Toad in the Hole

July 15, 2006

Sorta Counter-Twisty Post

Or: Your Tit Parade

Twisty posted a post-op shot of herself. The good news is that she's vertical and able to lift a camera. In fact, that's good enough news for the moment. I hope somebody's given her a taco by now.

So a month or so ago, on pure spec, I bought a four-dollar bra at Ross Dress-for-Less. (Which has Old Fart Discount Days every Tuesday, and I'm an old enough fart to qualify.) Wonder of wonders, it fits, and looks better with a couple of shirts I have than the old faithful (but pricey -- $30) Elita Not-a-Bomber Bra (really, that's what its name is, right there on the tag) I've been buying at Title Nine.

The bra was from Sears. There's a Sears in the dreadful soulless shopping mall on the hill above Richmond, so I went there to see if I could score a couple more. Foolish me, I bought two without trying them on, and 38B is not just a looser version of 36B and it's not like Warner's bras, which I used to trust would fit; evidently there's no consistency about proportions or construction within the brand. So I returned them and tried on five-count'em-five bras and found two that work, but not so well as the original. I suppose, given my usual luck with these things, that the one I like was at Ross because Sears has discontinued the model.

Sears has evidently substituted alarums (but no excursions) for adequate staffing. There's one checkout stand, with two registers, among the Juniors, Petites, Misses, and Woman's World (meaning big) and lingerie, sox, handbag, and accessories departments. (Are sox lingerie? If they're women's sox?) ("Lingerie" is a useful word insofar as it includes both underwear and nightclothes, which you'll notice are always located next to each other in stores. Interesting set of categories, when you think about it. Is it that you don't ordinarily go out in public with either of them on the outside?)

(If I add enough parentheses to this will I be able to hold my boobs off my belly without buying sweatshop underwear?)

Anyway, there's that one desk, and one set of fitting rooms for the whole floor, located near the store's mall exit where it might reward the fleet-of-foot shoplifter. Over the fitting rooms is a sign to the effect that only three items are allowed, and the rooms are subject to closing at any time. (After school?) I'm trying to remember if there was anything about monitors... Well, but there was an alarm, and after I'd hung two bras to wait on the go-back rack and walked in with my divinely-ordained three, it went off. High-pitched annoying squealing, yeuch. I went back out and said to the lone clerk, "Evidently I've alarmed your alarm. What does this mean?"

She said, "Oh, it means nothing. It just goes off -- don't worry about it."

So I re-entered ("Squeeee squeeee squeeeeee...") and tried on three, put my shirt on to swap the two rejects for the two I'd left on the rack, tried on more. This is inherently an ego-slamming chore anyway and the pair of young boys running around while their mom tried something on didn't help, but at least they didn't peek under the walls or open the door or anything obnoxious. The alarm quit after maybe a minute, maybe two, but squeeee'd again when they all came in. Then stopped again. Another women did the same thing I did, came in, set off the squeeeeee, went back out to inquire, came in again, setting it off once more... I'm sure it loosened a few fillings. Nasty.

The clerk, to her credit, was as helpful as she could have been -- even left my first set-asides on the rack when she cleared the rest of it; this took some goodwill and attention . She also had bunches of customers needing to check out at unpredictable intervals, standing behind the ever-helpful blue U-shaped line with arrows and footprints on the floor. She was ignoring the alarm completely, except to reassure people that it meant nothing. No security people in sight either, and I can usually spot them. (Good thing I'm honest.)

The retail experience is getting more annoying and degrading every time I endure it. Trying on a bra with that stupid ink tag stuck on it, wincing at the we-assume-you're-a-thief shriek, lining up in the designated spot like cattle in a chute: feh. But all that wasn't the weirdest thing about the trip.

The weirdest thing was walking into that underwear department, with its big wall o' bras, and after a few minutes getting the creeps and needing to look over my shoulder. It was like, but not quite, the feeling of being watched.

The bras on the wall racks were mostly the kind that come with the boobs pre-molded in them. Lots of red or purple satin, florals, patterns, colors, and so forth, but every one the same shape. OK, every two the same shape. They all looked pre-occupied. They all seemed more or less self-sufficient, not like clothes on a hanger waiting to be worn. I had the oddest feeling that if I wore one of those, I could just phone in my appearance wherever I was going to be, just send the bra out all by itself and stay in bed. You have bras like that, the actual boobs are unnecessary. It's the ultimate fetish, I guess. Microwave-Ready Instaboobs. Wind-up boobs! In seventeen colors. Two hundred boobs, no waiting!

Skip the whole fraught Male Gaze thing and send in the bras. Then we can all get back to whatever we intended to do in the first place.

Posted at July 15, 2006 12:27 AM


Oh Christ. I have to go and get fitted for a bra myself. When I did this in New York in March, 25 pounds into my Weight Watchers, it was more like a field trip, and I was with my sister and a friend and it was a giggle. Now I'm pretty much where I'm going, the bra from March isn't quite the same fit.

"Ego-slamming": more like a general ordeal, start to finish. Yuck. Plus, for me, getting a "fit" involves going to a mall (apoplexy) in either Sacramento (yikes) or Vacaville (YIKES). I had almost worked up the nerve to do this last Saturday, but I dug another raised bed instead, because hell and death, I just couldn't face it.

But, y'know the thing about 75% of women walking around in the wrong bra size? Yeah? Well, do they ever think to wonder WHY? I finally went into gottschalks in Davis after my raised beds were not going to give me any more excuses to try some on myself and the only person I could find to let me into the dressing room was a twenty-something boy who seemed to be a janitor. There were no sales clerks to be found. It turns out this really is something you probably need help with.

I have to say I'd have bolted from the building if I'd have had your alarum experience, though, Ron.

Posted by: Pica at July 15, 2006 01:19 PM

I always go to Lane Bryant, even though I wouldn't be at all surprised if their products did come from sweatshops. Thing is, even at my size, I require a wire-free bra made at least partly of cotton that fits and doesn't bind, pinch, poke or scratch, or I simply won't wear one at all (a frequent choice, actually), and these are the only people I know of who sell such an article in my size and have a brick-and-mortar store near me at which to try things on. However, I know what you are talking about.

I was in there yesterday. The music was horrible, and loud, and endless, and they also had a tape loop on a TV near the dressing room blaring out about some nasty product called Spanx, and it had Oprah in it and some imbecile woman talking about how she wants other women to look smooth all over but not have girdles making lines in their thighs, so she invented this shaper thingie by cutting the feet out of her own pantyhose one day. It was as though they were doing everything in their power to drive me from the store.

The thing that got me, though, the thing that always gets me, was/is the wall of boobs. 'Cause yeah, they've got one, too. And you know, I'm a 44DD, and not nearly the largest woman in the store, but the LAST thing I want is more of anything up top, anything at all. Yet they've got molded, thickly padded bras in the full range of sizes, all the way up to H cups, and they do make, in all their many unnippled shades, a most formidable wall display.

And I seriously wonder who in the hell is buying them. And why. Lingerie or body armor?

The biggest problem, as far as I can see, is getting all that underfed Indonesian child labor to focus on the job, and that's why each garment even within a single line might fit differently from every other, not to mention why one style of garment would fit entirely differently from another style of garment of the same size and label. For example, once I ordered a strapless bra from Lane Bryant without trying it on in the store. I figured I knew my size. However, what arrived had cups large enough for me to wear the garment as a hooded capelet, you know, if I had two heads.

Bra world is a very very strange place. And sometimes I wonder what the Indonesian sweatshop workers think American women must look like.

Posted by: Sara at July 16, 2006 06:51 PM

Geez, Sara, maybe they don't tell the sweatkids what they're making...? "Earmuffs! They wear them in cold climates! They fill them with hot tapioca befopre they put them on!"

That padding thing... I got over it when I was 17, I think. And nooooooo underwires. The braces are all the extraneous metal I need.

And isn't it insulting -- disagreeable noise aside -- that we have to listen to commercials IN STORES?? (And in the movies, but that's another rant.)

Pica, there used to be an underwear and leotard store on Shattuck Avenue here, staffed by oldish women (which I guess means about my age now) who knew what they were doing and could handle anything -- you haven't lived till you've heard the deadpan and empathetic discussion of crotchless underpants with lace ~here~ or ^there^ instead. How I miss them. As it is, lately I don't like being handled by strangers, more so as I get older. Maybe a used nurse would be good in such a job; one learns that professional but not impersonal touch.

Posted by: Ron at July 17, 2006 03:36 AM

Postcript: I found myself outside Nordstrom's in Pioneer Square in Portland this weekend. I did the 15-minute fit-and-buy routine. It was excellent: a young clerk who managed to be both respectful and helpful as well as courteous and encouraging. I was astonished by the numbers: the bra size keeps shrinking but the cup size increases. It's weird.

But at least THAT's done. I kind of wish your gals on Shattuck were still around, though.

Posted by: Pica at July 17, 2006 01:24 PM

Hey you're lucky. My usual excursion into "bra world" (love that!) involves trying on 20 things and having none of them fit.

Posted by: Rurality at July 17, 2006 03:57 PM

Jeez, Pica, you're just making me envious. Twice in one graf, yet.

I'm still holding out for the helium implants.

Posted by: Ron at July 17, 2006 09:58 PM

Ru', I run out of patience long before 20 try-ons. I'm remembering why I mostly stopped bothering with the damned things back around 1970. I started up with them again when we got a truck. Trucks have stiff springs. Bay Area roads have lots of holes. I'd already learned not to leap dashingly off my orchard ladder when I was PMSing. By the time we swapped the truck (which I still miss sometimes) and got the RAV4, it was all about age and gravity.

I wonder, given the local penchant for naming things after the Disney monster, if there's a Bra World in Orlando.

Posted by: Ron at July 17, 2006 11:55 PM

If there isn't, there should be. I can picture rides like "The Slingshot" or a "Jungle Ravine Suspension Bridge" or maybe a "Grand Teton Roller Coaster Adventure."

I wonder what the bouncy castle would be filled with.

Posted by: Sara at July 18, 2006 04:54 PM

Hey, wait, is this something like that artist who proposed to span the Grand Canyon with bras?

Posted by: Ron at July 18, 2006 10:36 PM

Sorry, Ron, I'm going to make you even more nervous, now...

The day I walked into the Japanese bra store on 5th Avenue in March, for a lark, with no bra on, was the day I received the most withering look in my life. It was then explained to me *why* it was important to provide support and *why* more especially when you're losing weight because the skin gets thinner and *why* don't american women understand that this is a support garment not a sexy froufrou... Needless to say, I didn't buy a bra there. But they were happy to let me sketch away.

Sketch from said store here:

Posted by: Pica at July 19, 2006 01:14 PM

Their site is as scary as the store. (What is it with people who feel entitled to scold customers? BDSM retail? And that thing about skin "thinning" sounds a bit off to me.) But "tissue gathering" -- Yikes. Sounds like the Resurrection Men writ 'new.

Gather ye tissues while ye may...

OK, yes, I _have_ been rereading Fungus the Bogeyman. Best kids' book ever.

Posted by: Ron at July 20, 2006 03:15 PM