I had a boob job yesterday. No anesthesia. No incisions. No saline. No swelling. I simply pulled off my top and a gifted saleswoman gave me a bigger bra … made me a bigger boob. I’m a different person today. I find myself reaching all the high notes on “Lord lift ‘em up where they bel-oh-oh-ong” and the low notes on that Right Said Fred classic “I’m too sexy for Milan, too sexy for Milan, New York, and Japan,” as though my lungs suddenly expanded too. Since my bosom buddy inflated my cup size (and ego), I’ve been nervously expecting a phone call to say that there’s been a terrible mix-up, and I need to give the boobs back.
A few sunny days—and cupsizes—ago, I was fighting with my knickers and bras trying to find a decent, somewhat-matching set that didn’t leave either a visible panty or visible bra line. I was going for dinner with a bunch of girlfriends and wanted to dress up a little, from the inside out, and not just pull a fresh-icing-on-a-not-so-fresh-slice-of-cake number. Some of my girlfriends are single sex-in-the-city types, and because they don’t have Spiderman underpants, athlete’s foot creams, or cat litter to buy, I imagine that they spend all their millions on delicate European underthings, exotic massages, and skin-conditioning treatments, when they’re not shoe-shopping that is. Determined to look and feel like a “woman” and not a harried-and-married-mother-of-two, I produced the saucy peach-colored undies I’d indulged in over a year ago and worn once, for half an hour. Frilled and flounced up, laced and ribboned in, I was quickly reminded that the peachey ensemble works best with a pair of bedsheets.
Several wardrobe changes later, I found myself relapsing to the reliable well-worn and much-machine-washed plain cotton bra and matching panties. At least it matches, I thought, though I had to maneuver the bra a little to keep everything perky. I sighed in the mirror realizing, yet again, that no matter how fabulous the top, if I throw it on over my practical bra, I somehow feel like a hundred dollars, not a million.
I recounted my frilly frustrations later that evening to my giggling girlfriends after our third round of margaritas, and learned that you never can know for sure what goes on behind closed drawers. Amy swore that she doesn’t even own matching underwear. Siobhan declared I had “notions” to coordinate my top and bottom so. Bethany begged that we don’t get her started on Maternity undies. All laughed at the idea of ever owning delicate European underthings. I explained that I wear matching underwear most days, for fear I’ll get hit by a bus (and there’s a Dr. McDreamy in the Emergency room). The very day I wear the ragged knickers is the very day a double-decker bus of camera-toting tourists will spiral out of control and into my path. I actually feel that by wearing matching underwear, I keep the buses at bay.
Much conversation, and margarita drinking followed, as did flashes of tatty-yet-trusty bra straps. The night ended with the drunken resolution that all of us should restock our sad lingerie drawers. My wise-and-with-it friend Jinny suggesting that a bra-fitting might be a smart first step.
I volunteered to take my little pair of guinea piggies to Manhattan’s Town Shop on 81st and Broadway to see if a bra-fitting was worth the bother. What Not to Wear’s Stacy London sends fashion victims there all the time, lecturing that a good wardrobe starts with a good foundation. I knew going in that 80 percent of women are walking around wearing the wrong-size bra, but I always counted myself in the more vain and knowing 20 percent, that is until I met my fitter and new bff (breast friend forever).
The store reminded me of the stuffy little boutique in Ireland where my mother and I bought my First Holy Communion Dress. It felt a little old-fashioned and a little intimidating. I had that “cornered” feeling that I’m sure my mother experienced at Carmel’s Boutique: once you’ve crossed the threshold, you know you can’t leave without buying something. There’s no time or encouragement to browse the racks or wander aimlessly. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a professional and polite fitter and escorted to a dressing room, where I was promptly sorted out.
I was instructed to take my top off and without even asking my current bra size or producing a measuring tape, my fitter clinically appraised me and announced that I’m 40DD.
Okay, so I’m not quite 40DD but at 32D, I’m up there. Up there compared to the 34B I’d been wearing two minutes before. Now it’s true, size really doesn’t matter. I was perfectly fine with my 34B bra size. I subscribed to the philosophy that anything more than a handful was a waste. But was I happy? Was I really happy? Hadn’t I always felt that I was a busty lass trapped in a tiny balconette bra? I wondered aloud if my fitter could decrease my bottom size a tad while she was waving her wand around. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t even crack a smile. And she certainly didn’t make my bottom smaller. Bra-fitting is serious business.
So we got to work: she fetching bras, me trying them on. My fairy bra mother tugged and adjusted straps, all the while asking questions of the style of bra I was looking for. I wanted a seamless, but pretty, bra. I’m so over the boring and plain nude bras that work well under fitted tops and tanks but look ugly, in the same way that I’m over lettuce being good for me, but not tasting good. I wanted something I could wear under almost anything, but feel good wearing it. My fitter told me that just like with pants or dresses, different bra designers have slightly different fits, so I should always, always, ALWAYS, try on before buying. The poor woman had obviously bought an ill-fitting bra once and lost her receipt. I tried to hug her but she was moving too fast, whipping bras on and off me, adjusting her search with my every reaction.
After I had tried on at least twenty different styles and been “approved” by a stern woman who seemed to be the high-mistress-fitter, I was ready to make my purchase. While putting back on my once-favorite but now obviously-tiny cotton bra, I listened to the women in the surrounding rooms trying to find the perfect fit for their practical needs and romantic minds. One woman had one breast smaller than the other, another was trying on bathing suits, and a mother had dragged her reluctant teenager in for a fitting. I heard young Kristi snarl, “Ugh mom, I won’t want to wear anything from here!” I’d had a similar feeling when I first walked in, thinking this was surely where grannies and driving instructors bought their undies. But I quickly found out that practical, well-fitting underwear does not have to be boring.
I fell for French intimate apparel company, Chantelle, in a big way, deciding on a pretty-but-practical seamless nude number with slim doublestraps and other pretty little details, as well as the sexier (but still practical) Graphie, a chocolatey brown number with nice details and a nice $40 price tag. I also snapped up the matching $30 thongs, rationalizing that the sets were still cheaper than the surgery I’d need after getting hit by a bus.
I walked out of Town Shop, two cup-sizes heavier and $150 lighter, and immediately called my friends to get themselves to a professional fitter. I called my sister to gleefully offer her my castoff “little” bras. She said she was surprised to hear that I’m a bigger bra; but apparently, the fact that I’m a big boob is already common knowledge.