Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Pencil Test

There's a new boutique down the street called "The Pencil Test." It's a bra shop, named after the antique advice that if you can hold a pencil under your breast, you need a bra. The word "need," here, is in the context of adolescence, which operates under strict social rules, rules that are absorbed by the adolescent quickly and so thoroughly that she can remember them fifty years later even if she is foggy about everything else. This is why I can recall exact uniforms associated with the caste system of Williamsburg Junior High. Outfits from Villager and Ladybug secured with a circle pin put you at the very top, and Lerner's knockoffs kept you just above the Untouchables. Anyway, the pencil test serves as the last opportunity to get with the program, although there are plenty of opportunities to jump in early via the Training Bra. The training bra is employed at a stage when the only thing that needs holding up is the child's social standing. It's there to fend off mockery and introduce her to needless discomfort early, lest her childhood be squandered on joy. A true training bra would be much more useful late in life when the little wheels might help keep things from sliding off the sides.

I don't think there is a jockstrap pencil test for adolescent boys, and it's just as well. They'd be dropping that pencil every ten minutes.

One good thing about the moment you need a bra is that, theoretically, it coincides with the time you no longer need a pencil holder. In truth I never used a pencil holder. That was one of the ten items on the list of school supplies we were required to show up with in first grade. I remember going shopping for them. It was thrilling. I didn't own much. But now I had pencils, a plastic zip pencil holder, a perfect rectangular gum eraser with the brand name still visible on it, and a composition book with a black-and-white nubbly pattern on the cover. The pencil holder presided over the successful transfer of my pencils to my very own desk in first grade, and that was the extent of its service. Not too many years later, I was growing my own.

That's an interesting time. I hadn't really paid much attention to boobs until they showed up in the adolescent school supply list along with nervous tics and Clearasil. When it comes to boobs you're at the mercy of genetics, but you're not clear about that. It's all a mystery: when are they going to start? And then, when are they going to stop? You check yourself out in the mirror every day to see how the project is coming along. In fact, that was what I was doing the very last time my father opened my bedroom door without knocking, producing a flash of intense embarrassment all around, tinged with--on my side, at least--remorse that Daddy's little girl was leaving home and there was nothing I could do to stop her. On the plus side, progress was being made. In the absence of actual money, with which I could have bought a Villager outfit, I was finally able to develop some social currency of my own. Before long I was able to transport a boxed set of Prismacolor pencils, 128-count, with no hands, should the need arise.

That's undeniably handy, but it doesn't stop there. Many of us have proven to be able to grow entirely new body cavities over the course of our lifetimes, allowing us to cache contraband in our own back folds. I'll give myself another ten years and I'll be able to line up all my pencils one by one down my front and roll them all up jelly-roll style, tucking in between a pair of chins. By that time nobody will be looking anyway, and it beats carrying a purse.

81 comments:

  1. I think you may have solved my "how-do-I-kit-myself-for-sketching-en-plein-air?" problem. Thank you.

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    1. If you can get anything on you to fold out into an easel, let me know.

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  2. "... and it's just as well. They'd be dropping that pencil every ten minutes." LOL!

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  3. We never used the pencil test; we just used the "run upstairs" test. If you can run upstairs and it doesn't hurt, you can go without a bra. Women in my family really don't have the option. I needed a bra before training bras were invented.

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    1. I needed one before I got one, for sure, but what really hurt was trying to tell my mom we needed to go to the store, because we didn't talk about things like that.

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    2. oh, yes--been there. I had a navy blue cardigan that I wore over everything--every day to cover up what was happening to me. And I snuck one of my sister's old bras because my mom--didn't talk about it other than to insist I was too young to need a bra.

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  4. I heard that in a sorority competition, Pamela Anderson was able to hold a hair-dryer. And that's before she was fully developed.

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    1. Afterwards, she could hold the kind you stretch over your rollers.

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  5. I was sipping on a freshly brewed very nice cup of tea -- until I came to your broomstick picture mid-slurp and so laughed inopportunely... Bra's wet, boobs too ... ;-)

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    1. Was that the Blog-Fodder who found that for me?

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    2. Guilty. Glad you finally got this one posted. I drank my coffee BEFORE I started reading it. Learning.

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  6. Well according to this test I still don't need a bra! So I'm taking my little 34 A+ boobs out of here :)

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  7. Nothing I can think of to say here will do anything but get me into trouble. So, if you don't mind, I'll pass.

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    1. And, of course, you're well known for staying out of trouble!

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  8. Glad I still don't need one, but only time will tell.

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  9. Dare I make a comment? Whatever happened to the good ol' days of "lift and separate"?

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    1. They have been replaced by "Lift higher and smush together."

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    2. This TV ad drew my attention from Grandma doing mending. I'd cringe, shrink, and keep watching; she could see me watching . . . the ad! "Hey, hey, Grandma's in the room here!," my little 7-year old 1958 voice would cry out inside. I was embarrassed for her. BTW I know a guy, from New Jersey, whose family business was manufacturing lace. Mmmm hmmm. That's right.

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    3. Little-known fack: I once worked for a bra manufacturer called "Graceform Corset Company" in Worcester, Massachusetts. I interviewed for the job late at night in the boss's office. His desk was crammed with mannikin busts. Something about the whole scene didn't feel right, but I was too young to trust my instincts.

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  10. I still remember the look on my older brother's face when he first saw me wearing a bra (I was walking from the bathroom to my bedroom to finish getting dressed). It was priceless. If his jaw had fallen any further, he would have needed surgery to put it back up.

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    1. But how many pencils could he have held under his chin?

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  11. Where did you get that hysterical picture of the woman with the broom under her boobs? OMG! I remember sending away for the Mark Eden Bust Developer. The pink clam. Can remember how many damn springs I went through, but all I got were some wicked biceps.

    So now Chrome is not letting me comment here, but IE is. Go figure...

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    1. Mark Eden! I forgot all about that. I wasn't sending away for anything on 50 cents/hour babysitting cash, but I do remember pushing my hands together, to the rhythm of "we must...we must...we must increase our bust."

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    2. "...the bigger the better, the tighter the sweater, we must develop the bust!" OMG- the first time I heard that I didn't know what they were talking about- all my family inherited the DD+ sizes from Gramma.

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  12. I'd shop there just because I love the name. And I did those exercises, too.

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    1. A whole generation of young women with massive pectoral muscles and tiny titties floating on top.

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  13. Blogger hates me. It posted my comment, the comment appeared in the thread... and then it ate it the next time I refreshed. I wasn't even being rude(for a change).

    Hmm, maybe that's the problem.

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    1. Hell, I don't know what the problem is. Just after midnight, I went to Murrmurrs to tidy up or something and Google informed me it didn't exist anymore. They'd "taken it down." Not without a fight, I'm tellin' ya. I had to get them to call me with a verification code before they'd let it go, and it finally showed up, damp, with rope burns and amnesia. A horror.

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  14. I don't care for the pencil rule, not one bit. In fact, I don't really think bra's are useful. They should be treated as the useless junk they are.

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    1. Well, I did at one point have to wear one if I wanted to drive on a bumpy road, or walk downstairs. So they weren't completely useless.

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    2. John, how many 60 year-old, 40 lbs overweight women are you thinking about here? The change happens, the collagen goes, the girls drop, and if I didn't have a bra on, I couldn't make sudden turns without getting thrown off balance.

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    3. Roxie,

      I do not attach my fantasies to any specific target, which invariably ruins them. I hope that helps.

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    4. I always try to keep my fantasies removable, too.

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    5. Thank you, John. I feel so much better now. ;-)

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  15. What an uplifting post, Murr!

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  16. Oh, I recall the days of waiting to be able to "qualify" to wear a bra, then the days of rebellion in not wearing a bra. Now I am to the days of testing the tensile strength of lingerie fabric. Life marches on........

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    1. I'm thinking of skipping the whole thing and just applying absorbent tissue underneath. It's not like it would slip out.

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  17. Fun fact: in classic film animation, a "pencil test" referred to footage shot of pencil drawings to study how well an animated sequence flows before committing those drawings to ink and paint. Had Walt Disney (whose studio developed the idea) known what "pencil test" would refer to in the future, he probably would turn over in his freezer!

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    1. Another fun fack: my dad refused to let me watch "Wide World of Disney."

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  18. Ah, memories of training bras ... never thought that I'd be wearing underwire now just to avoid stepping on 'em ...

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  19. I LOVE that last photo! A woman who can hold a broom under her set is worthy of the highest respect.

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    1. Or a vacuum cleaner, except you're always trailing the cord.

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  20. When I visited South Africa two summers ago, I learned that the pencil test has a very ugly meaning there. During apartheid, the pencil test was used to assess whether a person has Afro-textured hair. A pencil was pushed through the person's hair. How easily it comes out determined whether the person has "passed" or "failed" the test. The test was partially responsible for splitting existing communities and families along perceived racial lines. Its formal authority ended with the end of apartheid in 1994. It remains an important part of South African cultural heritage and a symbol of racism.

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    1. Ugh. Lordy. Suggests a new pencil test, wherein a pencil is rammed in one ear to see if there's anything stopping it from coming out the other.

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  21. When I left for college, a treasured part of my new wardrobe was a matching set of underwear in lime green. The top was a bra, of course; the bottom was a long-leg girdle with removable garters. I weighed about 98 pounds at the time, with very little to hold up or in. I wish I'd kept them for posterity. I certainly didn't wear them out with overuse. Very soon pantyhose and burn-the-bra made them totally anachronistic, socially unacceptable items that even the Goodwill didn't want.

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  22. Amazing, isn't it, that two glandular gatherings get such attention at all ages?

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    1. 'Tis. Now if they would only STAND at attention.

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  23. The pencil test -- taks a fellow back. Speaking of adolescent boys, in their warped and hormonal take on the world, social cachet could be enhanced by a girlfriend with big boobs. In which case, with my wife, I am finally a winner. I think she'd fail the PT.

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    1. If that were true, I would have gotten more dates.

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  24. Ahhh, I remember ordering a bust developer exercise machine when I was 16. I would exercise with my friends singing, " We must, we must, we must build up our bust. The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater, the boys are depending on us."
    Now, if I go without a bra and if I lean over, I have what looks like 2 large uddeers swaying in my line of sight! And if I turned suddenly, I might knock someone over! Even with a bra, my "ladies" seem to always be gazing dejectedly at the ground. Perk up ladies, I say, but they do not listen! *sigh*

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    1. Whoa! Apparently I didn't know all the lyrics!

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  25. oops! I meant udders...they are not deer (dear) to me any longer. And when I remove my bra, they drop down like bowling balls headed for my toes!!

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  26. I am udderly without a comment.

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  27. Hey Murr! Good grief, I had no idea this was so complicated. But as a former pencil-dropper, I;m still willing to learn. Indigo

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    1. Oh honey. You're not dropping them now?

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  28. "I don't think there is a jockstrap pencil test for adolescent boys, and it's just as well. They'd be dropping that pencil every ten minutes."

    that's hilarious, because it's true!


    and that last picture = PRICELESS

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    1. Is that another word for "free off the internet?"

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  29. HORK!!! I burned all my bras and started using a computer instead of a pencil. Not only can I avoid the lingerie department, I don't even have to write a check to go shopping on the internet. Fortunately my computer doesn't have a video cam.

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  30. It's a good marketing idea for the fella's too ... to find something that they can shove in their underwear and determine that it's time to buy a new pair of underwear, eh? : )

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    1. They need to shove more stuff in their underwear?

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  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. You're a hoot. Thanks for keeping us ... abreast of the pencil test.

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  33. Hi:
    I just found you thanks to Smitten Image and I think your blog is great. I laughed out loud at your post on bras. I also live in Portland, Oregon. I hope you'll visit me at Chubby Chatterbox sometime. If you do, press the Join button and I'll return the favor. I hope you're having a great week.

    Chubby Chatterbox

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  34. I thought I'd had a firm talk with you about sneaking up and snapping photos of me when I'm doing my sweeping.

    Like to scare the life out of me.

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  35. Well hopefully that broom also flies so it can serve double duty on Halloween!

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  36. oh my word! too funny! i've always been a 'blessed' girl who could have carried a broom or two at one time. congrats on your POTW!

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  37. I forgot about the carry effect. I had an aunt who carried cash always.

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  38. Thanks for the awesome post! Hilarious and real all at the same time!

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