I want to talk to you about bras. Not in a titillating, coquettish way, but in an autistic, sensory way.
I remember when my life changed. When it went from everyday, straightforward, childish friendships, to complicated rules and losing my way. There were red flags on the horizon, but I didn’t see them for what they were, like the curious cat, I drew closer instead of running away.
One of those precursors was the sudden arrival of crop-tops. T-shirts were no longer enough, all the girls – seemingly overnight – had received a transmission from on-high that extra fabric was now required to cover the portion of flesh betwixt neck and stomach.
I complied. It itched. I remember the lace around the edges, horrific and pinchy. I hated it. I lasted two days. That was the first divide. I now had to change for PE in secret, so no one knew I wasn’t a part of the gang. It was one of many ways I found myself trying to cover up the things I needed in order to fit in.
Time passed and bras loomed. I was taken to be measured for one, but the idea of a stranger touching me set off all my alarms, and smelling the fear my mother and the measurer flinched away. In the harsh lights of a glaring changing room, surrounded by moving images of me, I was hurled boxes of scraps of fabric to try on.
More lace. They all had lace. Scratchy and pinching, like a small mammal constantly scrabbling its claws against my chest, I learned to accept one more thing to get through. Just as I had with all the other “one more things” that had come before. Just one more thing scratching for my attention in a sea of things. I slipped beneath the surface and learned to hold my breath for as long as possible before tearing the things from me and gasping for air.
I wore them and grimaced. I wore them in pain. I wore them through good times and bad. Maternity bras whilst nursing, push up bras for partying, t-shirt bras for lounging, sports bras for… lounging as well. I searched for the perfect fit.
This year I think I may have finally succeeded. Thank God for fashions and young people with flat stomachs. The bralette is now a thing. A crop-top-like creation with wide straps and no fastenings. I have found laceless, cotton bralettes that, whilst never being perfect, are as close to perfection as I am likely to reach. I have cut off their labels, and rejoiced.
Bras were created to torture Autistics; this is my firm belief. It’s time Autistic women’s needs are considered in bra design. Smooth seams, wide bands to spread the pressure, breathable fabric, firm support, these are things that need considering.
Perhaps it’s time to burn our bras on a new political stage; for neurodiversity and sensory needs. Bras are revolting. In more ways than one. Vive la revolution.