Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Fitting Piece

Trying to dust off my creative writing muse, dusting off an old piece from a writing class assignment on "teach people something they don't know."   Hope you enjoy.

The Fitting

I truly am all grown up now.  I can no longer fool myself into thinking that I am a young girl.  How do I know this?  I have had a bra fitting.  It’s one of those things that I was in denial about having to do for a long time.  I have slowly been approaching that milestone for some time now.  I started down that road years ago when I had to start buying my own feminine products at the store.  This was followed by being responsible for making (and showing up to) my own dental and doctor appointments, eventually the mammograms (and yet further down the road my first colonoscopy, though I am not there yet).  I knew the need for a real bra fitting was coming.  Every woman knows it, sooner or later.  My final facing of the fact was brought on by a combination of sudden loss in weight and a realization that my breasts were migrating outward and downward, soon to be in danger of being mistakenly shoved into my sleeves in short order if I didn’t find a way to contain them and put them in the general area in which they were intended to be. 

I don’t know about you, but until now, my decision on what bra to buy has always been dictated by what’s pretty, on sale and shows the least through a t-shirt. Giving little, or no, thought to whether my size has changed since I was twenty years old.  It is now twenty-four years later.  The opportunity to get a good assessment of proper fit with ten seconds in a dressing room, or none with a fussy child in tow, makes it difficult to really know what works well, to figure out what I like in a bra.  I am aware of what I don’t like.  I don’t like underwires that try to reshape something that isn’t naturally shaped the way the wires want you to be; underwires that burst out and stab you in an attempt to pop your personal balloons, or get twisted so that they are really out of line (both figuratively and literally).  I don’t like the half shelf ones that my spouse has so flatteringly selected from the Victoria’s Secret catalogue that look great as long as you don’t move in them, but throw themselves under the breasts as soon as you move your upper torso in any direction other than straight ahead.  I don’t like lumpiness revealing itself through sweaters or scratchy lace and tags.  I don’t like it when nipples announce themselves under business wear, mine or any other woman’s.  Thank God for the invention of T-shirt bras: bras with a thin lining, enough to replace the need for well placed Band-Aids, the trick we all learned in college, but not so much as to require a larger size of clothing. 

So I will admit that the thought of having a bra fitting terrified me.  My first concern was humiliation.  Like getting up enough nerve to walk into a support group meeting or asking your doctor a difficult question, I was afraid of being embarrassed, overheard, laughed at or worse.  I hesitantly and exploringly asked a few friends if they had ever had one.  With one exception they all said no but they’d like to find out about it if I ever had one.  (Apparently I am not alone in my naivety and curiosity about the procedure).  I consulted with a friend whom I admire for her bravery and adventuresome spirit.  She had done the deed and said it was one of the nicest things she had ever done for herself.  I trust this friend completely so I decided I would be a big girl and face my fears and get the darn thing done.  Sometimes you gotta just face the monster. 

The monster I had in my mind was a large mustached  older woman, size 43-triple dee (like battleship bows), black shapeless dress, knee high nylons (tops showing), black orthopedic shoes, peering out over reading glasses lashed on with a chain, wielding a stiff leather tape measure, snapping it on the floor like a whip.  I would be cowering, trying to figure out if it would be better to lie when she asks accusingly when my last bra fitting was than to admit that I had never had one.  That feeling similar to anticipating when the dental hygienist asks how often you floss.  I imagined her clicking her tongue and shaking her head disapprovingly as she saw me strip down and observed the ill fitting, well worn best bra I own. 

In an attempt to avoid humiliation at all costs, I asked another friend, who knew I was contemplating this big step, to ask her mother about how and where one goes about this.  Do you need an appointment?  Do you need to bring anything with you?  Does it cost money?  Where do you go?  It is times like this I miss my own mother in the rawest way.  She died over 12 years ago.  And while I can sometimes feel her watching over and trying to help me, these practical matters must be much more difficult to communicate from out there.  I found out from the surrogate mother that Nordstrom is a good place, you don’t need an appointment, you aren’t charged for the service and that it’s not a big deal.  OK.  I can go with that.

I asked this same friend to come along for moral support and to help me laugh about it if anything embarrassing should occur. We tentatively approached the lingerie department.  Found a nice looking clerk and waited until there were no other customers within ear shot (did I tell you I was embarrassed and scared?). 

Me: “I need a bra fitting.” 

“Let me get someone” She wanders over to the next cashier booth. 

I’m thinking “oh great.  Now they will all know I have a problem.”  I am sure they will all turn around and look at me at once, melting me into the floor before I can run out the door, never looking back.  There is a matronly, older woman among the crowd there who, though not as bad as the monster of my mental image, I am convinced must be the one who gets to torture me.  Instead, the clerk on the search goes directly to a younger woman, petite in size, who comes over and asks me to follow her.

I leave my friend, my life-line, among the robes and slips and jogging bras, and follow my fitter into the dressing room chambers.  Close up I do note that she has ever so slight a moustache, her breath a bit stale.  In some ways I am glad she is not perfect.  After all, she is getting a good look at my imperfections (well two of them).  I have on a thin sweater and she asks me to lift my arms so she can get around my rib cage.  She runs the measure around my rib cage.  Says my measurement out loud and adds four inches, then glances at my chest and says “looks like a C.”  After asking what I like and don’t like in a bra (see the above) she asks me to take off my sweater while she goes and selects some choices for me.  While she is gone, I sit, somewhat chilly in my bra and jeans, waiting to see what she will arrive with. I take a big breath and tell myself this isn’t near as bad as I was anticipating.  I still find I am fighting the urge to put back on my sweater and sneak out.  The feeling is much like waiting in the small curtained booth at the mammogram appointment.  Waiting for the assistant to come in and tell me either good news or bad news.  I fantasize about the comfort of naivety. 

In a few minutes she comes back with about a dozen new bras in a variety of colors and finish.  They are stacked cup in cup as the sizing has them nicely molded in a pre-wash salute.  She asks me to put one on as she leaves the room.  She’s back in a minute.  This one doesn’t contain those migrating breasts as well as I had hoped.  She hands me a slightly different one and now, beyond my shyness, I whip off the first and put the second one on with her in attendance.  She adjusts straps and hooks and stuff and says “I think I got the wrong size”.  Grabs them all back and tells me to “hang tight.”  I laugh to myself at her choice of words.  Soon she is back with an equally large stack but in a bigger cup size.  I am a bit stunned: I have lost weight, how could my cup size be bigger?  Well if you think about not changing my bra size since I was 20, except for the pregnancy bras, it should be understandable.  I express my curiosity and get an interesting lesson on the importance of the measurement around (too big and it migrates up the back) and also learn that cup size goes up and down proportionally to the measurement around.  That is why a 42C cup looks like it can hold four breasts the size that will fit in a 34C.  Just in case you wanted to know.  She leaves me to try the rest on and find the ones I like best.  “Don’t worry about color; we’re just going for fit now.”  I find three I think will do but ask her to check me out in all of them to make sure I’m not just imagining that they fit.  I have come a long way, haven’t I?  While I am trying things on I overhear the lady in the next booth talking to her fitter.  She is raving about Oprah’s T-shirt bra.  I imagine that my fitter has been holding out on me, so when I come out with the three I want in hand I insist that she show me Oprah’s T-shirt bra.  She told me I already tried it on and I didn’t like it.  I ask her to show it to me on the rack anyway so that I can have first hand knowledge of what the Oprah bra is.  You know, in case I need to impress someone at a cocktail party or something. 

My fitter helps me get the colors I want and at the register instructs me on the care and feeding of my very good bras.  My friend, who has just about given up on me (allow yourself a half hour for the process) sidles up to me at the register.  I am talked into a special washing bag (which will also save my nylons from the Velcro closures on my son’s jacket) and think ahead on how I will need to instruct my son on the care needed in doing the laundry.  He is great at doing the laundry.  As long as all colors can go in one load and every thing can go in the dryer and socks are happy in the single world.  I think to myself I’ll just wash these myself.  I have too much invested: my bravery, my maturity, my embarrassment, my research and my money, to mistreat these special purchases.  My experienced friend was right: it is a nice thing you can do for yourself.  Now I can focus my dread on a future colonoscopy.  Oh joy!  Any advice?

-Jennifer Lowe

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