Hi. I’m blogging about underwear and baking. You’re welcome, Internet!
So, look, I wanted to be a ballerina. I am probably the only little girl who ever wanted to be a ballerina ever ever ever in the history of the world, right? Sometimes in my dreams I am still an AMAZING ballerina, and when I wake up I want to leap to my feet and show off my mad skillz, and then the cats walk across me in disdain and demand their food.
Here’s some ballet:
I mean, RIGHT? That shit is so awesome it hurts.
ANYWAY, yes, ballerina: that was the goal. Be slender and pliable and lean and light and elegant and powerful. At no point, mind you, did I ask for size 11 feet, linebacker shoulders, unusual height, and boobs. Never asked for it, universe. Thanks anyway. Point is, I charged into adolescence with a whole heap of “I didn’t ask for this WTF whyyy injustice!?” resting on my 5’10” shoulders. At the time, I always thought I carried myself in an un-teenager-y, swan-like manner, but when I look back I realize that, yep, I held my books in front of my chest, I slouched, I fretted, I tugged my sleeves, I cried. Add a penchant for standing in fifth position and randomly tour jeté-ing across the green, and I think it’s pretty clear exactly how hard I rocked the social scene. I was basically Regina George.
I got my first bra when I was 10, and the boys in fifth grade snapped my bra straps during math. At sleepovers girls gleefully compared their new bra sizes and stared in amazement at my beige underwired Vanity Fair bras. My mother took pity on me and took me to a musty “specialized” lingerie store that featured nursing and mastectomy bras and girdles so that we could find a longline strapless bra I could wear under my tutus during performances. At a certain point I stopped sharing my bra size with my girlfriends, because seeing the stunned surprise in their faces felt so shameful. To have big breasts in the world of my high school felt alienating. I felt like women with big boobs were either matronly and old or slutty and wild, and that those were the only fates and personalities available to me. I didn’t feel like any of those things, and I was constantly afraid that that’s how people saw me. I just wanted to be a ballerina and go to rehearsal and read Harry Potter in a corner and ignore the fact that other people dated and had social lives and shopped at cute clothing boutiques and la la la la that’s not for me. No, I was far too tall/big/booby for that. I kept my head down.
* * *
That’s not for me.
I can’t have that.
I’m a problem.
I have to look elsewhere.
I’m the standout.
I need to hide.
When “not for me” is the golden rule of your life, you start to feel kind of crappy. Shocking, I know. I speak the hard truths.
So I went through middle school, high school, and college (god, why didn’t have I good underwear in college whyyyyy? I was so young! I deserved it!) wearing pretty much the same three bras and hating them. I doubled up on flimsy sports bras. I bowed my shoulders to distract from the wire poking out from the center of my boobs. My final semester of college I took a two-hour stage combat class four times a week (yeah, my parents are super proud. Yeah, I had it on my resume when I applied for the job I hold now), and the amount of finagling and rearranging and subtle wiggling it took to keep my boobs where I wanted them was distracting and humiliating and annoying. I remember getting dressed one day and looking down in despair, thinking “I just wish I had the kind of boobs that fit in bras.”
WHAT. Seriously. Me of today is all “Girl, that thinking is messed up.” Happier, healthier, regular therapist-seeing Me now knows it, and shakes head in sadness at younger, increasingly depression-and-anxiety-plagued Me. If I could tell a young woman, or any woman, anything about her body, and more specifically her boobs and what to do with them, I would tell her this: “The problem is never you.” The problem is the bra. The bra doesn’t feel good or look good? Move on.
So the summer after I graduate from college and am naively/hopefully sure that everything will work out just fine, Mom and I head to Nordstrom, and I stalk over to the shlumpy full figure section of the lingerie department, prepared to get what the English lingerie fans on facebook hilariously/horribly refer to as “boulder-holders”, the giant boring beige bras that I thought at the time were my only options. Nordstrom is actually a GREAT place to get fitted. I can’t speak for every location (but come to NYC pleeeease), and of course they won’t have every style/size/brand, but they know better than to try to convince you to buy a bra that doesn’t fit (Vickie’s Secret, I haven’t even started with you yet). I grabbed my size, and a passing fitter gave me the side-eye. “Have you ever been fitted?” I shook my head “no” and attempted to melt into nonexistence. “Would you like to be?” I said no, Mom said yes, and I found myself in the dressing room with my shirt off in front of a stranger, being handed a bra two band sizes smaller and two cup sizes bigger than the one I was wearing. I bought a Wacoal black lace bra in my new size, and I wore it to work the next day, and I had to call my mother mid-morning in the bathroom to tell her breathlessly “Mom, I haven’t had to adjust my bra ALL DAY!” This was weirdly not as interesting for her as it was for me, but HOLY COW. Revelation. The problem hadn’t been me all along. It had been the bras.
I still didn’t really know what I was doing, bra-wise, when I moved to New York City, but I was doing better. I was also starting to realize that I WANTED better things from my underwear. I wanted the beautiful matching sets with flirty accessories. I wanted lace and color and pattern. I wanted the things I’d been telling myself not to want for my entire adult life. I wanted options. One day I got fed up browsing online for swimsuits and started surreptitiously googling “[my bra size]+swimwear”. There wasn’t much. No magical page with links to shopping sites (in a mere 4 years, this has changed dramatically, especially as lingerie designers and companies expand their online presences and fan interactions). However, I did find myself deep in the forums of an online message board, where a commenter had suggested bravissimo.com for big boobed bras and swimsuits. I hesitated before clicking. I was browsing at work, and this whole “big boobs!” conversation made me nervous: My boobs were (in my mind) huge, internet porn was full of huge boobs, ergo everything on the internet with huge boobs was porn, and the firm IT department was going to catch me, and it was going to be SHAMING and horrible and I would probably die. Obviously.
But I clicked anyway. Y’all, that click changed my life. There’s this one model Bravissimo uses every season, and she is the cutest thing in the world. Thanks to the creepiness of the internet, I found out her name is Heather (hi Heather! We haven’t met). In my imagination she is the best friend a girl could have and she has tea/beer with you and you both like the same books and the same dumb jokes and she shares hair secrets because her hair always looks swell.
ANYWAY, the point is, I’m all hunkered over my computer looking NOT AT ALL SUSPICIOUS AND BEING TOTALLY SECRETARIAL AND STUFF, and I brush off my shame and click, and I land on a picture of Heather. Her smile is a supernova. You have never seen such a completely awesome smile. She radiates joy and pleasantness and happiness and delight. She is a slim woman, it’s true, because hello, she’s a model, but she has this adorable curvy and non-Victoria’s-Secret body, and she’s leaning casually against a shabby chic bed in a stylish bedroom. She looks sexy, it’s true, but it’s not a come-hither, this-is-for-you, you-Observer-Man sexiness. She’s confident. She’s happy. She’s happy with herself and her body. And she’s wearing the most amazing underwear I’d ever seen in my life. I read the description. It’s a set by Miss Mandalay (what brand is that? what a glamorous name!), in the Limeade colorway (I love limeades! charming!): a gorgeous bright lime green balconette bra with a ruffled brief, all trimmed in hot pink lace. There is this gorgeous girl, smiling easily and cheerfully and friendly-ly (totes a real word), and she has this awesome underwear, that, she and her adorable peers seemed to tell me, “yes Internet Person, you too can have.” I have never looked back.