I’M JUST GOING OUT to buy a bra. So why do I feel like I’m headed for a colonoscopy?
Being firmly, though not so much anymore, of the braless generation, I am not totally unfamiliar with undergarments. But the only bra I possess of the non-sports variety (a modest concession to time and gravity) is a hot pink push-up number purchased 20 years ago.
It’s in pristine condition but just won’t suit my Mother of the Bride Dress, a black gown with a rhinestone doodad closing the faux wrap front. It’s a heavyweight jersey and as close as I could get to pajamas.
While The Bride breathed a sigh of relief that I selected something other than black pants, she pointed out that the visible combination of back lines from my ancient bra and the top edge of the essential Spanx just would not do, even if I spent the evening with my back against the wall.
How can this be?! I have no back fat! Whereforth do I bulge? While my thighs and midsection might be well-larded, I have a fine back, or so I’m told by my princely husband. I don’t spend much time looking at it so I gratefully take his word.
But, apparently, if the poitrine, as they so glamorously call it in French, is not hoisted, I look like a Renaissance painting of a mother in waiting. You know the ones, with the hands demurely clasped above the swollen belly–just add jowls, and a scowl.
My friend Kathleen swears that a proper brassiere is a life-altering experience. Make it one of those body-shapers, as they’re so coyly called (a girdle? Heaven forbid!) and the abdominal swelling will be magically diminished as my breasts proudly rise. Clothing will hang sveltely and line-free. I will be magnificent.
So we are off to Nordstrom at Tysons Corner, which has, Kathleen says, the mother lode of foundation garments. A storage room so vast, she assures me, that various hoists and compression agents are stacked floor to ceiling–she caught a glimpse of it one day when the door was left ajar.
Alas, Nordstrom disappoints. While there are lovely, lacy, dainty items in abundance, the selection for the (oh lord) matron is lacking.
Now, let’s be perfectly clear: I am not fat. I am, in fact, still several sizes below the Average American Woman. But getting into the available body-shapers was like stuffing a sausage casing. How are they supposed to get on, anyway? I tried pulling one over my head and my arms were jammed into my ears. A full-length number got stuck between my knees and my hips.
Two gorgeous bustiers were a total bust, even with a foot-on-the-rear maneuver by Kathleen trying to get the little hooks latched. Even if it fitted I’d require a lady’s maid.
By then, I was beyond shame. Kathleen and the saleswoman were no longer speaking to me; they consulted each other as they stripped one thing off and pulled on another, then headed off for larger sizes. Larger Sizes!
On I struggled, staring at the mirror in misery, pushing this bit of flab here, that bit there, and then noticing in horror the sign on the wall informing me that Nordstrom’s staff monitored the dressing rooms. So I sat in a corner, and pondered my mismatched socks.
Who are these things made for? Anyone who can tug one on can’t possibly need it.
And the ones that fitted me? They looked like something my Aunt Ruthie used to fold her pendulous boobs into in the cabana dressing room.
You want mortification? I thought Nordstrom prided itself on its broad array of sizes. I guess that’s just the shoes.
Kathleen finally arrived with a pretty lace thing that would do the job if it were only a bit bigger, and they can order it and I can try it at home, if I can flag someone down in the street to assist with the hooks . . . so I do, and consider myself done.
But I’m not! Macy’s is next. Kathleen is indefatigable in this quest. If she hadn’t towed me out here, I’d have left an hour and a half ago.
Macy’s is, in fact, good! Almost immediately I see something that resembles an armored black tank top with a built-in chest. It goes on, and is not even the largest available size, which could be its greatest selling point besides being 20 percent off. I’m willing to instantly whip out my credit card, though Kathleen insisted I sit and bend and hop around like I’m dancing to make sure it didn’t make a gradual creep up my torso.
I now almost have two undergarments, but since I’m going on a diet in the morning I’m not removing any tags.