Fitting in as a Swedish teenager in England was difficult. I was shy and awkward. My hobbies (listening to difficult techno on my Walkman) didn’t match the other girls’ hobbies (listening to Take That loudly from the back of the school bus) I had no idea how to dress, or act, or talk.

The first small breakthrough came when the TV programme The X-Files first launched in the UK. Suddenly, there were a few of us who would get together before English Lit once a week to discuss the gruesome plot of the previous night’s episode with genuine enthusiasm. Then came a discovery that would elevate me from my place of frumpy geek into the coveted position of (almost) Normal Girl.

Enter the Wonderbra. This magic garment did more for my self-esteem than eight GCSEs in a foreign language. I wore the wrong size, fitted wrong, with the little cushions escaping all over the place. But it didn’t matter. I felt wonderful. Suspecting that I was onto a good thing, I then made a further discovery. In my local shopping centre, there was a shop just for bras. This was a bright, welcoming place, where the shop assistants treated our The X-Files clique like we were all Normal Girls.

So, we bought bras. Usually in the wrong size, pretty much exclusively on sale, and never with the matching knickers. These precious garments were wrapped in lovely tissue paper, placed inside paper bags, and scattered with scented beads. This wasn’t just a newfound luxury. It was a rose-scented step towards adulthood. And I felt like I finally fitted in. It still took until the mid-00s for me to realise my real bra size. But by this point I was moving on to seamless bralettes anyway. Because real and lasting friendships don’t chafe.

Maria Smedstad bio Scan Magazine

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