It was an epiphany. And it hit me like a cartoon train.
In a dressing room, at the mall, with a woman standing outside the door wearing a measuring tape as a necklace, I was staring into the mirror and seeing another woman looking back at me. And she was in her underwear.
This was a mistake, I thought to myself. I shouldn't be here. I should be searching through racks at a discount store. But there was no going back.
I had been wide-eyed and fully clothed when the sales clerk circled my torso in two places. Looking intently at the spot where her fingers had pinched the pink-colored ribbon, she announced a fact I wasn't prepared to accept.
I couldn't help but laugh even though I really just wanted to cry.
Those are cartoon proportions. Proportions that would have my husband -- Wild E. Coyote – calling me “Mudflaps” under his breath.
“What size have you been buying?” the sales clerk asked with an efficient flair as she flopped a handful of push-ups or demis or bralettes over the door for me to try.
“Medium,” I said sheepishly, knowing that I had never abided by the laws of base-layer structure.
“A proper fit,” it is well known, “makes all the difference.”
All these years I'd been lying to myself.
Lying, and squashing my chest into the undergarment equivalent of an ACE bandage, trying to rebel against all the authority vested in mother nature.
Stupid mother nature. And her vests.
Despite appearances, this epiphany didn't start in a swank lingerie dressing room. It started on page eight of a 34-page booklet my daughter brought home from a special “Your Changing Body” workshop she attended in fourth grade with the school nurse and most of the other female students of the fourth-grade class.
She, of course, wanted nothing to do with the “maturation kit,” which included the booklet and a few sample products. After the class, she'd stuffed all the things back into the drawstring bag and hidden it at the bottom of her backpack. Where I found it ... looking through a fist-full of homework assignments and graded papers.
It was fascinating. … all the biological facts that I suppose I already knew, but hadn't exactly thought about for years, or thought about in elementary-school terms.
“Starting at the Top,” offered a simple math equation for bra fitting that confounded me:
“Measure around your chest just below your breasts … If it's an odd number, add 5. If it's an even number, add 4. This is your frame size.
To find your bust size, measure around the fullest part of your chest. Compare your frame size to your bust size and if they are the same, you need an AA cup. If they differ by 1, you need an A-sized cup. If they differ by 2, you need a B. If it differs by 2, you need a C.”
But the grade-school equation only went up to D.
Which, I guess, is probably appropriate given the audience for the pamphlet I was holding.
Even so, I was getting an education in middle age that I had probably received in Middle School but likely stuffed into my own backpack after the presentation.
Honestly … I had NO idea THIS was the trick to properly measuring one's bust line. Adding. Subtracting. All these years television commercials had me believing it was all about lifting and dividing.
Numbers. Letters. I'm still at a loss for how all this mysterious algebra works.
“How do they get to 3Ds?” I wondered aloud.
“Are you ready to try more?” the voice called from behind the door as another set of garments flopped over the transom.
“I'm not sure I'll ever be ready.”