It’s Saturday late afternoon. My daughter, Peanut, the makeup artist, has skillfully applied foundation to even out my complexion, dark eyeliner and a sweep of black mascara to “pop my eyes.” Tonight is the Art Auction, an event that Eric and I attend every two years, and all I need now is the outfit.
And of course, this is where trouble makes an entrance.
I try on three pair of pants (more than once), five shirts, and a long skirt that makes me look witchy. I try a myriad of clothing combinations. Nothing works, nothing transforms me into a 49-year-old woman you might see in the pages of O Magazine
I do, however, have a great bra.
I am a short curvy woman who consistently tries on clothes made for a more willowy type. When I’m in a dressing room, the mirror never fails to call me out.
Okay, it’s not the mirror’s fault. There are a couple of things going on–one, I am not a tall, long-legged creature made for the flowy clothes that such women can wear, and two, the lighting in those hellholes is awful. A few weeks ago, I found myself (did I wander in there drugged?) in a dressing room with a pile of ill-fitting but beautiful clothes.
Here’s what happened.
I go to Dillard’s and try on about 700 different items and not one of them transforms me into a beautiful lithe hippie with long flowing tresses and kick-ass legs. By the time I pull the last unflattering lacy poet top over my head and toss it on the mound of clothes I’ve discarded, I’m just done–no more shirts, no more pants, no more skirts. They look beautiful, so damned beautiful, on the hangers. But what happens to those clothes between the hanger and my body is a fucking horror show.
This is how I end up in the basement looking at bras.
I need new bras. And I need them in the right size. The last five years have added another D to my 34D, and I’ve been bulging from the sides of my bras for a couple of months now. Imagine it, it’s not pretty. At my sister’s insistence, I ordered a Wacoal bra in a 34DD, and it fit like a dream, so while I’m in Dillard’s I decide to pick up two more.
I’m contemplating the advantages of a t-shirt bra with slight padding when a beautiful young woman with long dark hair and a tape measure draped casually around her neck approaches me. I try to avoid eye contact. I have taken note of the signs advertising today’s promotional bra fitting, and I’d prefer a flea bath to a bra fitting. But the young bra-fitter isn’t dissuaded by my lack of interest in her hovering.
She’s quite sweet when she asks that god-awful question, “Can I help you?”
And I’m sweet too when I tell her that I don’t need any help, I’m just here to pick out a couple of bras. I already know my size, thank you very much.
She’s persistent though, and reminds me that even though I know my bra size, often bras are different and while one bra may fit me perfectly, I could need a different size in another.
I find myself nodding and before I know it, I have agreed to the bra fitting.
She shows me to the spacious dressing room, and let me tell you, it’s lovely in there. Walls in varying shades of gold and cream, lighting warm and soft–the whole place exudes comfort. I sit on the small but comfortable settee in front of the first decent mirror I’ve seen all day, and I wait.
It’s only a minute or two before my own attendant swishes in. Her name is Nancy. She appears to be a couple of years older than I am. She wears a dark skirt, a nice crisp purple blouse, and a measuring tape around her neck.
“Just take your shirt off,” Nancy says, “and I’ll get a measurement.”
Now, I’m not super modest. Even with all my body image hangups–and they are legion–I’m not overly concerned about getting naked, and still it’s awkward taking my shirt off in front of Nancy. I’m beginning to think the only thing that would make this dressing room a lovelier place would be a nice glass of red wine even if it is only 10:30 AM. But Nancy neglects to offer up a glass of wine though she does look away as I pull the yellow sweatshirt over my head.
I stand there, topless and without wine, and raise my arms up while she flourishes the tape measure around my back and then up between my breasts in a couple of practiced moves. Before I know it, she has taken notes and is out the door in search of the right bras for me.
Again, I sit on that nice comfy couch looking at myself, but this time I am sans shirt. And while the shirtless part is not quite as pleasant, it’s not horrible. What is this place?
And before I begin bemoaning my reflection, Nancy is back with four bras. And let me tell you, she is one slick fitter.
Ever so gently and in a mild and lulling tone, she asks me to turn around so that my back faces her. She explains, “I’m going to bring the bra around in front of you, and you just put your arms through the straps.”
So I turn and Nancy swings the first bra around me and I morph into an octopus, flinging my eight arms around in extreme effort. But she is one deft bra maven, and soon I have calmed down enough to maneuver my arms through the straps while twittering maniacally. Cool as a cucumber, that Nancy pretends not to notice my strange giggles while hooking the bra around my rib cage. In that same lulling voice, she instructs me, “Now scoop the breast and position the nipple in the center of the cup.”
Okay, it’s a little weird sounding. I am at first taken aback. But each time she tries another perfectly fitting bra on me, each time I twirl around and look in that mirror that flatters even my half-naked self, each time she instructs me again to scoop the breast and position the nipple in the center of the cup, I am gently reassured that all is right in this one little corner of Dillard’s.
I buy four, count them, four expensive bras. And I am as delighted as if I’d purchased a new wardrobe.
And this brings me back to Saturday evening pre-art auction. I call Peanut back to my room and ask her help in picking out an outfit, and you know what–I end up looking and feeling pretty great.
Why is asking for help so fucking hard?
I suppose it’s that damned vulnerability stuff again. One has to be vulnerable in order to ask for help. I need a reminder, and thanks to Nancy and that warm comfy dressing room at Dillard’s, I will be wearing a 34DD reminder on my chest for a long time to come.
“Scoop the breast and position the nipple in the center of the cup.”