I was going to start this post with a warning to some sensitive or squeamish souls, that there might be TMI in this post…but then I thought nah, fuck that; most of you have learned to expect and appreciate that you’re gonna get overshares and f-bombs in this neck of the woods. So no more TMI warnings!
Now that that’s out of the way and we are all on the same page, let me tell you about what happened today. First, context is important: women have these pots of fat on their chests that, for whatever reason, have established themselves as symbols of womanhood and sexiness (which is a mystery to me; they are for feeding babies and seem to be of no other use whatsoever.) But, we tend to define ourselves, our femaleness, and our worth as women, at least in part by the appearance of our breasts. So it comes as a bit of an insult when, if we lose a bunch of weight in pursuit of leanness and strength and better health, our breasts take a proportionally bigger hit than the rest of our bodies.
Now, if you’re like me and have gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years (not even exaggerating a little bit there), have done pregnancies, childbirth, lactation/nursing, and are closer to your fortieth birthday than your twentieth….your girls have some mileage on them. A lot of mileage. They’re tired and need some serious support.
Lately I don’t pay much attention to my boobs, except when I’m working on Olympic weightlifting in the gym and I am trying not to slam the bar into them. (Most of the time I avoid it but I have on occasion laid a beating on them that leaves all three of us crying a little bit.) Years ago I discovered the one sports bra that seems to work for me, I have a few of them, and I wear them every damn day. I don’t own a single dressier, ‘normal’ bra…or rather, I didn’t – until today.
What changed, you ask? Well, lately I’ve been noticing that my bras don’t fit me the way they used to, which is to be expected since I’ve lost, oh, pretty close to fifty pounds since I last went bra shopping. It was time. I gathered up my courage and headed to the mall.
Let me stress here that I hate shopping. I hate it. My usual action plan is to swoop into whatever store I am SURE has what I want, grab it without any thought to shopping around or getting the best deal or whatever, and get the fuck out of there as fast as I can. I followed the usual formula today: scoot into Victoria’s Secret, grab a couple of sports bras in the style I always buy but one size smaller, and go line up to check out…except that this little voice in my head whispered “psst: you should really try those on – what if they’re the wrong size?”
That little voice had a point, so back to the fitting room I went, where a very tiny, very helpful girl named Debbie (honestly I can’t remember her name so that’s what I’m calling her) offered to measure me and make sure I was trying on the right size. This seemed like a solid idea, so I obliged…and was surprised to learn that I’ve actually dropped two sizes instead of one. She brought me a couple of ‘fitting bras’ just to make sure we had the sizing right (one fit and one kinda didn’t) and asked me some questions about the bras that I normally wear. I confessed that I’m a trainer, I live in sports bras and didn’t actually own any, you know, ‘normal’ bras.
This piece of information was unacceptable to Debbie. She whisked away and was back in a flash with an armful of lacey hardware which she deposited in my fitting room, saying things like “I’m SO excited for you to try this one…SO pretty…push-up padding…unlined lace…blah blah…and here’s a sports bra since you look like you’re shopping for those too.”
Okay, I thought. Be a good sport. Clearly there’s a thing called a push up that doesn’t involve using your arms and pectoral muscles to push your body off the floor. Keep an open mind and maybe this will be fun. I picked up the first one and put it on. It was kind of a basic T-shirt bra – not bad at all. I can do this, I thought. Next I put on the sports bra – also okay but it was a two-layered thing with a front closure and then a zipper on the outer layer. Wait, a zipper? On a bra? Nope, I thought – not feeling that one. I moved on to a padded thing that squished my girls up under my chin. Huh – this would take some getting used to but…maybe? I moved around a little bit and promptly fell out in all directions. Next? A lace demi-cup bra that looked pretty on the hanger but felt scratchy and awful with human tatas in it. One by one I tried on all of them, and by the time I was done I was sweaty, exhausted, and hated the sight of my poor, sad, almost forty-year-old breasts. Also I felt guilty for what I was putting them through – they were red and scratched and didn’t belong in any of those strangely-shaped packages I was forcing them into. Enough already. I put on my two-sizes-too-big-sports bra and was about to get dressed, when Debbie knocked at the door.
“How’s it going? What do you think of them? Any winners so far?” she asked eagerly. I opened the door and she entered with another armload of bras. “Here’s one I think you’ll really like…blah blah..GORGEOUS…you’re going to love this one…blah blah.” I replied weakly that the t-shirt bra was okay but the rest weren’t really me. She hung up about twenty more bras on the wall and enthusiastically entreated me to show her how they looked once I had them on. “Okay, awesome! Thanks so much!” I heard myself say.
Now. Let me stress here that Debbie was damn good at her job. She also clearly enjoyed helping people find something pretty they could like themselves in. She had all the right motives and I appreciated that about her…which is why I couldn’t make myself say “actually, I’m done – no part of me wants to hang out in here, half naked, judging and comparing the appearance of my boobs in different underthings.” I didn’t get the feeling that she’d understand that I stay sane by actively avoiding looking too closely in the mirror, and that thought, when it hit me, sounded just…sad. What had happened to me? When did I get so…fuddy duddy? What happened to my joie de vivre?
Dammit, I am going to do this and like it, I thought. I grabbed the first bra and put it on. It was an unlined lace balconet – again, pretty on the hanger but reminiscent of a large reptile in a tutu on me. Tears threatened. Nope, I thought. Done. How do I explain that I cannot do this anymore and get out of here without hurting her feelings or dissolving into a weepy mess myself?
Somehow I made it out of there – I scored a couple of sports bras that fit properly AND I made Debbie happy by selecting a couple of rather basic-looking but pretty everyday bras which I can even see myself wearing someday. Added bonus: bra shopping is done for at least another year. Fingers crossed.