The Bra Revisited

It's time to let go of girlish ways and live for less vanity and more comfort

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For months, I'd been ignoring the straps dangling like lazy snakes from their confines and leaving my brassiere drawer ajar. I'd stuffed them all inside it when I tidied up for the handyman and strained to shove it closed.

Wearing the same bra for a week out of busyness and laziness, it was now time for a change. Dressing for an event, I grabbed the pulls and yanked hard, then harder, to open the sticky drawer. Suddenly, a compressed bunch of boned longlines, booster pads, tangled elastic, strapless bras, halter-style racer backs, silicone gel cutlets, underwired front-loaders, back hookers, hydraulic push-ups and workout tops with tight, bounce-free built-ins exploded in my face like a jack-in-the-box. This knot of fabric smelled like lavender sachet zombies had eaten the cloth and left the mildew.

"Who needs all this," I chided myself, rubbing out the sting. "I only have two breasts." It was time for a downsize and a reality check. My maturing body and mindset had changed.

On my low-fat, flattening diet, I had no idea what size I even was now, without those helpful matrons in specialty shops pronouncing me a C or D on top, a small or medium in a matching bottom. I hungered for their bluntness—"You're too much woman for this, or "They go in the wrong direction for that." Where are those wise elders I'd trust to shove and heft me into the perfect point and cleavage? I am them now.

The young women who waited on me in lingerie departments at the malls these days were not seasoned flesh peddlers or prodders. They hadn't faced changes in their own bodies since they hit puberty maybe three years before. They encouraged me to purchase one of the identically cloned pairs of cones hanging in platoons across their department. Cookie-cutter bust lines seemed to be the aim of manufacturers and these salesgirls complied with their own perky bouncy twins that moved in tandem. Answering my intimate questions in generalities, their eyes begged me to leave the brick-and-mortar world—in which people actually touch one another—and order online. Bodies my age seemed to frighten them.


Finding the beige one I wanted to wear that night in that glut was challenging. The violet, the red, lacy, pad-free, most revealing options were easier to find, so I grabbed a pink one, which would look sexy showing, and yanked. Hard. This only made my Gordian knot worse. So, instead, I buttoned up tight in an oldie but goodie that night: an aged Maidenform that never failed me.

The next day, I began slashing them apart, revealing my impulsive shopping history. It was time to get rid of all those off-the-rack mall-store and online purchases that I'd bought in a rush for color not fit, or in my hunger to have something new. Even if nobody ever saw it but me, I'd feel differently wearing it was the fantasy.

Strolling down mammary lane, I tried on every intact brassiere I owned: the sexy itchers, the hydraulic pusher-uppers, the Wonder Bras with matching thongs, the Wonder Butts with sister size stuffings. I remembered the girl I once was, that shapeshifting, exhibitionist flirt.

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But now I was a grown-up, a stepmother and a late-in-life wife. My one and only husband had no underwear appreciation, and could care less about lace. His favorite style was "off."

I admired the provocative choices I made, the events they attended and who might have seen them. I examined the cuts, the stitching, their decades-old originality. They don't make 'em like that anymore, and I'm not made anymore like this either. I tried on the matching sets and looked objectively in the mirror. My days of teasing and cleaving and exposing were clearly past. I soberly knew that people would be more apt to look away than toward in my upcoming era.

I saved one functional version of each style—strapless, backless, racerback, jogging, halter, push-up, convertible with adjustable straps—even though I knew I'd probably not push up, convert or adjust. I stored them in the garage for sentimentality's sake, knowing I'll probably take them out in a year or two and downsize again.

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With relief, I hooked myself into the comfier, unpadded ones, some without underwires, no longer so willing to push these babes around. I selected the ten best. Then I soaked them softer in Downy, washed them brighter in Woolite and dried them on the line in the sun so they smelled wholesome again. I lined the drawer with lilac-scented paper and slid it easily closed.

Tomorrow, it will be time to approach the lower drawers reserved for bottoms. I'll sort the bikinis; the boy-cut panties that bunch in the crotch; the high-waisted granny pants for bloaty days that I'd saved for nutty nostalgic reasons, even with the elastic completely shot, even many years past my period; the 'what was I thinking?' thongs.

Time to let go of girlish ways and my girlish body. Time to live for less vanity and more comfort. Time to accept that I'm an irreversible, non-convertible, post-menopausal, married, mature, modern and much wiser woman, and all the psychic space that letting go creates.