I didn’t really care what I wore to the mall today. I mean it’s a mall in West Des Moines, Iowa. The one that doesn’t have The Loft or Ann Taylor, that isn’t by the Container Store or soon to be West Elm. It’s a mall that still has a JC Penney. Which I walk through because parking in back is so simple. Easy. Lots of spaces. I needed to hit the GAP. The GAP at this mall isn’t like GAP online or anywhere else. Nothing. Just wanted some skinny pants made from not-denim.
I was wearing too-large black short-shorts, a GAP t-shirt with my minimizer bra and Dr. Scholl’s tennis shoes. I looked anywhere from twelve to seventy. My hair was sticking out in a short bob because I had lopped an inch off a few weeks ago. I didn’t have make-up on. Because, like I said, I was at a mall. An old mall. A mall so boring that I don’t think they have any walkers.
But after the sorry state of the GAP – yes, I am too old to wear pants with holes slit in the thighs – I walked past Cacique Bras – the Lane Bryant Bra store, where I was once yelled at because I wasn’t big enough. I suppose I should have been complimented, but it was awkward. Odd. I have a large chest. Which is why I wanted a new bra. At a place that sells them big enough.
Today, as I pushed in through the glass doors, I saw the woman first behind the counter helping a customer check-out. Dark hair. Older. Overdone face. A larger body, but my height.
I waited with a bra outside the locked fitting room doors until she came up, “Oh there you are! I was looking for you.”
No. She wasn’t.
She helped me check the bra I wanted by opening a door and shooing me in. Within seconds she was back to see if it was okay.
“I can get my manager, it’s my first day,” she said.
Be it that I am 36DDD and don’t even let my husband see me in a bra with my stomach showing. I only weigh 130 pounds – finally – and do work-out, but being fifty-two years-old doesn’t make you taut. Anywhere. So, having a newbie middle-aged saleswoman with a line of fringe over her red drawn-on lips, made me less that comfortable. I had only wanted an opinion of how it looked with my GAP shirt over it, not under.
“It looks like you don’t like the way it feels.”
“I don’t know. I have shoulder issues.”
“Maybe you need one with a bigger band,” she suggested.
I stared at her through the mirror, the mirror, the mirror. You get it. “Why?’’ I asked.
“The band is as tight as it will go.”
“Maybe you need to loosen it then.”
Standing in a room the size of a fist with stranger breathing her noon lunch on you, touching you with long black painted talons, sneering at you, makes any bra you are trying on feel like a bed of nails. Trust me. I have been bra-shopping for over fifty years. It is my worst chore after carrying a baby and shooting it out, or eating fish from a lake. It is my second phobia after bats hanging and flapping about in cars and anywhere else indoors. It is almost worse than Trump. Almost.
Can a woman have a bra that just lifts and tucks and divides without being bullied into them? Is there a way we can send a papier-mâché model of our own chest somewhere and get some magical garment back that makes you look sixteen years-old again? The answer, is no. If any single one of the Kardashians could do that – Rob included – I would feel they had a worthiness of space on this Earth. I would give them that.
I have gone into all stores, top-notch to outlet. They all smell like toilet water from the 50s. And that smell comes home with you on your bra. And no matter how much that bra is lovely and works, and makes you feel good, that smell won’t leave and you get migraines, and cough and feel stinky.
So, when I decided the bra at this store was bugging me, meaning – the woman was – she said, “It looks so much better than the one you walked in wearing. That was so terrible looking.”
I felt like a dump. Like a frump. Like the most disgusting woman. She said she watched me walk in and I looked awful. Now in my head – every time I wear this minimizer bra which I love, I am looking like hell. I was shaken and shrunken and then just shocked.
She left. But when I left – I let her have it. In front of her new boss.
“How dare you tell a customer how bad she looks in her bra? How dare you make me feel that small. Shame on you.”
The manager called after me, “I can help you!”
I just raised my arm, not my finger, and said, “Hell no.”
Then I went into another store’s dressing room and cried. Then I went home and contacted the higher-ups and was immediately sent an email stating they would be on it and how sorry they were. If I could get that sort of response out of Iowa Senators….
When I was in eighth grade I was chosen best figure by my class. It was insulting and humiliating. Thankfully the yearbook teacher was a feminist and switched Kevin Bigelow’s best physique to me. He wasn’t thrilled with figure. Neither should have been a category. My breasts have always been large and always been in the way. Of conversations. Of confidences. Of nice clothing. So this lady shot a spark under all those loose embers I already had tried and thought I’d burned.
In the scheme of our world – this is a selfish little blip. I know it. But at least it is mine. It was something I was able to handle. It was reachable. It was nearly insignificant.