Today I participated in a pre-teen rite of passage. I went bra shopping for the very first time.
Technically I already reached this milestone approximately 24 years ago, but that was with entirely different breasts. The ones I brought to the test drive today are brand new, fresh off the lot. They deserve their own special inauguration into the ‘over the shoulder boulder holder’ club.
I entered the mall without a plan. The first undergarment store I encountered was Victoria’s Secret.
I stood out front for a beat and looked at the giant photos in the windows. Those photos aren’t for us, am I right ladies? Have you ever walked by those windows and thought, ‘wow that woman really looks like me, I need to run in there and buy those pom-pom pattern panties.’ It sort of infuriates me that they market to men in a mind-fuckery way to get us ladies in there to shop for intimates. I have a decent figure and I can only imagine all the types of sausage-casing situations that would occur if I tried to squeeze on one of those lace, corseted numbers.
I went in anyway because a kind-eyed young woman with a measuring tape around her neck saw me standing there and asked if there was anything she could help me with. In my Gisele Bundchen-induced haze, I followed her directions and walked into the store. I asked if she had any bras without underwire, as underwire is verboten for now. She showed me two options and asked my size.
“Ummmmm, I am not sure what size I am.”
Salesgirl looks confused.
“I just had breast cancer and these (points awkwardly to breasts) are brand new.”
I am led to a dressing room. Each dressing room has a name. Mine was Monaco.
She and I are alone in Monaco. I take off my sweater, which pulls off my hat revealing my bald head. I am suddenly feeling very vulnerable. She wraps the measuring tape around me and comes to a size conclusion. She leaves the room and returns swiftly with a few options and tells me to put on the first one and call her back in.
I remove my t-shirt and start un-earthing my bosom from underneath the surgical bra. First bra goes on and seems to fit well. I call the salesgirl in. She asks how it feels. I think about this for a moment and respond with something to the effect of, ‘I don’t actually feel anything. I have no sensation at all in this entire region.’
She starts adjusting the straps and asks if they are too tight. I respond, ‘the strap tightness is irrelevant, as my breasts don’t move. They cannot be pulled up.’
I feel tears in my eyes.
She leaves me alone to try on the rest of the options.
What am I doing? Why does this feel so wrong? Why am I buying bras for breasts that don’t need supporting?
The technical answer is two-fold. One, I was told by the plastic surgeon that I needed to wear a bra at all times for the first few months. Two (get ready for this, folks), nipples, which I was lucky enough to retain, are in a permanent state of half mast. I have the breasts of a frisky, aroused mannequin.
The salesgirl was so sweet and attentive, but I needed a hot second to gather myself in Monaco. I am sure she was wondering what I was doing in there, but I didn’t care. I put my clothes back on and sat down on the stool to ponder.
As I confronted myself in the pink-tinged mirror I thought about how far I have come. I had gone from diagnosis to multiple, massive surgeries, dose-dense chemotherapy, and another big operation. Here I was, on the other side. Shut in a small pink box surrounded by brassieres.
I chose the two bras that were 50% off because I am my mother’s daughter and we never met a discount we didn’t like. I put on my sunglasses to shield my teary eyes and headed back out to pay.
As I exited the store with my two new bras in the garish pink and silver striped bag, something dawned on me.
The bras I bought were the exact same size as the bras I had from my original breasts. In the fog of the experience I hadn’t registered that I was trying on and buying the exact same things I already had tons of at home.
At that moment, everything had changed, but somehow my bras, stayed the same.