I was trying to pick an outfit for an evening out when I overheard a conversation not meant for my ears. Before I tell you what was said, I need to revisit my past relationship with undergarments.
There was the time I purchased my first bra from the Blue and White store in Flin Flon. I was twelve, maybe thirteen. I’m unsure because I usually repress this memory. The saleswoman who had handed me a size 30 A had to be called back so I could ask for a smaller size. Do you remember what it felt like to be that age, how you already thought the whole world was watching you? ‘Nobody cares,’ my mother would say, which might have been true. But it wasn’t the caring I was worried about. It was the laughing. The saleswoman hollered across the store, ‘Judy Hanson needs a 28AA!’ As I tried to crawl inside the wall and disappear forever, I pictured the conversation this little cotton bra was having, one cup to another.
“Easy gig, right? Not much heavy lifting, ha ha. Let’s just sit back and relax!” When you’re a kid, even your clothes make fun of you. But I never expected that to continue into adulthood.
Today I was wracking my brain (which should be left alone, it’s suffered enough over the years) about what to wear for a Johnny’s Social Club event, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ I dressed up the last time and it made the evening that much more fun. Fortunately, my youngest had left a bag of cast off clothing behind, and she has a strong preference for black. Sure enough, there in the bag was a garment that could have looked cool if I was young enough, but now would appear kind of silly and therefore perfect for the evening.
I tried the outfit on and realized I needed to wear that bra. The kind that sits in the bottom of the drawer because it’s not your friend. The two of you never talk. It’s not comfortable and you can’t forgive it for the money you spent on its behalf. With a heavy sigh, you pull it out into the light.
Mine was bought in the kind of shop where the saleswomen follow you inside the tiny change room. I felt like an inadequate thirteen year old all over again, even though the sales person herself was barely in her twenties. She handed me her version of the perfect bra and I just knew it wasn’t going to be comfortable. However, like Fantine in Les Miserable, I dreamed a dream. Hope was high and life worth living, so this time would be different and that lovely piece of lingerie would fit and make me feel good. It’s only when I returned home that I realized I’d purchased another expensive mistake. There should be a bureau one can turn to regarding buyer’s remorse, or some kind of bra complaint department.
In the meantime, this bra had to step up and be worn. I managed to wrestle the thing in place and that was when it started talking. The cups totally ignored me in favour of a team meeting. I’m not sure where the other speakers came from, but there were quite a few. One appeared to be the leader.
‘Look,’ he said, (of course it was a man, smug, patronizing and fortunately, no one I recognized) ‘we need a whole new plan here. Things have changed since the last time we left the drawer.’ Another voice pipes up, ‘You’re not kidding. We need a crane for the whole lifting and separating thing. My God, how much weight has she packed on? Does she even fit us anymore?’
‘Look, you stand over there and do the necessary, I’ll…’
‘Shut up,’ I said sternly, pushing things in place, prodding and poking and then doing that horrible reach back for the clasp, which gets no easier with age. A woman needs monkey hands for that kind of business. Or a spare person. Anyway, I finally pulled the outfit over top and this seemed to quell the voices a bit. I heard a bit of mumbling, ‘We’re never going to make it,’ but decided to ignore them.
This is what happens as we grow older. It’s not that we get smarter, or wiser. We just stop caring about critical voices, ours and those belonging to our lingerie. We’ve been to the beach and back and have the broken elastic bathing suits to prove it. There’s not much we haven’t seen, and really, we paid good money for these contraptions and need to wear them more than once, so we refuse to be shamed. I stand back from the mirror. Yes, I look a bit silly, which means I’ll fit right in. Oh, shut up.