For three years now, all my shopping for clothes has been done with a toddler in tow. Needless to say, it’s been awful for my wardrobe. But — recently, at least — it’s done wonders for my figure.
About two months ago, I dragged MJ to the Americana Mall for a whirlwind shopping run. I needed shorts, tee shirts, possibly some shoes, and definitely some bras. The latter was the most pressing. The three bras I did own had been purchased only a year before, but I’d managed to wear them out pretty thoroughly. One of them was so trashed that the wire under the cups had broken through the fabric. Every time I wore it it stabbed me repeatedly in the chest. The other two were close behind. It was time to replace them. And I meant to go to the same store I’d gotten them at to do so.
True, they were clearly cheaply made, but they’d also fit me really well. For one thing, I’d brought my sister Abigail along when I bought them. Abigail has old fashioned ideas about clothes: like, they should be tried on before purchase. She also turned me on to a new underwear store: Gilly Hicks. It was loud, it was dark, it was filled with sixteen-year-olds pawing through the thong racks, but it had a large selection, plenty of small sizes, and boudoir-like fitting rooms. Best of all, it was not Victoria’s Secret.
We spent 40 or so minutes there — a record for me when it comes to lingerie shopping — and left with three bras that fit me like the proverbial gloves. Until, of course, they grew finger-knives and went all Freddy Kreuger on me.
Anyway. This shopping trip, I thought, would be super easy. Sort of. I mean, shopping is never a painless experience for me — I have the same tortured relationship with clothes that I do with shoes. But I had an advantage this time: I knew my Gilly Hicks bra size. No trying on would be required. I’d snag three replacement pieces in an equivalent number of minutes and be on my way. We’d get out of there long before the loud music could do any permanent damage to MJ’s ears, or I barked a shin on a Rococo chest while trying to navigate my way through the nearly pitch black rooms.
Knowing how easy it would be, I left this part of the trip until last. When all our other errands had been run I dragged MJ to the door of the Gilly Hicks store.
“We’re just popping in, my love,” I said. “Two seconds.” It was nearly dinnertime. We had to be fast.
Zipping in and navigating our way through the labyrinthine rooms, we dodged lithe salesgirls — there were more of them than silk hangers on the racks — and slightly less lithe customers, and made our way to the bra wall. There I was confronted with a vast array of choices, all only dimly visible through the crepuscular light.
“Thirty-four A, thirty-four A,” I muttered, as I ran a finger over the plexiglass shelves. “Thirty-foooooooooooor…ah! Here they are.” Glancing quickly at the colors available to me, I found a simple style and grabbed a white, beige, and blue version. (Navy, to be precise. Gilly Hicks doesn’t “do” black. Heaven forfend.) Holding MJ with one hand and groping my way to the register with the other, I handed the apparently-twelve-year old girl behind the counter my credit card. Tossing her glossy hair, she rang me up. In moments we were heading for the door.
Bursting back into the sunlight, we waited for our eyes to adjust, then raced for the parking structure. It had been a good trip, and I certainly wasn’t going to ruin it by inviting a late-dinner-inspired meltdown.
It wasn’t until some time later that I realized that the bras I’d purchased were not the same as my last ones. For one thing, they were padded. Wildly. Like the bed in “the princess and the pea.” They were also push-up, which, as far as I could tell, meant that the entirety of my breast was being forced inward, upward, and into half the living space it’s accustomed to. Kind of a two-bedroom-to-studio-apartment sort of thing. Of course my boobs, poor creatures, aren’t used to such complexities. They’d prefer to just get a Starbucks and wait outside on the stoop.
And still, I had to wear them. They were all I had. They still are. And when I wear them, I look like Marlene Dietrich. And not in a good way.
Neither Mike nor I can get accustomed to it. He walked into the kitchen a couple of nights ago when I was wearing a particularly fitted tank top. He stopped, cocked his head, and said “has something changed about you?”
“It’s the bra,” I sighed. “Remember?”
“Oh, right!” he said. “I thought maybe you got a haircut? But — ”
“It’s the bra.”
“Right,” he said. “It still gets me sometimes.”
“Me too,” I nodded sympathetically.
Next time I go shopping for bras — probably in about a year — I’ll get to go alone. For better or for worse. Probably for better. There will be no Abigail, it’s true, but no MJ either — she’ll be in school. So, in tribute, maybe I’ll go old school and actually try the bras on.
Or go to a store that has enough lighting to read the labels.