Saturday, October 17, 2009

Twin Peaks

By the time I was old enough to pay attention to celebrities, Jane Russell had gone from being a movie star to selling bras on television.

Of course, I was too young to really make sense of anything she said. What on earth was a “full-figured woman”, anyway? For that matter, what was a “figure”? Did I have one? And how, for heaven’s sake, did you know when it was full? Was there a series of dashes along the side, like a Pyrex measuring cup?

Still sporting a figure that could best be described as “plywoodesque”, I really hadn’t connected with the concept of “bras” at all. All I knew was the Playtex 18-hour Bra both lifted and separated, and Jane was genuinely relieved that it did so.

I naturally assumed Jane was referring to her hair. After all, it really was quite tall. In those days, women backcombed their hair into a 'puff' that often was so round and expansive it could have housed gerbils, exercise wheel and all. And I suppose the part running across the top qualified as a 'separation', as it defined the region between the 'puff' and the bangs with the distinction of a demilitarized zone.

But this still didn't explain why she chose to talk about her hair while standing around in her underwear. Surely she could have thrown on a blouse before the cameras started rolling. It was clear the poor woman was freezing.

In the years since those days of Jane Russell and her happy Double Dees, I’ve learned a lot about just what it was she was trying to tell me back in 1973.

I remember my first “trainer”. I didn’t even realize I needed a bra, although when Cathy Day started poking all the girls from Mr. Howell’s fourth grade class in their sub-clavicle region while singing the Beneficial Life Insurance jingle (“At Beneficial,” poke, poke, “You’re good for more!” poke, poke) I discovered one day that it was a little more – irksome – than it had been even a couple of weeks earlier. Upon reporting Cathy’s song-with-visual-aids to my mother, she concluded that the solution was a bra. (I had concluded that the solution was a smack upside Cathy's head, but apparently my vote didn't count.)

Of course I couldn't see how getting a bra would solve anything. As far as I was concerned, my hair looked just fine.

Imagine my surprise when a bra turned out to be an article of clothing, one which, by the way, looked nothing like the one old Jane was modeling on TV.

“Why is it called a 'training bra'?” I wanted to know. “What are we training them to do? Balance beach balls on their noses? Recite poetry?”

“No,” my mother sighed, “we’re training you to wear one.”

This was new territory for me. Until now, I had just, you know, worn my clothes, without warming up or reading a manual or anything. Beyond figuring out that there was the same number of buttons as buttonholes, and that things worked best when they were all lined up, I had always approached the wearing of clothing with cavalier, almost reckless naiveté.

But no more. I had entered a stage of life where you actually had to be coached in order to manage your underwear properly.

To the best of my knowledge, I have never graduated from that stage.

For the better part of the last 35 years, I have maintained an adversarial relationship with my lingerie. While as a teenager I was fortunate to have a chestal region that essentially knew its place and didn’t attempt to make a break for it whenever “Copa Cabana” was played at school dances, the childbearing and subsequent child feeding years were not nearly so kind.

Until I had to go through the process of inserting 'Round Peg A' into 'Round Hole B', I never noticed that my equipment was, well, a little wall-eyed. I only achieved “cleavage” when I was laying on my side – attractive, to be sure, but not the most practical position in which to, say, grocery shop. The rest of the time “the girls” have had very different ideas of which direction was ‘forward’, the result being a profile resembling a sort of spongy fork in the road. Only my sternum seems to understand ‘straight ahead’, and sadly, it has always had a clear and unobstructed view.

Nursing bras were the worst, of course. Those silly things were essentially constructed of hidden compartments, mysterious levers, and secret panels - the haunted houses of undergarments. Given the opportunity, a well-organized nursing mother could pack a ‘lunch’ for her baby and still have enough nooks and crannies to store a five course meal for herself.

This was probably a good thing for me, since my "twins" were always unpredictable enough that heaven only knew which room either would settle into for the night. One might start out in the library, only to waken the next morning in the billiard room. And the other might announce its intention to relax in the lounge, and then without warning decide to take the underground passage to the conservatory.

That difficulty continues today. No matter what size or shape or degree of training I go for, the bra in question no more manages to corral one girl than the other is struck with a sudden wanderlust, going over the east wall or, since I turned 40, attempting to tunnel its way to freedom.

These days, the conflict seems to be one of comfort versus latitude. Left to their own devices, these girls would bust loose (as it were) and head south, stopping briefly to chat with Madame Navelle before finally homesteading somewhere around my knees. Gravity is a force that is difficult to resist, and even girls as well-trained as mine eventually accept its magnetic invitation.

This means that if I want said girls to remain close to my heart, I basically have to cinch them in with enough elastic and memory wire to hog-tie an orangutan. By the time they’re contained in my gravity-defying lingerie, I’ve lost all feeling from my armpits to my ribs. Mental hospitals could save a fortune in straight jackets just by wrapping their more enthusiastic patients in three or four of these titanium-framed undergarments.

But who can live like that all the time? Eventually, I miss having my circulatory system include my upper torso, and it turns out I’ve grown rather fond of breathing.

So that leaves me with Option B, a generous and forgiving article of underclothing which is more of a companion to my girls than a creator of boundaries. This bra prefers a laissez faire approach to management, and is far more likely to provide emotional support than physical. Like a lazy babysitter, this contraption can at best be depended upon to not actually sell its charges to wandering bands of flat-chested gypsies. Beyond that, the girls are on their own.

So, just as my husband is on a quest for the perfect cooler – a story I’ll share with you another time – I continue my quest for the perfect brassiere. A bra that keeps everyone securely orbiting above the equator without causing the extremities to drop off from lack of oxygen. One that understands the importance of providing a little encouragement and support when life gets you down, without creating unnecessary tension and a lowering of self-esteem.

In short, a bra that would do Jane Russell proud, lifting and perking and keeping busy for every minute of those 18 hours.

However, when it comes to separating, I don’t need any help from Jane or Victoria or anyone else. From these Twin Peaks, you can see the whole, wide world.


L.T. Elliot said...

Ah, the eternal quest for the holy bra. Wicked wires, puffy padding, and slipping straps. Will mankind ever find a perfect fit? Alas, I have no hopes.

The Garden of Egan said...

Well, I'm quite speechless here. I thought I was the only one that was suffering from droopage.

Interestingly enough a few years ago we were being taught a new way of CPR. No more finding sternal notch go two finger widths above it and begin compressions in that region....the super powers that be said "go between the nipple line" Easier right?

So my next CODE, I'm doing exactly what I was taught to do. My poor sweet little 86 year old female got her compressions right at the navel..........where the nipples were!

Uh, they changed the rules.

Hel said...

Garden of Egan - I think I would be getting my CPR down near my navel and I am only 28!

I guess this is one (or is it two?) big difference you and I have, DeNae. I was actually going to write a post soon about my wonderful journey to Victoria's Secret recently. My girls felt like they had a new lease on life after that trip. But they are the type to be needing separating. They are always fighting.

Victoria's Secret is my favourite (I couldn't tell you the type of bra, though), but I still get the odd times where I look down and I have suddenly acquired another pair of girls (four in total). I HATE that!

How you make me laugh! I particularly liked your peg puzzle.

JennyMac said...

I guess this post reinforces that sometimes its good not to have much up top TO droop. LOL.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I don't know whether to hug you or pretend I never knew you.

And some of us only wear a bra in memory of what used to be.

Lara said...

All I know is that I have never found one that suitably fits. In my whole life.

Someone at Playtex is definitely not doing his/her job!

charrette said...

Nursing bra = haunted house? HAHAHAHAHA!

And Jane Russell? By the time we reached junior high we used to mock her mercilessly. As you can only imagine, she figures prominently (so to speak) in my book!

And I'll never forget the morning after giving birth to child #1 when my milk finally came in....This perpetual B (yes, ME) looked in the mirror and shrieked, "Oh, my gosh, I'm Dolly Parton!" It was unprecedented.

When my mother-in-law's college roommate turned 50, she wrote an epistle, sharing a lifetime of wisdom (in pithy nuggets) with the world, and the one I've clung to (so to speak) (again) is, "If you gain enough weight, you'll eventually have cleavage." For better or worse, I am finally there!

So, dear one, while I may never have enough to reach my navel, let alone my knees, I DO need help! You and I are officially road-tripping it to Los Angeles to a shop named the Wizard of Bras, to be custom-fit for a contraption that actually works!

charrette said...

p.s. I don't normally leave an entire post in the comment box, but, to quote the neighbor kid on the trike from the Incredibles, "THAT. WAS. AWESOME!"

Kristina P. said...

I've solved this problem by just not wearing a bra. I really love the "boobs down to my netherregions" look. The kids I work with reallly appreciate it too.

aunt dyanne said...

haven't you heard the song from "Beaches" that Bette sings?

Otis Titsling already invented the perfect contraption!

( heaven, when we are all "perfect"...will I need one? or will everyone else "not"?)

Happy Mom said...

Oh, my, goodness, I laughed so hard and for so long that my children had to gather around the computer to see what was so funny!! I, of course, promptly directed them elsewhere so that I could finish your post in peace (they certainly wouldn't have found it humorous, only awkward).

You, my dear lady, are truly a gem in bloggy world! (the real world too, I assume).

Mallory said...

You really got me thinking about how to make the perfect bra. What I need is a nice, comfy, preferably soft shelf attached to an elastic band that I can wear directly beneath the girls. Voila. Problem solved. Er...well, at least momentarily.

InkMom said...

OH, DeNae. Go with Charrette. Getting a professional bra fitting changed my life. No joke. I wrote about it. The Bra Revolution. I won't link, but if you want to read it, you can search.

I am one of the rare and unlucky souls endowed with more than their fair share in the bosoms department. And the ones I wear now are EXPENSIVE and MIRACULOUS. When I tried on my first one, angels sang. I'm not kidding.

You, as always, are hilarious. Thank you for sharing!

Melanie J said...

Through my twenties, I had a pair of perfect little Golden Delicious nuggets up there, riding the hide tide. They have now settled to a normal level and show a worrisome hint of asymmetry. This kiddo number three is simultaneouly now inflating them and sending them Southward. It is the oddest, oddest thing.

M-Cat said...

Oh the training bra. My dad took me to buy my first bra (mom was mental), and can you imagine my embarrassment???

Now, in my 40's, three sons and three rounds of nursing later, I will not wear anything less than a specially fitted bra from Victoria's. Hell yeah they are expensive, but worth every one of Splenda's pennies.....

Jessica said...

I'm at a phase in my life where I enjoy the padding. It is necessary in order to keep me from looking like a 14 year old boy.

Thanks a lot kids.

Thanks to you Denae for giving the "girls" a post all their own.

That Girl said...

How come all I can come up with is "tee hee!" at the end of your posts?! It's embarrassing.

I laughed from beginning to end.

Anna said...

As I sit here in my haunted house contraption, it's nice to know I'm not the only with wall-ward twins. LOL thanks.

AS Amber said...

SUCH a funny post, sister!

So I remember when I got my first training bra. I don't know how old I was but I got it for Christmas. We went to G-ma and G-pa P's house and dad told them I'd gotten a training bra(of course I died) and grandma said, "well maybe if mine had had a little training they wouldn't have gotten so out of control".

(Our grandma was 4'10" both tall and around.)

And Dillard's has specially trained girls to fit you for a bra. But the LA place sounds way more fun!!

Oh and this post reminds me of the "dance" I did at Girls' Weekend. A ha ha ha ha!!!

R Max said...

Nowadays nobody "trains". They just jump right in. You pipped me at the post, so to speak. I have a post all about my unproductive trip to the store(s) to find a bra for my daughters. One that doesn't "push up". I suppose I'll be posting that one next year...

wendy said...

Ha Ha ---I can so relate. Bras are so uncomfortable!!
Luckily I am not overly endowed, so my shoulders aren't drooping yet. But they somehow keep getting more and more "deflated" with every passing year. Wouldn't it be cool if we could stick an air filler in those nipples and "fill er up"
And, Jane Russel was probably only in her 20's when she was doing her PERKY bra commercials. I'd like to see that brods boobs now.

Qait said...

:D Hahhaha... my struggles are different. I could tell the story of my personal doomsday when the woman on the other side of the dressing room door announced "32G." That's just yucky.
I am on the same quest! Even if for different reasons! :D

Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

For some reason I have been worrying about you. You are probably fine, I hope you are fine but you know women, when we decide to worry, well, we go right ahead and do it. I hope I have received the wrong thought from the vast Universe and should be worrying about someone else.

I have a chapter in my YA book about buying bras and now I can't seem to write a word. Maybe the bra chapter took it all out of me. Ha! True, in so many ways.

David B said...

Kazzy said...

You did it again. I am laughing my ... head off. wink

Annette Lyon said...

I can hardly breathe from laughing over here. Sadly, at 35 (almost 36), I'm already in the serious netherlands. My daughter has a trainer. I don't have the heart to tell her what awaits her.

Beka said...

You are truly brilliant! And timely. Several months ago, I got my daughter her very own "training bra". I couldn't get her to wear it. At all. Ever. I finally asked her why and she said, "I don't like it. I need cups."

So after I removed my butt from the floor and finally stopped giggling, I tried to calmly remind her that she is 9 YEARS OLD FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

Boobs: a blessing and a curse.

Kim Almond said...

Very nice, DeNae! I got my first bra in 6th grade and that night went to Aunt Rhonda's play performance of Annie. Such a great night! My girls obviously went to night school to supplement their initial training because they became stellar students! Amby... Sally and I want an encore to the dance you did at Girls Weekend!