You heard me. They wouldn’t be so much on my mind if they hadn’t come under terrorist attack on the flight home from Tampa last night. (This falls under the heading of "yet ANOTHER embarrassing little interlude on an airplane.")
Do you know what this is? Yes, that’s right. It is. This is a relatively new addition to my wardrobe and only comes now because I’m trying to grow old gracefully and Oprah said a woman of my age needs support. So I was certain I had been shot in the middle of my chest by a terrorist dart gun as I was sitting calmly, smashed between Rich and Fats Waller, with no arm rest left for me, minding my own business and reading 102 Minutes. The subject matter, the final hour and a half of the World Trade Center, may have influenced that initial assumption.
But no. I had been stabbed by my own bra. With one slight realignment in my cramped seat, this projectile shot out from under my breast and stabbed me. Hard. Piercingly, I would say. I bled. I’m going to sue Calvin Klein for both pain AND suffering.
The suffering came when I tried to extract it, as discreetly as possible given that it was lodged half into my breastbone and half still tightly stitched in place, and that Rich, not so discreetly, said, "What the heck are you doing?" loud enough for the entire aircraft to turn their attention to seat 11D. This maneuver was requiring both hands up to my elbows and quite a bit of wrestling about under my untucked, hiked up shirt and as I was already biting the inside of my cheek to keep from squealing like the proverbial pig the best retort I could come up with was, "What the heck does it look like I’m doing?" I guess that meant it was open season for Fats Waller, the air marshall, the flight attendants and every other passenger to concentrate hard on what the heck I was doing. Under there. As one tear of agony rolled down my very red cheek.
And that got me to thinking. Although in recent years we’ve reconciled our differences, my breasts have not always been my best friends. From puberty until I was 30, they weren’t even around to be my friends. Was I lonely? Yes, I was. I had a brother 2 years older and all he and his friends could talk about were sports and breasts. Mostly breasts. Did I want some? Yes, I did.
When I was 13 we lived for one brief year in the inner city of Detroit while my (recently single) mother finished her teaching degree. I had spent all of my earlier years in Wonder Bread Cleaverville and now I was the exception, not the rule. Three times a week, all the girls in my 7th grade got on the bus and rode to the Y for swimming class (the school had no pool). Every other girl in the class was between 15-17 and big. Big mamas. Really, really big. They could barely stuff themselves into the almost transparent and tattered tank suits from the giant barrel in the locker room. Me? That first day I had a choice between being exposed right down to my belly button or doubling the stretched out shoulder straps all the way around my neck twice, which I did. I looked like a scrawny, paste-y white, genderless contortionist as I slouched towards the pool. After that I took a big safety pin with me, which still looked bizarre and made swimming difficult. One time that popped open and stabbed me!
I worked my way through college by taking electrocardiograms evenings and weekends. So I saw a lot of breasts. Handled them, too. On Sundays I would do all the women who were being pre-admitted for surgeries and every five minutes there was a new set of breasts. All shapes, sizes, ages and a number of those early implants that stood as hard and upright as Mt. McKinley no matter what position a woman was in. I noticed then that women with very large breasts didn’t age as well as women with small breasts and one tiny part of my brain considered that I might be fortunate, that I should be grateful for the hand I was dealt. That usually was a fleeting thought because away from work I still lived in the world of coeds wandering around like geese, considering, and being considered for, possible mates.
At thirty, I became pregnant with my first child and yes! YES! I had breasts! Sort of. It was all relative and no one could touch them anyway, but I did finally fit into a 32B. And I loved my body when I was pregnant. And I realized that it had diverse functions, not the least of which was making a home for a new person. Which was incredibly cool and dropped the importance of big melons, big magumbos, big loblollies to near zero. These baby pillows were going to be just fine.
And, by and small, they were. They worked. Fine. They fed a strapping 9# 8oz. baby boy for almost a year and kept him in the 90th percentile all the while. But before I settled down into ‘fine’ with my nursing breasts I endured the worst trauma ever. I went to Mueligs for a nursing bra.
Mueligs was an old fashioned millinery department store- Ann Arbor’s last. They closed the doors in 1981 but not before I went there, one week postpartum for a nursing bra. Mueligs had three floors of silk stockings, hats, pillowcases, purses and brassieres. And they had those old fashioned money holders that shot through a tube- sort of like the drive-up at the bank and went down three floors to the cashier’s office. Anyway, while John circled the block with baby Daniel in his car seat, I took my sore and weary body, post C-section, into Mueligs to find a nursing bra. (1980 was the tail end of communes and hippies and nursing was the penultimate experience for new mothers. Even if you didn’t join LeLeche and nurse your baby until he was 6, you still needed the wardrobe.)
Up on the second floor it was quiet so the three octogenarians who worked in lingerie were completely focused on "fitting" me for a nursing bra. This entailed two IN the dressing room with me and one at the counter scouting out likely candidates. And the conversation went like this:
Mabel: Esther! (out at the counter and mostly deaf; there was a lot of yelling) Do we have model 4583 in a smaller size?
Esther: SMALLER?? It doesn’t come in anything smaller than a 34 C! Wait, let me look at model 8321- no, that’s a 34 C, well try it anyway, it looks smaller.
Phyllis: (tugging and pushing and hooking) Huh. Well, it’s a little large, dear…Esther! Check that new Playtex nursing bra in the bottom drawer! I think it’s smaller!
Mabel to Phyllis: That doesn’t look right. It’s way too big…
Esther: (who has now joined us in the dressing room). Hmm. It’s the very smallest they have. They don’t make them any smaller…
(I have now begun to tremble and weep. I’m thinking that John and Daniel have been in a major car accident and they are both dead.)
Mabel: (patting me gently on the top of my head, even though she is 6 inches shorter, at 4’10") There, there, dearie. Don’t worry. After you have the baby and your milk comes in, they’ll get bigger.
Me: (full blown wailing) I HAD the baby! My milk is in!
That was the first day of a serious post partum depression that lasted a month. But I nursed right through it and by the time Dan was 6 weeks old I was madly in love with him AND my breasts.
And so it goes. They worked for Abby, too and for the most part, I’m very fond of them. As is the other person who matters and so rudely called attention to them on the flight home from Tampa last night. But it’s now become clear to me that I don’t need an underwire bra any more than I needed a nursing bra.
These bodacious ta-tas are just fine.