by Alli Kirkham
I came up with the game when I was trying to buy a bra and shaping garments to wear under my wedding dress. I called it "I'm a ninja and you can't see me" or "Please don't touch my boobs," but of course I only called it that in my head. Out loud I called it "I'm just browsing" and if someone touched my boobs they automatically lost and I had to go to another store, so really it was a lose-lose proposition. The nice lingerie shops and fancy department stores were all disqualified by someone's hands clutching a measuring tape trying to figure out my size. The stuff that I got off the rack didn't fit perfectly, sure, but I also didn't have to treat salespeople like hurdles in order to pay for it.
The first place was a fancy store on a fancy side-street of a fashionable downtown area. They wrapped a tape around my chest, decided I was a 34B and handed me a bra. I tried it on and called out past the curtain - "It doesn't fit!"
"Oh, just sit there for a few minutes. Your boobs will mold to it." So I sat there. I listened to the conversation behind the counter; someone was having a baby, someone else was getting a divorce, someone else was graduating high school. My boobs molded to the bra, then overflowed it. It was like I had the Blob attached to my chest.
"I'm getting quad-boob here," I said past the curtain. No response. I took the bra off and tried to rub out the pressure marks on my ribs. "I don't think it's right for me," I said, and walked out into bright sunlight.
The next store was in a crappy area and looked crappy itself, though the window display of an absurdly large bra full of balloons amused me. These ladies thought I was a 34C.
"Put your arms through the straps, hook the bra behind your back, then bend and scoop into the cups," the sales associate said. I nodded, closed the curtain, and spent four minutes trying to close the bra behind me. "Everything okay?"
"Uh, no. I can't get it closed."
"Oh, it's too tight?"
"Um. I don't think so? I just never learned to close a bra behind my back. I usually fasten it in the front then twist it." Cue a cacophony of laughter from the other side of the curtain. Fuck it. I front-fasten, twist, then bend and scoop. "I think it fits?" Shhhhick! The curtain opens.
"Oh no, you're pouring out of that - let me go get you a D-cup." So a D-cup is fetched. Then a double-d. I decide I'm over it, as I'm leaving they admonish me to remember that I need a DD minimum. And they tell me to practice hooking my bra closed behind me, "Twisting it is for training bras." Great, I can't even get dressed like a grownup.
After a week's recovery time I try the mall. Victoria's Secret has been around forever, right? They'll get this squared away. I walk in and am focused on by a glaring woman who I recognize from my girl-scout troop. She is shrill and brimming with false cheer. She measures me as a 38AA, lets me know that they don't sell that size and are out of stock on bra extenders. She seems to be cheerful in a more honest way when I leave.
Downstairs there's a Fredrick's of Hollywood. Why not? No one attempts to measure me at first but I quickly realize that everything on display is for impossibly tiny people with terrifyingly large breasts. I approach the counter and inquire about different sizes. The sales associate swoops around to me, startles me with a hug, pulls back and grabs my chest. She tips me a wink "Sure, just let me get something for you to try on." I'm out of the store before she reappears because, seriously, I'm not sure I can handle this.
Nordstrom's has a blade-faced woman with a measuring tape - she says my ribcage is a 40 and they'll have to alter something. Macy's has an associate who eyeballs my tits before pulling thirty things off of racks and ushering me into the dressing room, talking to me through the fiberboard door the whole time I'm trying to wrestle in and out of everything from taupe nursing bras to a no-shit training bra. JC Penny's has a disinterested teenager who measures me and sets me on my way - but she thought that I was a 32 or smaller, so the first bra I try on almost cuts off circulation. I leave the mall in defeat, seriously questioning whether you really need underwear for a wedding, or if I can get away with wearing a fleece instead of a gown.
I wear sports bras and avoid human contact for a week. This does a great deal for restoring my sanity. I go to WalMart, am staunchly ignored by the staff, and purchase a plain white 36C bra, a white elastic girdle, and a pair of white bicycling shorts at the self-checkout lane. I try them on when I get home and I look like the Michelin Man, but when I put the dress on over it the lines smooth out. Good enough.
I guess it doesn't need to be said that I'm not great with people. I know I'm touchy. I know. I'd probably be less touchy if people would stop fucking touching me. But who knows? It might make me worse.