Now that everyone is talking pretty freely about vaginas these days, I trust no one will mind if today’s subject is bras. I hate them. I have been measured and prodded and fitted for them at least ten times. In 45 years of wearing bras, there was one that was comfortable once for five minutes in a Nordstrom fitting room as long as I didn’t move. And one that I bought from a special bra-making factory that was okay until I washed it.
My friend Nina (rhymes with Dinah) has a riff about how if you don’t mind how it looks you can get a halfway comfortable sports bra but then you get this sausage effect across the front of your chest, or the “Una-boob.” There isn’t an innovative solution for bra discomfort. It’s not like the girdle which was replaced by garter belts, then pantyhose and finally no hose at all except the little footies we try to hide in certain kinds of shoes or the knee highs we think no one can see when we cross our legs under our long skirts.
Girdles were just stupid. When I am out and about signing my book which if you’ve been out of the country is called 99 Girdles on the Wall (buy it here: http://www.elenalouiserichmond.com/99-girdles/ ), I get into lots of conversations with women who remember girdles. When I try to explain girdles to younger women, I emphasize that if you could actually wear a girdle with any degree of comfort, you didn’t need one as you had no fat on your body. If you needed one –like anyone really needed one—which meant you didn’t have the requisite 36-24-36 figure–then you couldn’t wear one. (In those days we didn’t have bodies, we had figures, except that some of us just had bodies.) All a girdle did was squish the fat into the armpits or necks and only one person was fooled.
Some women can go without bras just fine. But for a lot of us going without amounts to floppiness or pain or both. So I spend my days adjusting my bra and taking it off the minute I have an hour of alone time. I hate to think how someone might imitate me in a game of Charades: as someone talking to herself and pulling at her bra. Nice.
Bra fitters have, I think, a different frame of reference than I do. For one thing they keep talking about breast tissue. They reach in there, yammering about fitting the breast tissue to the bra cup. I expect them to run out of the room and push a button as soon as the breast tissue gets settled in the cup. It seems to me that a bra ought to be built to fit the breast and then we could just not talk about it at all.
A bra fitter will not let you out of the store in a bra that you could slide a dime under. They measure you, and then come back with bras four inches tighter than you would ever consider wearing. It becomes a war of wills.
“I want something looser,” I said the last time I put myself through this.
“No. It needs to be snug since you won’t wear the underwires.”
“OK, well I think I won’t buy one today.”
The fitter narrowed her eyes at me. “Wait just a minute.”
She came back before I had time to get dressed, grab my purse and run out of the lingerie section.
“Try this one.”
She showed me a bra with three rows of eyes to hook onto.
“This is the row you’ll hook up most days. By the end of the day you might hook up this middle row. On days you’re feeling bloated you use the last row.”
I bought the bra. I hook one hook onto one eye on the last row of hooks. You can see it pulling out of line, a hook after my own heart. I figure that when it comes out completely I have three more to go through before I have to buy another bra.