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Bras or Bust

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Eight days ago, I marched down the dreaded gray hallway of the department store dressing rooms to face my mirror. I had finally admitted the chafing I suffered around the hoist line of my bras was not completely due to dry skin. They were stretched out. The season had come again, as it always does, for my mandatory hunt for the sling things we call braziers. The inevitable bra shop was in progress. Hands down, it’s the most heinous of our female obligations—even over the yearly Pap smear and boobagram.

You have a reason to resent your maker when you make this trip into the ladies department. No matter how nice the lighting, or how well the mirrors are distorted, you get a nice long look at yourself in that mirror. Maybe as a rock star, you could avoid all of this if your personal shopper told you how fantastic you looked as she attended to you in your swanky dressing room in your Beverly Hills mansion. But the mirror mirror on this wall wasn’t telling me any lies that fateful day a week ago when I stripped from the waist up to try on whatever styles the manufacturers were hawking this year.

The proverbial moment of truth settled down with a thud on the floor of that dressing room. Nearly knocked me over. My forty-four-year-old had a baby at thirty-eight but never lost the weight belly was staring back at me, defiant and droopy. My newest horror is the weird, sagging, gelatinous texture of my skin as the collagen evaporates. Expensive prescribed narcotics might have softened this blow. Although being slumped in the corner giggling would have made all manner of things nice and fine, including the bras, I had adult decisions to make about who I could agree go steady with for a year.

My collective remembrance of these hard trips has caused me to strategize slightly. My first bra-buying trip tip is to never go it alone. Even better if your compatriot is bra shopping too, because you’ll both want to cry, but won’t for the other person’s sake. This year, I enlisted the help of a woman who was exactly the right person to ask. She was willing to walk all the bras I’d picked back out to the department floor and find the D-cup versions in the racks. Apparently, when you get bigger and droopier, your cups runneth over. If I had had to put my clothes back on and go back out on the floor to look for more styles and colors and sizes, I probably would have walked out. Honestly, buying her lunch and sending her a thank-you note wasn’t nearly enough to express my gratitude.

My second tip is to know that the sixth bra you try on will be the first one that actually works. Adjust your expectations accordingly and you’ll waylay the losing-it part of the program, allowing a greater chance to score what you came for: a bra that fits. No runner, no problem.

My next suggestion would be to get that professional bra lady to help you actually size yourself correctly. These department store damsels have their certificates of knowledge and legitimacy hanging on the dressing room wall attesting to their competence. Good to know. I read a statistic once that said the majority of women are cruising around in a wrongly sized bra. Like me, with the C cup. Go figure. I politely declined my friend’s suggestion to utilize this service. We’d already figured out my cup mistake. And lastly ladies, it seems self-explanatory to suggest you not attempt this feat when you’re PMS-ing, bloated, and ready to cry any second. That’s insulting to the injuriousness of the event.

The bras were BOGO bras: buy one and get one half off. This means I paid twenty-four dollars apiece. I went ahead and bought six because I suspected that, like shoes, once you get them out of the store and take them for a test-drive, something won’t feel right. And it’s an experienced paranoid person that thinks this way. Sure enough, the only black one I had gotten received the first veto. My rack was slightly wider than the outer most width of the cup holders. Didn’t ever think of that dimension. There should be a spread width as well as a cup size and a rib circumference.

The next to get the bums rush back to the shopping bag were the wired and padded things. I’d impressed with myself by saying yes to the leopard pattern. At the end of wearing each of these identical bras, and after making every effort to adjust wherever possible, I felt like I was being poked and prodded front and back. I can put up with only one annoying pinchy stimulus at a time. The eyehook flap cover was rubbing. And there was a jabbing sensation on my shoulder blade. Sayonara and see ya later.

Half of my bras were back in a bag where I had carefully placed the tags when I’d cut them off in anticipation of their failure and betrayal. And I’m pretty sure the last three are okay. The padded push-up is actually fun and mostly comfortable. And the underwire with fabric in nude and white were just this side of right. I wondered if that would change if I lost the weight I have been intending to lose. And I figured, if I do lose that weight, I’m buying myself a whole new wardrobe and going to Disney World on the same credit card that bought these blessed bras. Meanwhile, I think I’ll trade the losers in for one of those foundation garments that hold my tummy in, otherwise known as a girdle. They’re only like forty bucks and I’m thinking a girl should get the help anyway she can get it. I’ll still keep up with my ab-sculpting video, I promise.

Fact is, your girls are going south for the winter. But, other than you, the only ones that have to know and see this are your husband and the ladies at the YMCA pool. Bras that fit you, flatter you, and are comfortable and not dingy will make a difference in your posture and esteem. Do not give up—good and true bras do exist. In some cases, they cost more, and in others, more patience will be required in their procurement. Over the shoulder boulder holders are a necessary evil. Like a mate. Prepare for the hunt and you may come away bleeding but victorious. Maybe a new pair of shoes will ease the pain.


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