Saturday, November 17, 2007


I am whupped.

I've just done two things I absolutely hate doing:

1. Going to the mall

2. Buying bras

So, in a little while I need to spin this...
 take the edge off.

But in the meantime I will tell you about my Saturday morning.

I really hate the mall, but buying a good bra presents a dilemma. It's one thing to pop yourself into a racer-back spandex sports bra from Target before you throw on a tank top or a T-shirt, but when you need a proper bra, so you look pulled-together with a nice sweater or the kind of clothes you wear to a meeting, then you need to go to a well-established department store where there is a Professional Bra Lady available.

And the only place locally where there is a venerable department store is the mall.

(Did I say I hate the mall?)

I also hate buying bras in self-serve places. It's embarrassing, standing around in public holding your future underwear in front of teenage boys and Gawd knows who. And while self-serve underwear stores do have sales clerks, they tend not to have the kind of sales clerks who have decades of experience with the vagaries of the adult female body. Self-serve stores have nice, polite, pretty young sale clerks whose main job is to run the cash register, but who will also show you the bras they think are cute, when what you really want is a bra constructed in such a manner that maybe levee engineers should seriously study the design.

And these nice, polite, pretty young sales clerks have yet to realize that there are three distinct types of bras: sports bras in which to run errands and go to the gym, bras intended to display the body when your clothes are off, and bras intended to make you look good when your clothes are on.

It's not their fault, really. They grew up in the post-Madonna, Britney Spears era, in a world where a bra is also a shirt and where a necktie can be a skirt, and maybe a shoe is a hat.

They are confused.

And that is exactly why I needed to drag myself to the Real Department Store. Because I am forty-six, and my clothes are on almost all the time.

It's not that I mind being middle aged. In fact, I rather like it. Except for a few things, like 20 pounds I don't really need and screwed-up knees, I genuinely love the fact that I can be exactly who I am and not try to be anything but my 100% genuine self, and not berate myself when I fail to be glamorous, hip, ridiculously successful, or otherwise perfect in some utterly unattainable, societally imposed way. And if I do lose 20 pounds and exercise more vigorously, it will be because I want me to feel better and have stronger knees, not because I think life will be magical or I will be Truly Happy or reach some zenith of perfection if only I was in a size 8 again instead of a size 12.

It's blasphemous in America -- it may even be a felony -- to say that you like being middle aged, but I do. I can say exactly and precisely what I think without worrying about what people will think about what I think. This does not mean that I am rude or crass -- okay, maybe on the rarest occasion, if it is richly deserved -- but after all, I am Southern, and the second most important social skill a Southern woman can have is to skin somebody alive with a sweet-tea smile on your face.

Of course, the first most important social skill you can have is to be nice and mean it.
This business of saying exactly what I think is helpful in situations in which, for example, you need to buy a new bra, because maybe you weigh a little more than you did the last time you bought a good-quality, non-sports bra from someplace besides Target.

If you are twenty-four, and you need a bra upgrade because you've had a sit-down job for six years and you have 15 pounds that won't go away and all your bras are screaming for mercy and about to go "sproing..."

Well, if you are twenty-four and that is what's happening, most likely you will walk into the bra department and lurk around for awhile looking at all the little wispy centerfold bras and then when the sales clerk comes up and says, "May I help you...?" The first thing you do is apologize for gaining weight, and the next thing you do is let yourself get talked into a bra you don't want, but the skinny 19-year-old clerk thinks it would be cute on you, and you are too polite to say that you think you would have a bad case of boobular fallout in that particular little piece of gift wrap, or that maybe it would hurt, so you smile and buy it anyway, and you bring it home and hate it.

But if you are forty-six and you need a bra upgrade because you've packed on some winter insulation, you can actually walk up to the 19-year old girl in the bra department and say, "Hon, can you please find me a grown-up lady with a tape measure, and some little glasses on her nose, someone who is preferably named Gloria or Kate or Cynthia, who knows to fit a bra properly and who can direct me to something supportive that will look flattering when my clothes are on, which is most of the time?" And you can say this in such a way that this sweet, skinny little college girl named Heathyr doesn't get offended at all, and actually goes off and produces a certified grownup named Coretta, with +1.5 readers on her nose and a tape measure around her neck. Yes.

And then when Coretta asks you what you need, you can tell her you've packed on a dress size since you last bought a really good bra, and all your bras are so ill-fitting and worn out that you're ashamed to let either your mother or your husband see you change your clothes, and you need a bigger bra please, and maybe a couple because they are on sale, but you need to know exactly how much bigger, because you don't know if you gained weight in the chestal area, the breastal area, or both.

So, Coretta makes you turn around, and scrutinizes you in the exact same way that an insurance assessor looks at a dented car, and she whips her tape measure around you in three or four different directions, then she kindly informs you that you have gained weight only in the breastal area, and to make you feel bettter she adds that maybe you gained some unwanted weight, but you also got something that other women paid a lot of money for, and all you had to do was eat spaghetti and fried chicken.

And you can say, "On the other hand, women who pay a lot of money to go up a bra size probably don't ask the plastic surgeon to ramp them up a pants size or two while they're at it."

You can say that, and it's just a statement of fact, and you don't have to apologize for being a little chubby.

Now don't get me wrong. I love my college-aged readers, and y'all are very smart, or else you wouldn't be knitting, and you are good at lots of other things as well, and you are better than I am at a great deal of things, like doing HTML, and making the line spacing on Blogger behave, and programming your your cell phone to walk the dog and start the dishwasher.

But knowing how to properly fit a bra -- and I do mean a good, proper, correct and supportive fit, a fit beyond breast-measurement-minus-chest-measurement -- that is a skill that comes with age and experience. Lots and lots of experience. And it's simply not the kind of experience you rack up at your part-time job putting undies on hangers at the mall to get you through college so you can get a real job.

Which is why I needed to talk to Coretta.

So now I have a couple of new bras and I even got away from it all through the side entrance of the store and without having to venture into the actual bowels of the mall.

Nice bras that fit. Good bras that maybe are even good enough to show off a new sweater in.

We shall see.

Off to spin.

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At 12:47 PM, Blogger Sheridan said...

I love me a goo bra-fitting lady too. They are few and far between these days.

The wool is beautimous! Did you dye it? Is it an embryonic sweater for your new sweater-girl silhouette?

At 1:22 PM, Blogger Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Two points I need to make before I forget:

One: It gets better as you get older. You care even LESS what other people think and you REALLY discover (and do) what you like doing, as opposed to wasting your time doing what other people think you should be doing.

Two: If you find out from one of those kids how to make Blogger line spacing behaving, WILL YOU TELL ME PLEASE?

Love and hugs from West Cork

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is further proof we are siamese twins of the spirit. I frickin' hate bra shopping too, and can't even do a good job of it without getting on an airplane. Sigh.

I'm shovelling yarn out of the tv room and trying to "put it away" listening to Aaron Neville and the Fats tribute CD. Wish me luck with the shovelling.

"love and hugs" from the other direction

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy you are lucky to have found Coretta. I have been to two lingerie shops here in Dallas which say they fit bras and I am no better fitted than when I guessed and went to Lane Bryant or Dilllards or Macy's. I have a weird shape and my girls hang nearly to Florida and I seldom wear a bra around the house so a real bra is a pain. I wish I could find someone who could really fit me but I think it is a lost cause. Glad you found someone.

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous jane said...

Hurrah-another woman who hates the mall as much as I do(I only sneak in once a year to get new shoes at Stride Rite for my boys)!!!I have to admit, reading your blog today was bit on the freaky side since I also am packing a little extra winter insulation in the 20 pound range(but, quite frankly, don't care enough about it at this point to change it) and we are the SAME AGE. I like being 46 too, except when I creak when I am working with the sheep or the horses. Now if I can only find the time to learn to spin....

At 8:28 AM, Anonymous elizabeth said...

I love you. You should publish this.

The only specialty bra-fitting shop that I know of is staffed by 20-somethings and carries lingerie that is indiscernible from Victoria's Secret. I felt uncomfortable shopping in there BEFORE the 20 lb. gain!

At 8:43 AM, Blogger LornaJay said...

I have to say - a good, well-fitting, supportive bra is a discovery at any age! I will economise on clothing. I will *not* economise on comfort in either the bra or shoe department - fastest way to a foul temper that I've ever found.

Here in the UK we have Bravissimo (go on, google) which is staffed by people who know how to fit bras even if they are only in their 20s. Possibly the only advantage we have over the US shopping experience!

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks much for your post today. I love your insite. Heidi

At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Em said...

As a well-endowed woman in her 20s, I can completely relate to this post. I am annoyed by the mall crowds and perky salesclerks, frustrated by the lack of sensible merchandise for the purported "ideal" in chest-size, and confused by the (lack of) fittings... and equally triumphant when I find a good fitter and good bra! I think no matter what our age, it's good to remind ourselves that we are not alone in these challenging endeavours.

I'm sure coming home to such lovely wool can't hurt the process, either -- I'll have to try giving myself a spinning reward next time, too!

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Traceyky said...

The first time I have actually and truly laughed out loud in weeks!!!! (Had dental surgery, made opening my mouth for such an event nearly impossible) I LOVED the blog today. After 40 years and nursing 9 precious babies, the "Breastal" area has really changed. Ahhh for a good bra fitter so I could ride horses comfortably again. Not a chance in rural KY!!!! Hey - at least there are no malls!!!! As a very happily transplanted Californian, that is a blessing.


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