Saturday, June 20, 2009

Calling an E and E

SPOILER ALERT: I'm going to complain about having big breasts. DO NOT post comments about how I shouldn't complain because you always wished for bigger ones. That's your problem.

Actually it's mostly bras I'm going to complain about.

But before we go any further, an auxiliary rant.


Now back to original (bra) tirade.

Before we even get to the problem of bra shopping, there is the issue of measuring. Measuring yourself for a bra is only easy if one's breasts are a)reasonably sized, b) newly hatched, or c) plastic. To measure a large, gravity afflicted bosom, one needs to be wearing a well-fitted bra.

Chicken and egg thing.

So what you really need is a good friend, a blackmailable friend, who can stop laughing long enough to measure you whilst you support your own breasts in a position approximating where you want them to fall while wearing the Theoretical Bra. Yes I said fall. Pay attention.

Alternatively, husbands and boyfriends are very obliging when asked to serve as what I affectionately call the Living Bra, but their minds wander.

Theoretical bra size in hand -- wait, let's talk about the whole sizing thing. Lingerie manufacturers appear to have the literacy skills of preschoolers. After the letter D the little dears get very confused. They start doubling letters randomly.

Or maybe they're size pleats. I don't know.

Anyway after D comes DD. Usually. Most brands reserve the full weight of ponderous E for the next size, which should logically or at least alphabetically be F. Then they throw in DDD, or EE, or F, or whatever. Bra sizes in this range are sort of like the more esoteric domains of particle physics, where the likelihood of practical consequences is so low that noone understands or even gives a damn how the grant money is spent.

Now the shopping part.

It goes like this.

I see a little lace confection, and then I look for my size...

Bras, for some reason, are displayed with the smallest sizes on the top hooks and the largest at the bottom. At least they are where I shop, which is admittedly low-rent.

If my size is represented, it is at floor level. To find it, I have to get down on my knees, occasionally on my stomach. I am 5'8" and 160 lbs, so this is not a comfortable or dignified position. Thanks to yoga it's still possible.

With my arm fully extended to the back of the rack , I find the tag I seek and bring it forth into the light -- and recoil.

No. Way.

The cups are the lingerie equivalent of big floppy clown shoes. I double check the tag. Yes, way. Now to put on the bra. (In the dressing room. Trust me.) A little guidance as to technique.

Slide the straps onto your arms. Lean forward until you are hanging upsidedown from the waist. Manuever stuff into the cups with the help of gravity. While upsidedown, bring the band around your back and secure the row of hooks -- 3 is the minimum, six is best -- before returning to an upright position. Again the usefulness of yoga is proven.

Stand in front of the mirror and shove a hand in each cup to adjust alignment. Check for containment around the periphery. Put on heels and practice keeping your balance.

Am I whining? Yes. Will this kill me? No. Do I secretly enjoy having cleavage? Yes, of course. There had better be some compensation for this kind of annoyance.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rage Against the Machine

I am a rebel. Don't let my geekly demeanor fool you.
Oddly, most of my outrage is reserved for fashion injustices, but nonetheless. My rebellious nature killed any hope of becoming a lawyer, or for that matter my chances of being well paid in any field.

Chapter One
When I was seven, I went to a boarding school. My parents are not cruel, and I have many happy memories of this school, EXCEPT it was the kind of school where girls were required to wear dresses. Jeans for either sex were not even discussed. But girls above all must not wear slacks, as they were called in that eon.
So okay, I wore dresses. I was seven. I liked dresses. Still do, actually.

EXCEPT I was the only girl in first & second grade combined. And I played kickball -- remember that game with the red rubber ball? And dodge ball, and kick-the-can. With the boys.
Because there were no girls my age.

Jumped rope, swings, monkey bars. Anyway, the point being, that the little perverts would do their best to make me achieve positions that would expose my panties. Not difficult since I was WEARING A SKIRT.
[Also sliding into a base was a problem, but only secondary since I didn't have the inclination to do much of that.]
After a few days of this, I started wearing shorts under my skirt.

Which worked fine for a couple of months. The perverts must have gotten resentful, because someone told teacher. Guess what? It was against the rules to wear shorts under your dress.
Really. No seriously.
I was required to take them off if they were discovered. (Not the panties, just the shorts.) I stopped for a week, then kept on wearing them. I kept getting caught. Then I figured screw it --

wait, I didn’t learn that expression till later...
but that was the precise moment I learned the sentiment. I refused to play. Sometimes I played jacks, but mostly I just sat in the classroom every day during recess. Looking back I realize that what felt like giving up was actually sweet revenge, because I’m sure I made that teacher’s life hell every day at recess for the rest of the year. She stayed in the classroom to get work done. She didn't get a lot done. Good for me.

Chapter Two
The bloomers.
I felt you needed to see these to capture the full weight of the humiliation being inflicted by the authorities. But wait! Not at aforesaid stalag boarding school. We’re talking public school, United States, late seventies.

Now, here’s what the boys wore.

Uh huh.

(borrowed photo. Not mine in any way.)

Okay. Now, this is what female students were required to wear for gym class in jr high and high school.

These had to be purchased at a sporting goods store in town that special-ordered them every year, because these were not going to be stocked by any store interested in a profit margin. One could order the required "your name embroidered in gold on breast pocket" when you placed your order, or if you were handy with embroidery -- and I was --- you could embroider it yourself.

Mom took one look at this and howled. With laughter. Apparently they were similar to what she had to wear -- in the FORTIES. And they were outdated then.

Now, most of you remember what gym class was like, right? I think Mengele came up with this idea. Make young adolescents undress and change in front of each other, sweat like pigs, and then give them two options: take a group shower, or change back into your clean clothes without one and then go back to class either way.
So, for the girls, this was the coup de grace. When you change, you have to put this on, and then appear in public, in front of boys that you hope will one day ask you to the prom.

You have to do sports wearing this.

You have to stand in line by the fence and get picked for teams --- wearing this.

I can’t remember exactly when but I think it was eight grade -- so, three years into this daily torture -- that one of the girls said SCREW THIS, I am not going to wear it.
By this time I knew the phrase but I would never, ever say it out loud, because I couldn’t pull it off.

Ironically, she was one of those girls -- we all know who they were -- who could make boys drool wearing this. She could get that belt just tight enough to make the fabris stretch over her dumbells and make the third snap threaten to pop --- oops! There it went, giggle.
So anyway she got detention. The next day, her friends refused, and they got detention.

Now, that girl was not me. Nor was I one of the friends, but in (silent) solidarity I also refused to wear The Bloomer Gymsuit. (I was so, sooo trying to be one of the cool kids. But I was also sincere.)
And I got detention. First ever.

That was in itself an exhilarating experience for a goody two shoes. Liberating as well, since I learned that it was just a room next to the office with about two dozen heavily graffitied desks, and a sweaty tuna fish kind of smell. And you could read the whole time and no-one told you to put the book away.

Anyway they called our parents, and they sent a note home with each of us. The next day Mom drove me to school, and I waited in the outer office while she went in to talk to the principal. After a while she came back out, kissed me goodbye, and the principal sent me back to class. He looked a little pale. At the end of the day we were told that girls must wear shorts and a t-shirt for gym class.

Chapter Three
There seems to be a pants theme here.

My third sartorial challenge came in the late eighties. I was employed for a few years at a law factory. I was fresh out of college, discovering that an Ivy League degree meant precisely snap if you didn’t know what you wanted to be when you grew up, and had no marketable skills.

So, I’m making about $11,000 a year after taxes, which even then was a pittance, and one-eighth the income of brand-new associates for whom I drafted entire documents because they didn’t know what the hell they were doing. I have one good wool “interview” suit and a couple of wool skirts. It is winter. It is Philadelphia. I hike half a mile from the cheap parking to the train in the suburbs, and eight blocks from the train to the office. There is often a foot or more of snow and slush and wicked ice chunks thrown off by passing cars.
I splurge one whole paycheck on two pair of lined wool trousers, some sturdy but fetching boots, and some wool cable-knit tights, the kind I used to wear under plaid skirts in grade school.

I wear my toasty trousers.

I am invited into a conference room by the personnel manager, who confides in hushed tones that trousers are against the dress code. He says almost apologetically that I must wear a dress, skirt, or suit.

I am so stupid that at first I think he means I have to get a jacket to match the trousers. Then I get it. A few hours later I even get angry.

But I fail to protest. Such is the real world. Even passive aggression will get me fired; though I do consider wearing shorts under my skirt. Nor can Mom come ream out my employer, not that she wouldn’t, but I would still be jobless.

So I sigh. Next morning, I put on my cable knit tights, and trot off to work: glum, shivering, but solvent.

After lunch the PM stops me in the hall and gives me a copy of the employee handbook. Meaningfully. When I get to my office I notice that there is a page dog-eared. It opens to the dress code. Under the section for Female Employees, there is a paragraph describing what a Female Employee must wear or not wear under her mandatory skirt.
Bright panties under light colored fabric were inappropriate. I agree, although the partners weren’t complaining about the secretaries who did that. [Interestingly, it was nowhere stated that panties were mandatory. At the time I figured it was implied.]

It seems cable-knit tights are unprofessional. Who knew?

So I went home that night and said, “screw this,” which by then I could say pretty convincingly, at least when alone in the confines of my little apartment. And I started filling out applications for grad school.

Chapter Four
Right now I’m wearing a sarong. Life is good.