I have this bra. Gosh, the thing is ugly. Snake print in muted pastel rainbow colors. I’m not sure why Victoria Secret ever designed this bra, or how they managed to sell it, but somehow it made it’s way into my wardrobe and 20 years later, I still have the dang bra. I can’t get rid of it. It’s ugly, but man alive it’s the best.
I wore it one particular day when I was traveling down to a dorm section retreat on the Oregon coast. I was a Bible student virigin. Which means I just wore the bra for me. It wan’t for sharing. It wasn’t to look cute or sexy in. It just was functional and comfortable. Just like the jeans and hoodie I put on over it. A perfect outfit for a long car ride.
Our first stop after leaving campus was to the corner gas station to load up on drinks. It was there I first realized I needed to take care of all the liquid I had already imbibed that day, but gas station bathrooms are gross. I’ll just hold it, I thought. I grabbed an Arnold Palmer, and buckled up for the several hour drive to the coast. (Because I needed more liquid in my system, clearly.)
The 6-lane highway we began on slowly dropped lanes, until the city was far behind us and we found ourselves on a country road. The trees lining the 2-lane road offered our little caravan a welcome solitude away from the bustle of Portland. Besides the somewhat constant reminder that I should have taken advantage of the gas station restroom, it was a pleasant trip, a cold but sunny day, and the company and conversation were good for the soul. In between small towns, with almost nothing close by, our friends driving in the Jeep behind us decide to pass us … and then proceed to attempt to pass the strangers in the white sedan in front of us. Our car sped up, briefly tailing the sedan in front, getting ready to follow our friends’ suit and pass.
It should have been fine. It wasn’t.
The sedan went to make a last-minute left turn without using proper signaling. He also did not realize the Jeep was passing on his left blocking his turn. That is, until it was too late. He slammed on his brakes, and swerved hard to the right. Too hard.
I watched from the backseat as the sedan in front of us skidded sideways across our whole lane. With the Jeep now to our left and a guardrail on our right, there was nowhere for us to go but straight ahead, the space between our cars narrowing more quickly than any of us would like.
As our car crunched into the white sedan’s passenger side, I felt my body shoved forward as though I were being folded into an accordion. In half a second both our cars slammed into the guardrail on my side of the car, preventing us from sliding down a pecipace that would likely have killed us all.
The Jeep thankfully was unscathed, but all it’s occupants got a healthy dose of adrenaline.
My friend sitting next to me did not handle the stress of the crash well, which I could not fault her. She was struggling to catch her breath, and it looked like panic had started to set in. I climbed out of the car, and made my way over to her to hold her hand and talk with her while we waited.
I don’t remember sirens, lights or the arrivals of the firefighters. They just magically appeared. Apparently because we were going somewhere around 60 mph, the EMTS and firefighters expected — and we’re prepared for — an accident much more catastrophic than the two warped cars littering the side of the highway. Every emergency worker there was in “GO” mode.
And nothing made that more apparent than me finally telling a firefighter that my mom wanted to me to go to the hospital and get checked out.
Suddenly, a man came around behind me, and held both sides is my head, his thumbs pressing into my skull at the base of my neck. “Don’t move,” he commands.
I’m a little underwhelmed. I’d already been walking around the crash site, and had climbed in and out of the car multiple times comforting my friend Kathy. I’m pretty sure at this point my neck is NOT broken. Still I did my best to acquiesce.
Another person grabs my shoulders. Then a cop comes over and begins questioning me. Meanwhile the only female firefighter approached me, and asks where my pain is.
I gesture to my right rib cage, as the firefighters admonish my movement. “On my ribs,” I say. “I had the seatbelt under my arm.”
And without so much as a blink, she hoists my shirt up revealing a rainbow-colored snake print bra to a line of firefighters who still have nothing to do but watch their only patient flash them with the world’s ugliest undergarment.
I’ve got this, I think trying to fight the feeling of panic. These are medical professionals. They see this every day. My words did nothing I soothe my nerves as I continued answering the barrage of questions from both the firefighter and police officer. I had never had any man look at me in a bra, let alone multiple men in public. I felt so vulnerable, I might as well have been naked. I tried not to let my discomfort show. Just pretend this is normal, I told myself. Just pretend.
I used to think adults had it altogether. You’re afforded that luxury when you’re not one. But now that I’m a mom and a wife and a professional, and I do this adulting thing day in and day out … I’ve come to realize we are all just standing around, feeling exposed and vulnerable and scared, like I was that day flashing a group of handsome EMTS who were not that much older than me. But we pretend it’s normal, and we’re ok and it’s ok. We deal with everyone questioning us, multiple demands on our time and attention, being held back, sometimes quite literally, dealing with others’ GO modes and agendas …. Doing our best to adult, to parent, to show up at work, to give our best, to engage in friendships. And then the time comes, and it always does come eventually, to lay it all out there.
We’re all just standing around, and I’m showing you what’s closest to my heart and maybe your showing me what’s closer to yours but then again, maybe not … and we’re reminding ourselves this is normal, this is ok, we’ll be accepted. But underneath we know that even though we love cherish what we’re showing you — there’s a very deep fear you’ll only see it for a rainbow-colored snake print bra.
Just pretend, we say, just pretend. I’ve got this. It’s OK. It will all be ok.
Brene calls this vulnerability. I say say sometimes it feels a heck a lot more like exposure.
But in the end … it’s necessary. This baring of our souls, or our undergarments, this undoing of of the layers of pretense, allowing the deep part of ourselves to be seen. To stand courageously by it and say, “This may not be for you. But this is all me. And whether you like it or not, I’m going to be OK.”
PS — BTW, the bathroom choice was probably the worst choice of my life. I was boarded up and sent on an ambulance, even though I was OK. And it was because I was OK that I received no attention at the hospital, and stayed boarded on that bed without the ability to go to the bathroom for hours with the call button laying nicely next to me but out of my reach.
So dear people — if your mama says don’t wear dirty underwear because you might get in an accident …. Change the dang underwear. And if your mama says go to the bathroom in case you get in an accident, you go do what your mama always said. Trust me. Your momma is one smart woman. Just like Brene.