NOTE: If you're a guy, you might want to skip this one. If you read it anyway, nice comments would be appreciated.
Blogging about personal experiences runs the risk of exposing one's soft underbelly and making one far too vulnerable to ridicule. I've worried all night about this blog topic, but have decided to post it anyway because boobs are ubiquitous (50 percent of the world's population has them!) and I'm sure I'm not alone in hating most of my bra-shopping experiences. And, as the 1960s showed us (if not earlier), the personal is political.
Yesterday, I went bra shopping. This would have been a completely un-blog-worthy experience had it gone as I had hoped (go in, find bra I like, find it in my size, buy it, leave). It, of course, did not.
I walked directly to the dressing rooms, asked to be put in one, and for the women to bring me bras to try on (this is standard operating procedure at Victoria's Secret).
"Can you bring me some bras to try on? I'm a size 36A."
"Oh!" (Skinny chick with big breasts and perfect skin stares at me. Her eyebrows go up to hairline.) "That is a really unusual size. We don't have much to offer you."
For a second, I felt like a creature from Ripley's Believe It or Not. I'm that unusual? Really?
Now, I wasn't *completely* surprised about hearing this, only because the last time I went bra shopping (also at Victoria's Secret) the woman tried to convince me that I couldn't really be a 36A; I must really be a 34B. When she measured me, she said, "Oh, you really are a 36A."
She said that in the same voice that, I imagine, she would use to say, "Oh, you really do have leukemia."
In other words, how disappointing that a) I've got small boobs and b) I've bot a "big" rib cage. My body should know that if it has the former, it should not have the latter.
The woman had then gone on to reassure me: "We can find something to help you." Again, the same tone in which one would reassure a cancer patient that chemo will save her life.
I found myself, in the dressing room, actually fighting tears. Yes, I know. An overly emotional moment. We all have them. Move on.
Then, I found myself fighting anger: who the hell trains these (buxom) twenty-somethings who work at Victoria's Secret? And why has the industry decided that it will only cater to the bell curve (pardon the pun) of bra sizes? (I say "bell curve" because I fully realize that my sisters at the other end of the spectrum -- with very large breasts -- aren't served well by Victoria's Secret, either.)
Three of the six bras I was given to try on were immensely padded, giving the clear message that I am not good enough. While there is a trend currently for all bras to be padded (just walk through a lingerie department if you don't believe me), many of the ones in my size had tags on them claiming to give me two extra cup sizes.
I didn't ask for that. And the bras look ridiculous on. It's like trying to wear a pillow across a flat chest.
I bought the two (plain -- one white, one black) that looked the best on my body and which were the most comfortable, regardless of whether they "enhance" me in any way.
When I got home, I went online. Roughly 15% of the American population is my size. To be perfectly frank, more women would be if there was not such an obesity epidemic in our society. The average breast size among American women used to be 34B; now it is 36C -- attributable to obesity, the increasing presence of hormones in our environment, and the numbers of women seeking breast implants. Reputedly, the percentage of women seeking breast implants rose an astounding 39% between 2000 and 2010. (Of course, the more women think they "need" implants and seek them, the more the bras will be built for the "ideal" woman and not for the variety of us that actually exist out here.)
In any case, when more than 10% of the population is similar to me, it means there are MILLIONS of women with my size boobs (and rib cage). There should be more than three choices of bras at Victoria's Secret that are for "us".
I asked if there were any of the "cute" ones in my size. You know -- the striped ones, the polka dotted ones, the lacy ones, the ones with little bows, the ones that come with matching panties.
There are HUNDREDS of bras in Victoria's Secret. Any of the ones that might be described as "cute" or "sexy" are not available in my size.
I went to another store to see if it had what I was looking for.
"I want a kinda sexy lacy bra in a size 36A."
Older (busty) lady with lapel pin which reads, "Certified fit specialist," looks at me, raises her eyebrows to her hairline and declares, "That is a tall order."
I sighed and gave up.
There are a million funny things about bodies. Your tummy is fat. Your thighs are too big. Your eyebrows are too thin or too bushy. Your ears are too big or they stick out. You have an uneven skin tone. You have acne. Your teeth are yellow. That hair on your upper lip is a little too noticeable. Your breath is bad. You are too tall or too short or too sound or too skinny. Your hair is too curly or too straight or too wild. That cowlick of yours is a bear to handle. Your nose is too prominent. Your eyes are too close together or too small. You have weird toes. You have fat feet. Man, you have BIG feet! Those varicose veins are ugly. Your ass is WAY too big. It really isn't attractive to have your crack show.
Some of this attention to our bodies might, arguably, be good: we should take care of ourselves, exercise more, show some pride in appearance. A certain degree of civilization demands that.
But when an entire fashion industry essentially shuts out more than 10% of the (normal) population, it's time to make the personal public.
Lingerie manufacturers: we are not all a "C" cup. And the answer to that "problem" is not to tell us to get implants to fit your image of the ideal, or to wear hugely padded, uncomfortable, ugly bras. We would like to, once in a while, have the same bra style options as our sisters have with their "ideal"-sized assets.
There's nothing wrong with us; there is something wrong with you.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.