Yesterday I went shopping for a bra.
If you've been here a while, you know that this is a huge (ha!) deal. Besides the whole, FM-having-people-or-clothes-touching-me-in-any-way-is-extremely-painful thing, there's also the fact that I am generously endowed, let's say, and so, finding bras that fit and don't make me want to cry just by wearing them is no small feat.
And yet, mission accomplished!
I went to this awesome, hoity-toity shop called Intimacy in the Copley Place Plaza in downtown Boston, and eventually, I had a personal bra fitting assistant who totally knew her business, and mine too. First off, though - the mall?
Is totally intimidating. Full of stores I have no business being near - Marc Jacobs, Barney's New York, Bergdorf Goodman - you know: Fashionable type places. Also, Insanely Expensive type places. Full of stuff I couldn't afford unless I won the lottery, and then I'd be too busy buying libraries to fill that I wouldn't be bothered. As soon as we managed to find our way out of the parking lot maze, Mum and I both said "uh oh:" We knew we were out of our league here. (I found the store through Yelp, and it had gotten great reviews, but nobody mentioned that it was in a millionaire's mall.)
But we persevered - after an initial bit of wandering, we found the shop, but it was closed because they were shooting a clip for a local TV show in there. Seriously. Models tried on bras in full view of the glass doors as a camera crew shot footage of an older lady (I think she was the owner) showing how each bra fit or didn't fit.
Only at first?
We didn't know they were shooting something there - there was no sign and the door was wide open! - and Mum looked at me and I could tell we were both thinking the same thing: "No way, no how." Neither of us was going to set foot in there if you had to be naked in front of the windows! And cameras! And why the hell were all these people willingly doing that!?!
Then a guy came over and closed the door and told us what was going on, and could we come back in an hour? Holy hell, yes: if it means I can still get a bra, and not be naked in front of the whole world? I will definitely give you an hour.
So we wandered past the stores we could never afford, thinking how money certainly does not equal taste, until we eventually smelled food. We had soup and wraps at Au Bon Pain, and then headed back down to the shop. On the way back we saw headbands that cost $50: for a headband. That wasn't even fancy, or pretty, or... anything. It just held your hair out of your face. So we were pretty sure we could never afford anything at this store, but at the very least we'd get a good fitting, figure out the right sizes, so we could shop more successfully somewhere else.
Back at Intimacy we made appointments - they took our names and everything - and filled out a questionnaire about what kind of bras we usually wear, what we were looking for in a new bra, etc etc. It was pretty humorous, because I wrote something like: 'I have FM and I just need something that makes it possible for me to leave the house without having to cry every time I put it on,' which I think may have confused my fitter a little.
But we finally get called back - separately - to the dressing rooms, which have fabulous non-yellow lights, wide doors and individual spaces, and the requisite full length mirror. While I am none too pleased with the mirror part, I like that the lights are not making things worse (I tend to look sallow under most fluorescent lights, and I am already going to have enough issues being that I'm going to be half naked in a few minutes) and that I can fit the chair into the room, no problem.
Then Angela (my fitter) asks me what I'm looking for, and I tell her. She asks what size I think I am , and I tell her that too. Immediately she says "No way - that's not right," and before I know it, I am shirtless and sitting in the bra I already know doesn't fit, while she checks the tag. With a shake of her head, she bustles out to the showroom, which is lined with drawers full of bras, each clearly labeled by size. She comes back with a handful of lacy bras, and any lasting hope I have had that this was actually going to be a positive experience dies right there.
They do not make lacy bras in my size. My size requires things that say 'minimizing' and look more like two old-timey football helmets soldered together with wires that dig into your skin and hooks that could put your eye out.
Lacy bras are for the lucky ladies who could leave the house sans bra, if they so choose. The only times I have so chosen were times where I was going to the emergency room, and I figured if I injured myself - or someone else - I was going to be there already anyways.
Lacy bras are insubstantial and flimsy - neither of these words could be used to describe my rack.
But I was there, and if I was going to find anything, I had to show her that she was wrong first, so I took off the ill fitting bra I had come in with and was prepared to put on another, just as ill fitting only prettier.
And I was right - it didn't fit. But that's because it was too big. Seriously.
The first bra she brought in was in the size I had told her I was - and I was so wrong. Angela knew it before I did, but after that she explained the whys of it. The cups were not fitting right because the band was too big, she told me. Too big? Something I am trying on is too big for me? I probably would've bought the whole store at that point.
Instead we kept trying - This one was too big in the cups, that one too small. This one had wires that were trying to burrow into my armpits, that one was uncomfortable before she even got it hooked - until eventually I found three different styles of bra that I liked - and one that I even loved. When Angela had finished with me, I was left in the dressing room with 6 bras to choose from - between color options and styles that were just slightly different.
I learned a lot of things I was doing wrong in that dressing room - things nobody ever told me. How you're supposed to wear a bra no more than 3 times a week, alternating them, so that the elasticity has a chance to bounce back, and that they last longer that way. That that piece in the middle is supposed to lay flat against your breastbone - which I didn't even know was possible for me - and that the back strap isn't supposed to be up near your shoulder blades, but about halfway down your back. (Bonus for me: the pain in my back is worse high and low, and the center of my back has the least amount of tender spots.)
I mean, I've been fitted for a bra before, but nobody ever told me these things, which would've been helpful, since I am the least fashionable person I know. I don't know if other women just know these things somehow, or if I missed the class we held on it in school or what, but I don't get clothes. (Or make-up, hair, or shoes, really either.) I don't understand how they're supposed to lay on my body - I mean I see how they work on other peoples' but mine is so different than that. Things don't look the same when you're not standing or walking or when you've got a lot more weight on you.
When I'm trying on clothes, I always figure one of two things - 1) That clothes just don't work right for me because of my unique circumstances (big boobs, sitting all the time, pain making me hunch more or making it more difficult to wear layers, etc.) or 2) That everybody else in the world knows the rules about clothes, and just forgot to tell me. I think most people pick them up by osmosis - or they know what they like/don't like and figure out how to make it work for them. I am not like that... And I usually don't mind, except when I have to look nice.
And the bra shopping - not to mention a hair cut, plus dress, make up (I own mascara. It is too old to wear anymore) and shoe shopping that I still! haven't! finished! - is all because my oldest friend is getting married next week and I can't just show up in my pajamas. And I'd like to look nice.
So imagine my delight at leaving Intimacy with two nice bras (One is even lacy! and purple!), even if they did cost more than I have ever spent on bras in my life. (Mum spent more than I did, and she came out with 2 she loved too!) I know they weren't ridiculously priced, though, and they're so worth it because a) they fit, b) they don't hurt as much because they fit right, and lower (which I probably would've paid twice the price for, because not having to take extra pain meds to put on your bra is worth it), and c) I'm comfortable in them - not just physically, but socially. I know that the different parts of me are staying where they belong, and that's pretty much priceless.
Now I just need a dress. And shoes. And makeup. Ugh.
Still, mission accomplished. And it only took 3 extra pain meds! (People and clothes were touching me, what can you expect?)