")

.. OW! OW! ... (Léonie: 'Yeah? Wassup boy?')

(It’s nothing personal, Rémi. I know you’ll get your own back soon.)

"Yeah? Am I bovvered? Nah. Pthpthpppppp" (raspberry sound)

Onion head

Having gone for the chop in March and then re-chopped in May, July, and September, I have decided that I am bored with my short hair. So, off I embark on a long, embarrasing journey of hair-growing. This will of course mean going through various stages of very dodgy haircuts,

At the moment I resemble an onion.  Or a Beatle. The Paul McCartney type.


L’Homme thinks I look more like a mushroom.

If I blow dry my hair I look like Princess Diana.

I would rather look like an onion or a mushroom than Princess Diana.

Soon my hair will grow a few inches and I will look like Purdey.

(now, she really does look like a mushroom).

And then I’ll be more of a George Harrison Beatle.

And then a Stone. A Rolling One.

But at the moment it is definitely an onion look. When I said this to a couple of my friends the other day, the male one of the two cracked up. I thought it was because I had made an absolutely spot-on judgement concerning my haircut and the vegetable it is best at imitating, but no. It turns out that in French “onion” means “vagina”. It took me a few minutes to understand why. I ran through a few theories in my head. Do French fannies smell of onions? Are onions used for curing venereal diseases? Do most French men cry when they have sex?  (Not the ones I’ve met … maybe I’m doing something wrong. Or right). Is it to do with peeling bits back? Or off? OW. I frowned at my friend questioningly. He grinned and mimed chopping an onion in half and then outlined the pointy-at-both-ends curvy oval form of the layers. Oh. I see. So we could also say that “almond” or “eye” or “certain Christmas decorations” are also nicknames for vagina. In any case, with this context in mind, he finds it very funny that I think I look like an onion.

Coincidentally, that same evening I read Chapter 3 (“I Don’t Know What To Call My Breasts!”) of Caitlin Moran’s new book “How To Be A Woman”. Sister One sent me the book for my birthday and when I read the title I thought “right, so she thinks I’m STILL not a woman, I’m STILL a hardcore tomboy, despite going through pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, a reputation for wearing miniskirts too short to be seen with the naked eye, inventing my own 2-second t-shirt folding technique and wearing rubber gloves on a daily basis.” But when I started reading it I realised that Caitlin Moran is also a hardcore tomboy and that in fact, the term Hardcore Tomboy roughly translates as Strident Feminist. Caitlin may well throw this theory to the ground and mud-wrestle it until it croaks its final splutter, but I think I might have a thing going here – one I need to develop further when I don’t have aubergines burning in the wok. Anyway, Chapter 3 talks about what we call our bits. Our breasts and vaginas. Or rather, what a strange range of words are used by various men, women and wierdos to refer to their bits. Caitlin covers most of them, from Flower to Hole to Minge to La-la to Tinkle to Bush to Honeypot to Flaps to Cunt to Newport Pagnell Service Station (erm, that last one isn’t in her book). It is fascinating, at least to those of us even vaguely interested in fanny etymology. And of course, here in France there is a whole new range of names. “La Chatte”, for a female cat, is the equivalent of our rather soft, yet stale, porn-film-generated ‘pussy’, and in French is quite vulgar, or so L’Homme tells me. “Foufoune” sounds like fanny and is the word children use to refer to their front bottom. So do I actually, probably because I have learnt a lot of my French vocabulary along with my kids. I quite like “touffe” – although it sounds like toffee, NOT a good thing to put down your pants. But “onion”?! I simply cannot imagine ANY Frenchwoman saying “I must get my onion looked at by my gynaecologist”, or “I shouldn’t have waxed my onion just before going swimming”. Oh, of course – the women don’t use this word at all – it’s the men who do.

In this context, my unfortunate hairstyle, which I have taken to referring to as “onion head” or “tête d’oignon”, may well, to French ears, sound like a sexual technique. This is not what I want to imply. I simply think I look like a common or garden onion. Not a look to boast about, I know, but it’s quite a liberating feeling to go out into the big wide world looking slightly ridiculous and not being able to do anything about it. You just accept it and get on with things. And a lot less lorry drivers ogle at you. Or at your onion.

(Footnote : the French can’t believe we use the word “Fanny” to refer to their “foufoune”. There are about  a thousand new little baby Fannys born each year in France.)