Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Great Christmas Bra Burning of 2012

I burned all of my bras recently.

It's not what you think.

Bra burnings are a myth, by the way. The image of the militant feminist ripping off her bra and setting it on fire to symbolize throwing off the chains patriarchy and oppression is powerful and pervasive in our culture, but the tactic was never actually used by second wave feminists in the 1970s. The myth that feminists burned their bras at protests and demonstrations was started at a 1968 protest at the Miss America pageant, where a small group of women picketed outside the pageant and threw things like make-up, high heels, girdles and bras into a trash can.
A tradition is born!
A then-contributing editor for Ms. magazine, Lindsy Van Gelder, came up with the term "bra burning" to give the burgeoning women's liberation movement more credibility by linking it to the Vietnam War protest tactic of draftees burning their draft cards. But the mainstream press pounced on the idea of a bra burning as an easily-lampooned caricature of the ugly, screeching feminist demanding to be taken seriously as she destroyed her undergarments in public.
Some traditions are overrated.
The only statement I was making when I burned my bras is that my Girl Scout leader may have been mistaken in awarding me me a fire safety badge. Or that my apartment is just really, really small.

When I do laundry, I never dry my bras in the dryer. I re-shape the wet bra cups on my knees and put the freshly cleaned and molded garments on this plastic drying rack that I prop up on the stove. The heat from the pilot light dries the bras very quickly and leaves them feeling crisp and warm against my skin. Few pleasures equal this.
Very few.
I've been drying the bras, and other delicate garments, over my stove for as long as I've lived in this apartment. Frequently, I'll leave the clothes drying while I leave the apartment, never thinking twice about all that plastic and polyester resting inches above the gas burners.

But two days before Christmas, I was putting the freshly washed sheets on my mattress and suddenly heard a bubbling noise, like my electric kettle had come to a boil. But it wasn't yet time for tea. I turned around and poked my head out of my bedroom door, and saw that all the bras were aflame! My first thought was my fire extinguisher, but it was hidden deep in my kitchen cabinet and I didn't know how to work it. So I grabbed the closest thing at hand and began beating the flames to smother them. The melting plastic rack with the burning bras slide to to the floor, and the apartment was flooded with the overwhelming fumes of burning plastic.

The potential for disaster in this situation was great. I was barefoot on a wool rug, hitting a plastic-and-polyester fire with a quilt while surrounded by heaps of freshly laundered bedding and couch pillows. All of my windows were locked for the winter, and because the building sags to one side, the windows sit crookedly in their sills and are hard to open. And I'd removed my smoke detector from the wall just that morning because I'd burned my breakfast toast and didn't want it making noise.

But, as you can probably tell by virtue of this post existing, everything worked out. I'd smothered the fire by the time the bras hit the ground, and the melting plastic splashed on the couch pillows instead of my skin. I opened the windows before I suffocated and cleared the smoke out with the ceiling fan before the neighbors called the fire department. And I put out the last of the fire by doing what I should have done in the first place, which was to pour water on it instead of beating at it with the precious hand-stitched quilt my sister made me for my 17th birthday. My sink even has the hose attachment that could have easily reached the stove if I'd thought about it for two seconds instead of panicking like I did.
I'm a fraud. A fraudulent fraud!
The only bra that survived the inferno was my marvel of modern architecture stripper bra that I wear with my Catwoman costume and my formal wear.
Not mutually exclusive categories.
So as my Daddio said, "I bet you learned something, didn't you?" I'm going to take my power drill and mount my fire extinguisher on the wall, and review the instructions so I actually know how to use it the next time I set a fire in my apartment. I'm going to avoid setting fires in my apartment by not drying things on the stove anymore, even though I'm almost certain that the fire was started because I accidentally turned one of the burners by bumping into it when I put my laundry cart away.

And I'm going to approach bras with a bit more caution, because those suckers when up like fireworks, especially the push-up bras with the little gel packets in the cups. They melted quicker than butter on a hot biscuit. This is what women put against their skin every day of our lives. Think about that the next time you're cooking something, and remember Big Island Rachel's advice: always take your bra off if you're doing something with open flames.

No, I don't know what you'd be doing bra-less around open flames. I'm not here to judge, only advise.

Happy New Year!

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