Fair warning - don't read if you're easily offended by boob-talk.
I had to leave the apartment for a few hours on Sunday because the realtor was having an open house at my apartment. Having recently broken back into the dating scene, I have realized that my boring bras were simply not going to cut it in the fast-paced world of underwear fashion in New York City. So I decided to go to this place called Intimacy on 90th and Madison - they are "bra fit specialists" and I am in need of "date bras"... meaning, I have bras that are utilitarian, but nothing lacy or in the least bit interesting in terms of impressing men (or women in my karate locker room, for that matter.)
For those of you who don't know me, I would never meet any sort of a description close to "busty." I was blessed with the early blossoming of "buds" (as they cutely called pre-pubescent breast growth in the 1980's) when I was only eleven. While one would assume that this early start would result in a long growth period, I stopped developing when I was eleven and a half... and never picked it up again. Kind of like ballet lessons. But the long story short of it is that I have never had to worry about giving myself a black eye while doing jumping jacks.
In my search for a sexy bra, I've gone to Victoria's Secret, Saks, Bloomies, Macy's and Lord & Taylor and totally struck out with the bras there. They are pretty, yes, but there was major sagging... the bras looked like balloons that have been pre-inflated and are now shrunken back over my breasts into sagging, lumpy scraps of lacy fabric. You never want a bra to look better hanging with NOTHING in it than when it hangs on your breasts, so overall, the experiences were very depressing. But in the name of getting support, I fully expected to go into Intimacy and have them tell me I was wearing a bra that was too big, and that I now officially needed to buy double-A cups... preferably from them for $350 per bra.
Hearing that there was a wait if you don't have an appointment, I went at noon – when they opened – and was told to wait just a few minutes for someone who would help me. I sat, for about 30 minutes, watching several HUGE women with HUGE breasts come and go, feeling decidedly atypical for the store. And then I was asked by Evanny, a woman whose business card identifies her as a Bra Fit Specialist, to "come back to my suite." I wondered what undergraduate degree is required to become a Bra Fit Specialist, but don't ask as I followed Evanny to my "suite", which was a small, whitewashed dressing room with a cock-eyed, wooden slatted door. Ushering me in, Evanny tells me to take off my top - down to my bra please - and she'll be right back, as soon as she completes her interactions with her other client, she promises that I'm all hers.
As I take off my top, I start to read the literature on the wall, which consists of lots of "Before" and "After" photos of women with various brassiere and support issues: One whose cups runneth over, and one who is looking to fill up some cups… any cups! The latter reminds me of me – but I hope I don't look quite as meek and pathetic as she does in her "before" photo. I'm sure I do. There's also a diagram of a European "fitting" system, which consists of a series of diagrams pointing out various problems with the way women wear their bras. There are lots of arrows, and a woman with a bad 1970's hairdo pointing at various points on the model's body where some horrible tactical brassiere issue has gone terribly awry. Somewhere in there, I read that only 15% of women are wearing the right size bra… and for some reason I think I am one of those women (despite the fact that my mere presence in a place like Intimacy should – by default – make me realize that I solidly fit into the 85% majority.) Still, I keep trying to delude myself, and I read on… and of the top 10 myths of bras, I begin to realize that I am exceedingly under-educated in the world of breast support. I am only beginning to learn everything I am doing wrong.
About 15 minutes after Evanny left me in my suite (and listening to 5 very LARGE black women who yell back and forth from their suites that their "girls are looking MIGHTY FINE in these!"), Evanny returns and joins me in the suite. She's not a small woman, and with both of us inside the tiny room, we barely have room to breathe. I fleetingly wonder if the other Specialists are able to get into the rooms where the other large-breasted women are, or if they are all standing outside their suites. But I don't have time to think about this long, since Evanny has immediately started eyeballing my current, it-fit-5-minutes-ago-but-is-now-suddenly-an-insecure-and-ill-fitting bra.
Evanny: Hm. Well that's just not going to work at all. That bra is far too big.
Me: Yea... I kind of knew that.
Evanny: Turn around...
Me: (I turn around)
Evanny: (pulls my bra back straps together to the point where I think she's cut off all the circulation to the top half of my body and I'll never be able to inhale again.) There, that's better. Turn back around.
Me: (I turn back around)
Evanny: (eyes my boobs) The cups look okay. Bend over like you're touching your toes.
Me: (bending over, glad there are no latex gloves in sight and that she doesn't ask me to cough.)
Evanny: Yea, the cups are okay. Put your arms up in the air.
Me: (arms up)
Evanny: (pokes my under-boobs) Well at least you're not coming out the bottom. Take off your bra and let me see your breast tissue.
Me: (taking off my bra)
Evanny: (looking very intently at my post-period, smaller-than-usual-and-shrinking-fast-because-she's-staring-at-them breast tissue) Yes... I'd definitely say a 32C.
Me: (jaw drops to nearly below my breast tissue)... C?!? Like a C cup? Are you kidding?
Evanny: (evidently having no sense of humor whatsoever) No. Why would I be kidding?
Me: (realizing Evanny has no sense of humor, laughs anyway) Well, I was sure you'd tell me I'll be looking for double-A cups.
Evanny: (stares intently again at my breast tissue) No. You're definitely not a double-A. That would just make you flat.
Me: (glancing down, wondering if I got the only blind Bra Fitting Specialist in the world) Well, I kind of look flat.
Evanny: No. (Dead serious.) You're not. You're definitely a 32C.
Me: But my rib cage isn't that small. Won't a 32 be too small?
Evanny: No. 90 percent of the support of the breast tissue comes from the straps around the rib cage, so it needs to fit appropriately. (She says this as if I'm a 3 year old.) I am a 38, and as you can see, I'm much larger than you are.
Me: Hm. (Yes, decidedly mono-syllabic, since I'm half-naked and she is not, I don't want to start a conversation about who is bigger… she obviously is. So I decide to look on the bright side): Well, this is good news, at least 32C's are easier to find than 36A's! (I'm really excited now, because it is definitely difficult to find 36A's, and the prospect of not having to look any more is getting me very excited!)
Evanny: Actually, 32C is hard to find.
Me: (no longer excited)
Evanny: Most bra manufacturers make them, but no one stocks them, because they tend to think of them as a waste of money. But we have them here.
Me: Oh good. (Of course you do. And they're $350)
Evanny: I'll be right back.
At this point, Evanny leaves, and apparently the door locking thing is optional in ALL the suites... because she leaves the door open, at which point I am topless and now staring at the other VERY large black breast tissues in the other dressing rooms. I'm feeling very pale and anorexic-looking about now, so I close the door... or at least try to, because the little lock thing is broken and the door likes to sit about 2 inches open with the mirror reflecting my topless-on-a-stool pose perfectly into the outside area. Resigned that all dignity is lost, and that in the name of cleavage to come, I may as well not try to salvage it, I simply sit – half-naked – and wait.
Meanwhile, the conversations from the other suites continue:
"Hey, Janene! Come here and look at these babies! They look like they about to FLY outta here they pushed up so high! Whoo-eee!! My husband's gonna LOVE playing with these!"
"I ain't never had so much space between them - I didn't know they didn't have to touch!"
"I saw this place on Oprah - she said if I don't have the right bra, I was gonna have boobs down to my knees... is that true?" "Well, I don't know about that." "They could, you know. They're big enough to reach my knees if I let 'em go without a bra my whole life."
"I don't like seams in the front - they make my nips hurt" (response from salesgirl: "Well, the right seams won't... try this one") "Ooh baby, you're right! This is nice!"
"Where's Janet?" "She didn't want to come." "Why not?" "I don't know. Something about not being comfortable with strangers feeling up her boobs, I guess." "Well, she always has been a little uptight."
"Double F! Who in the name of God Almighty wears a double F! ….... Oh, I guess I do!"
Evanny returns holding about 7 bras... All look like they're made for 10 year olds and would barely encircle my thigh.
Evanny: I brought you some every-day styles, and some lacy ones too. We'll start with the every-day ones to make sure we have the fit right. Try this on.
Me: (starts to put on bra)
Evanny: Is that how you put on your bras all the time?Me: Um... (insecure again) Yea...
Evanny: Hm. (non-committal.) Okay I guess. Now adjust your breast tissue into the cups.
Me: (reaching to pull up boobs)
Evanny: No no no. To put your breasts in the cups, reach in there and grab em' from underneath. They're yours. Put 'em where you want 'em. (she the proceeds to demonstrate by reaching in and grabbing them and putting 'em where she wants 'em.) Like that.
Me: Okay... (blushing and slightly embarrassed by my obvious lack of control over where my boobs have been goin' for the last 20-some-odd years) Oh, look! I actually fill up the cups! (excited!)
Evanny: Of course you do. (bored.)
Me: But it's a C! (amazed!)
Evanny: Yes. (seriously unamazed.) Okay, so we have the fit right. How do you wash your bras?
(For about a millisecond here, I'm excited… because I have a feeling that after failing all of her previous pop-quiz boob and bra questions, I have a chance of actually getting this question correct! So I blurt out proudly:)
Me: Hand wash, warm water. (beaming with pride.)
Evanny: Never use warm water. Only cold.
Me: (deflated… egotistically as well as breast-tissually)
Evanny: The elastic in a bra is like a rubber band. You know how when a rubber band gets hot it sags and droops, but as soon as you put it in cold water, it snaps right back up?
Me: (nodding noncommittally, not wanting to make the quintessential upper-East-Side faux pas of admitting that I've never done such elaborate experiments with rubber bands before, nor do I want to risk getting another question wrong, since I feel as though thus far I have achieved fairly poor marks in boobsmanship.)
Evanny: Well, they do. The same thing happens with the elastic in your bras, so it's important to use only cold water so that the elastic snaps back.
I kept trying on bras – some worked, and some didn't, but I was so excited about finding sexy bras that fit that I just couldn't stop. It was like retail-cocaine. I even tried to buy the chicken-cutlet inserts, except they didn't have my size in stock. (And for those of you who don't know what chicken-cutlet inserts are, don't ask. Either you don't want to know, or you don't NEED to know, and in either case, it's simply better not to ask. But if you're a guy and after you get behind-the-bra with a small-to-medium-boobed girl for the first time, and notice that something resembling raw chicken patties are suddenly in your hands or on the floor, be a gentleman and DON'T ASK. We wear them to impress you, so just ignore them and just look at the REAL boobs for God's sake).
So now I'm a 32C. Well, sort of a 32C... sometimes the cups are a little big, but most of the time, they fill right up! Whoo hoo!!! And while none of my bras were $350, I still managed to spend WAY too much money on underwear that few will ever see besides the women in my karate class' locker room. But still, they're pretty and make me put on a smile, which is – in the end – the best thing to wear anyway.