One recent evening, dressing for an event, I grabbed the pulls on my overstuffed brassiere drawer in my antique dresser and yanked. It wouldn’t give, so I really pulled hard, then even harder to access my precious treasure trove. The drawer suddenly gave way and a compressed bunch of boned longlines, booster pads, tangled elastic, strapless, halter style racer backs, silicone gel cutlets, underwired front-loaders, back hookers, hydraulic push-ups, and workout tops with tight, bounce-free built-ins, exploded in my face like a jack-in-the box. Ow.
Locating the beige one I wanted to wear that night in this Gordian knot of violet, red, lacy and trashy was impossible. The pink strapped would look sexy showing, but I could not extricate it from a flimsy, clingy purple thong. So, I buttoned up tight that night in an aged, pragmatic Maidenform that never failed me. I didn’t even try to shut the drawer.
“Who needs all this,” I said to myself. “I only have two breasts.”
It was time for a downsize and reality check. My body and mindset were maturing. It was time for a few all purpose, functional, friendly bras, as I was no longer even filling these out on my low fat, flattening diet. I had no idea what size I even was now. Without matrons in specialty shops pronouncing me a B or C on top, a small, or medium in a matching bottom, I had lost my way. How I hungered for the bluntness I recall from my first-time fittings–“You’re too much girl for this,” or “They go in the wrong direction for that.” Where are those wise mature women I’d trust to shove and heft me into the perfect point and cleavage? I am supposed to be them now.
The young women who waited on me in lingerie at the malls nowadays were not seasoned flesh peddlers or prodders. They hadn’t faced changes in their own bodies since they hit puberty—maybe three years before. They encouraged me to purchase one of the identically cloned pairs of cones hanging in platoons across their department. Cookie cutter bust lines seemed to be the aim of manufacturers, and these salesgirls complied with their own perky bouncy twins that moved in tandem. Answering my intimate questions in generalities, their eyes begged me to leave the brick and mortar world in which people actually touch one another, and order online. Middle-aged bodies in the flesh seemed to confuse them.
The next day, I began slashing my lovelies and lace apart, revealing an impulsive shopping history. It was time to get rid of all those off-the-rack mall store and online purchases that I’d bought in a rush for color not fit, or in my lust to have something new. Even if nobody ever saw it but me, I’d feel better wearing it, was the fantasy.
Taking a stroll down mammary lane at home, I tried on every intact brassiere I owned—the sexy itchers, the hydraulic pusher uppers, the Wonder Bras with matching v cut panties, the Wonder Butts with sister size stuffings. I remembered the girl I once was– that shape shifting, exhibitionist flirt. But now I was a grown up—a late in life wife and stepmother. And my new husband’s favorite style of underwear was “off.”
I admired the provocative choices I once made, the events they attended, and recalled who might have seen them. I examined the cuts, the stitching, their decades’ old originality—they don’t make ‘em like that anymore, and I’m not made like that anymore either. I tried on the matching sets and looked objectively in the mirror. My days of teasing and cleaving and exposing had past.
I saved one functional version of each breed—strapless, backless, racerback, jogging, halter, push up, convertible with adjustable straps, even though I knew I would probably not push up, convert or adjust. I stored them in the garage for sentimentality’s sake, knowing I’ll probably take them out in a year or so and downsize again.
With relief, I hooked myself into the comfier unpadded ones, some without underwires, no longer so willing to push these babes around. I selected the ten best. Then I soaked them softer in Downy, washed them brighter in Woolite, dried them on the line in the sun so, free of old sachets, they smelled wholesome. I lined the drawer with lilac scented paper, and slid it easily closed.
Tomorrow I will approach the lower drawers reserved for bottoms. I’ll sort the onesie camisoles from the bikinis: the little boy panties that bunch in the crotch; the high-waisted granny pants for bloaty days that I’d saved for nutty nostalgic reasons, even with the elastic completely shot, even many years past my period; the ‘what-was-I-thinking?’ style g-strings.
Time to let go of girlish ways and my girlish body. Time to live less for vanity and more in comfort. Time to accept that I’m an irreversible, non-convertible, post-menopausal, married, mature, modern and much wiser woman, and looking forwarad all the psychic space that letting go will create.
I’ve been published in Better After Fifty, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family, The Jewish Journal, Funny Times, Purple Clover, and have been a career actor on Broadway and TV series (melaniechartoff.com), currently recording the reiteration of Rugrats (as Didi and Minka), while recurring on the Cartoon Network. I recently married for the first time in my sixties and became a stepmom, too!