Friday, April 11, 2014

Theory 38: Orthopedic bras aren’t sexy.

One of my dearest childhood friends’ daddy once joked that “light blondes with big breasts are more fun in the dark.” Maybe for him. Not for his wife. I can vouch for her. Though Forty is the perfect age, forty-year-old parts aren’t too perfect at all. Some things look better standing up than lying down. Some parts require special attention and equipment, as in orthopedic equipment. I wrote about how “well-endowed” girls suffer harassment and are often misunderstood in Theory 4: Don't judge a woman by her accent or her breast size. Even in my book, The Eye of Adoption, I confessed that I keep my big ol’ brassiere right by my bed. Here is the passage (regarding my quest for the perfect home and my habit of neurotic planning):

            As a new wife and habitual worrier planning a three-child family, I desired a safer, more convenient location in which to raise my family. My must-haves were much more specific than Jeff’s: in my search, I combined my future children’s needs and my desire to re-create my best childhood memories. I thought through the details and played out all kinds of scenarios. My children needed to grow up close to a hospital. All the bedrooms had to be together so, in case of fire, I could grab my bra (The Red Cross does not usually get my size over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders in their donation bags) and my children and “head for the pines” for safety.
I nickname everyone and everything. Two giant Tulip Poplars (our Tennessee state tree) stand guard in our front yard. Their names are [Bug] and [Tall Child]. Houston’s first crush is honored in the back yard via “Ellie C. the Peach Tree.” My “girls?” Of course I named them! They are part of my being, my history, my personality, my struggles and triumphs, and, most of all, my body-is-a-wonderland geography. Thus, they are named “Atlantic” and “Pacific” (referred to here as A and P). These names give merit to their vastness, their weight, their volume, and the fact that it is absolutely impossible to harness them. And, I mean HARNESS. Because that’s what my bras feel like: over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders that are almost NEVER comfortable. Just the words for the components sound awful: boning, straps, wire, netting, hooks and eyes, spiral metal, extenders, and separators.
I’ve dealt with A and P all my life, and I’ve coped fairly well.  Maybe that's because I grew up in the sweet shadow of my hero, Dolly Parton. We come from the same place in East Tennessee. I've met her. Her daddy gave me a quarter. I went to elementary school with her niece and nephew. We both played instruments in our high school marching bands. I just have no musical talent. We have similar personalities and attributes.  She's a writer. She's salt-of-the earth, she tells it like it is. She has mountain woman sensibility, confidence, and independence. She is open. She's one of the greatest people who has ever lived. I love Dolly.
Anyway, every few years (yes) I "gird up my loins" (that means "work up the nerve" for all you heathens) to shop for a new bra. Bra shopping sucks. Especially when you want to feel pretty but wear orthopedic underwear. Once, back when I exercised, I searched for a sports bra. The department store sales lady called me “honey”—all sales ladies eventually call me “honey” in a pitiful tone—as she raked through racks for my rack. Finally, she proudly exclaimed. “I think this one will work! The material was engineered by NASA!” No joke. NASA was credited on the label. I bought it and wore it OVER my regular bra as I paced Lakeshore Park’s two-mile path and worked in my yard. Ever raked in a life jacket? Try it sometime. Speaking of life jackets, I can’t zip them. I’m better off looping my arms through the nylon straps of a boat seat cushion, Ninja Turtle style.

Here’s the deal. Big breasts are HEAVY. They are much heavier than fat. The straps, no matter how wide, wear grooves into your shoulders. The groove left by a bra strap is a pinkish red, permanent indention with obvious ridges, or as we say in the hollers, banks.  And sweat collects there. In summer, there’s a sweat flood. Think A River Runs Through It. So, let’s call my not-so-groovy grooves “Tennessee” and “Mississippi.” Tote that barge, lift that bale, wear my bra and you’ll think you’re in jail. You get the picture? Maybe I should get tattoos of my boys fishing off the banks with cane poles and night crawlers. Gnome on one shoulder, Sharky on the other? I could do a whole Tennessee theme with Irises, Rainbow Trout, and Mockingbirds.

Once, I had to go to a fancy party that Dogwood Deb co-chaired. I was happy to support her efforts as a loving, tireless fundraiser, but I was worried sick about one monumental task: finding a formal dress that modestly covered and held up my “top” for under $200, in under two weeks’ time. Delicious and I literally visited every formal dress shop in Knoxville, TN. At every shop, I heard and saw myself (you know, like in an out-of-body-experience) say to the workers, “Ya’ll don’t understand. Big breasts are heavy. Please don’t tell me to ‘just wear a strapless bra. If NASA can’t design me a sports bra, what on Earth [pun intended] makes you think Playtex can design a successful strapless one?” Oh, and folks, please don’t tell a mid-sized woman to go to Lane Bryant for a bra. I basically need 34-inch vice with giant J cups. Though, when I did go to Lane Bryant, they totally understood me and didn’t call me “honey.”

In a last ditch effort visit to an old Knoxville standby fancy shop, a miracle finally occurred. A hot pink FUSCHIA bright dress with a wide, layered, floor length skirt magically appeared at none other than Classy Lady. Whoooop! The dress was loud, but its levies channeled Atlantic and Pacific with adequate modesty. For $150. Sold American! Hallelujah!

In my two weeks of dress shopping helk, at my last and thankfully successful stop, the clerk sympathetically advised me, “Honey, I think you should go see the ‘Bra Lady’ up in Fountain City.”

“What? Who’s that?” I asked.

All the clerks circled around me. They nodded, smiled as though “There’s hope for you yet” was tattooed on their foreheads, and practically chanted,

Bra Lady, Bra Lady,
Fountain City, Halls.
She can work magic,
With your bowling balls!

The Classy Lady lady handed me a pale pink home-made business card.  For the first time in a long time, I saw a light at the end of two long, long tunnels. Just holding The Bra Lady's business card in my hand, I perked up. And, her name, oh, ya'll. It is perfect. I couldn’t nickname her better if I tried. The Bra Lady’s real name indicates providence, divine intervention, a “bigger plan.”
Her name is………her name is........drum roll…………………………….

Hmmmm. I think I’ll tell you next week, in Theory 38: Orthopedic Bras Aren’t Sexy,Part DDDD, then H, then J


“Hang” in there, readers. See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.
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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...