If Victoria really does have a secret, I sure do wish she’d share it with me.

One recent wild and crazy evening, I ventured into the local Victoria’s Secret store with my daughter. It’s been years since I was measured for a bra. Decades. Millenniums.

When we were twelve, Pam’s mother interrupted our play time one day to take us shopping. In the lingerie section. For training bras. Looking back, it’s probably a good thing she didn’t give us all the details beforehand because we’d’ve undoubtedly found some reason to escape the inevitable and overwhelming embarrassment of being presented to some strange woman in front of God and everybody to discuss our about-to-expand breasts.

“These girls need to be fitted for a bra,” Miss Betty told the woman. I swear she yelled it at the top of her lungs.

“All right,” the woman said, taking the tape measure from around her neck, “hold up your arms.”

“Why do I have to go first?” I asked, looking around for my friend, Pam, who had suddenly become keenly interested in the silky slips and fancy nightgowns on the other side of the department.

I raised my arms and the woman bent down, wrapped that tape around me, and announced to the world the results. “I think she’ll need a DOUBLE-A,” she told Miss Betty and off they went in search of. “Come on, Jeanne,” Miss Betty all but snapped at me as I headed off to join Pam. “We’ve got to get your BRA.” She was yelling. She really was.

We found the section of  little pink and white boxes then rummaged around till we found a size AA. “We’ll take two of them,” Miss Betty said. It came to a buck ninety with tax.

Once home in the solitude of the bathroom, I removed the teensy little thing (that seemed so incredibly large at the store) from the box and tried to figure out how to don it. It seemed easier to put the so-called cups in the back, attach the hook in the eye, then turn the bra around and slide my arms into the straps. The straps. My next dilemma was adjusting the straps. This was before elastic straps were invented, and it took a good little while to get the straps situated so the so-called cups covered my soon-to-be breasts and not my knees.

Two hours later with one bra on, I began to worry about other people being able to see the bra underneath my shirt. Then I realized that wearing a bra probably meant I’d soon be wearing blouses instead of shirts. And what happened when my breasts really did start growing and poked through the hole in the bra? It was covered with the flimsiest bit of stretchy flannel fabric.

Our mothers must have talked because Monday morning at school, the raciest girls were snapping each other’s bras. Right in front of everybody. Some even ducked into the bathroom before homeroom to slip into some fishnet stockings and garter belt.

My world was changing.

My breasts grew – one more than the other, for some strange reason. Children were born and fed. Gravity began to take over. I discovered sports bras, and though the wide white straps perpetually showed around my neck, they held my breasts in and kept them from jello-dancing, kept them from smacking me in the face when I ran.

That was fine for years and years . . . until my daughter Alison led me into Victoria’s Secret and right up to the young emaciated woman who worked there. “My mom needs to be measured for a bra,” Alison announced far too loudly for my taste. “Hold your arms up,” the young woman (obviously a direct descendant of the double-A woman) ordered me as she removed the tape measure from around her neck. She was able to reach around me, not having to ask Alison to catch one end of the tape  measure when she tossed it to her. I took that as a good sign.

She measured me, this numbers girl, then she walked right over to the intercom, her shoes clicking like gunshot on the polished floor, spit into the microphone to make sure it was working optimally, then announced:  “JEANNE CHAMBERS NEEDS A D-CUP.” Alison was excited. I was horrified. A D-cup is for old ladies. I’d never be able to drive wearing a D-cup. My arms aren’t nearly long enough. I’d never be able to work on my computer wearing  a D-cup. I’d never be able to walk without falling while wearing a  D-cup. 

“You might be able to use a DOUBLE-D,” she continued. “AT LEAST ON THAT ONE SIDE.” 

“Where are the D-CUPS?” Alison shouted at the young woman.

“I’ll show you to the D-CUPS,” came the loud, loud, loud reply. And as they walked over to the D-CUPS, Alison asked for an underwire version, a push-up bra. The kind of bra the “loose” girls wore in high school. Why would they even make D-cups in a push-up version, I wondered. Seemed totally unnecessary. Absurd. Ridiculous. And to top it all off, they were padded. D-cups. Underwire. Padded. Doesn’t that sound like overkill to you?

I balked with embarrassment and what sure seemed like logical common sense resistance. 

Alison got on her cell phone and began calling her friends to ask what size bras they wore and to proudly report that her mother wears a D-CUP. I was horrified. Women don’t share personal numbers, I hissed at her. How rude to call and ask such a thing. But they were all cheering for me, voicing envy at me being in a  D-cup.

I bought a drawer full of D-cups (the drawers can only hold 3 bras of this magnitude) and brought them home to try on.  While it’s true: they did make my waist look smaller and it’s true I finally understood the concept of desirability of bras that lift and separate: my chest was cooler what with the air able to flow between my breasts and my stomach, and while it’s true that it was nice to be able to wear lower-cut tops, the straps presented a problem: they simply will not stay on  my shoulders. And it’s hard to feel confident and capable and complete when your elbow catches in your bra strap. It really is.

So. I gave all those Victoria Secret fully-loaded D-cup bras to Alison and am heading back to the underwear department at K-Mart to see if they have anything in a D-cup for smaller shouldered women like me. I’m pretty sure they don’t have women roaming around with a tape measure and microphone there.


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