It was about a month after I started running that I encountered a slight problem as I was getting dressed one morning.
I checked it twice. The straps were adjusted properly. It was, in fact, on the tightest setting. Yes, it wasn’t just my imagination: it was loose. All the hard work and exercise and dessert deprivation had paid off. I needed a smaller bra…
Other people enjoy weight loss. “OMG!” they say gleefully, “Look at me! I can wear a smaller size! It’s time to get new, cute clothes!” Maybe they save up for these clothes. Maybe they shop all the sales. I don’t know.
But I have grown to accept that I will never have an affordable wardrobe because, underneath it all, it costs a small fortune to cover a pair of large breasts.
And bra shopping is not and never has been fun for anybody ever. It’s traumatic.
At Lane Bryant, the store for fat girls, where I had shopped for the past ten years, I walked with glorious purpose. Confident in my destination, I honed in on my favorite bra style and grabbed the next size down, waltzing to the fitting room to try it on.
Alas, it was too small.
“Oh well. I guess the elastic in my old one just gave out. I’m still in the same size.”
Back in the store, I picked up the same bra in the size I had been wearing.
Alas, it was too big.
What sorcery is this? I thought. Waving to a shop girl, I asked, “Could I get measured for a bra, please?”
She broke out the tape measure and squinted at the number. “Looks like you could wear either a 38 or a 40.”
“You don’t have half sizes? Is there such a thing as a 39?”
“No. That’s not a thing,” she said, sneering at the apparently offensive idea.
“Because I just tried on both a 38 and a 40 and I really can’t wear either of them.”
“Sorry,” she said. “I just work here.”
Oh, I thought. You just work here? That’s okay then. I guess I can spare you when I go all Carrie White on this place, since you’re so innocent.
“Why don’t you go with the 40 since you can get into it?” she suggested.
Sure, I thought. Let me just drop eleventy gazillion dollars on a bra in the exact same size as the one that currently doesn’t fit me.
I bought the 38 out of spite and resolved to run more.
If you’re built like me, running requires a sports bra. “We don’t carry those,” the Lane Bryant girl told me. “Like, you know? ‘cause we’re not that kind of store.” I didn’t have to ask what kind of store she meant.
Sports bra shopping is two kinds of uncomfortable. You’ve got your bra shopping, which on its own is only slightly better than water boarding, but you’ve also got your strange and unfamiliar store to do it in. I can barely make it through the grocery store near my house – new stores are as foreign and scary to me as an alien asteroid, and I explore them with all the caution of one who knows there could be face-huggers around every brightly-colored-spandex corner.
I do not feel as if I belong at the sporting goods store. Gazing over the sea of skin tight, neon lycra, I know that the creatures who favor these garments are not my people. My ways must be offensive to them, as these shorts are offensive to me.
But in just the same way that the fat girl store didn’t carry athletic wear, the sporting goods store didn’t carry fat girl sizes. The sports bras, for example, came in sizes like small, medium, and large. FYI, these are not actual bra sizes: without a cup size and a band size, it’s just a tiny tight shirt.
But I’ve been running! I told myself. Maybe these are my people after all. Perhaps I can wear their traditional fashions and blend in. I picked out several bras, shorts, and tops in the largest sizes available.
In the fitting room, my eyes beheld horrors that I cannot unsee. Even the extra large was too small. I looked like a sausage, conveniently packaged for alien consumption. I longed for the earth to split open and swallow me – if I’d even fit down there.
At a friend’s suggestion, I turned to the internet for sports bras. She recommended a few brands, based on her own experiences and a few magazine articles. My industrial strength super bra (with enough straps and fasteners for a bondage porno) arrived from Amazon within a week, and subsequently trimmed a full minute off my morning run. I decided I was done bra shopping, but the universe had other plans.
Not to be outdone by Lane Bryant and (the aptly named) Dick’s sporting goods, Macy’s wanted in on my humiliation.
Innocently seeking running shoes, I was blindsided by a ladies’ underwear sale, the store’s walkways lined with tables holding bins full of bras. I just want shoes, people! I thought. I’m avoiding bra shopping! You can’t just wave a bunch of bras at me as soon as I walk through the door!
But as I proceeded toward the shoe section, the idea grew on me. It wasn't like I had to go bra shopping; they were conveniently bringing the bra shopping to me. I passed the various sizes in the clearly labeled bins: a huge bucket of 32A, then 34B; a lot of 34C, which is what I wore in high school; and on and on. The bins runneth over, stunning in their variety. I’ll just see what they have in my size, I thought, since it’s on my way and everything.
They ran out of bins somewhere in the middle of the 36s. Not a good sign, I thought. At the end of the line of tables, a handwritten sign saying 38DD was taped to a tattered cardboard box. The box held only one bra. It was ugly…
But not as ugly as the language I used when I saw it.
Why does this have to be so hard? I thought.
(To be continued... Click here for Part II.)