Friday, August 10, 2007

Not Just Hemlines

I'm not sure I understand why I was so mad that my boobs got bigger, but that doesn't change the fact of the matter. I was.

The last time I bought new bras, an activity which I genuinely loathe, was over a year ago, as part of the post breakup Foxification Project. Mine were all either worn out or not sexy. I wanted bras that people would be excited to see. I wanted bras that weren't sports bras. I was on the hunt. The only ones I could find that didn't make me despair of ever getting laid again were those shiny, foamy ones from La Senza.

I was appalled. I find the fake boobness of them on the rack alarming, and as I was gingerly picking them off the rack, I knew that these things were why it looked like every woman in Ottawa had had a tit job by the same plastic surgeon. These bras hoik your boobs up high and make them very rounded. They're very structured bras, which creates a boob norm and erases any difference in breast shape from woman to woman. This made me sad, since I'm a breast gal who finds all different kind of breasts sexy. Pointy, rounded, big, small, high, low. Yes, please. And thank you.

Did I want to be part of the problem?

That gave me pause, but then desperation set in. I'd been to three or four stores. I'd had a meltdown in the Jacob changeroom. These La Senza bras were comfortable and they gave me nice cleavage. My t-shirts didn't stick to them. They didn't give me weird armpit booblets. But they made my breasts look really different from any of my pre-foamy bras.

My breasts went from being ski-jumpy 70s boobs, with which I'd been perfectly happy, to fitting in with the current Rounded High Shelf craze. Depending on the day, though, since I still hadn't given up my pre-foamy bras and still went braless pretty regularly. The wild swings weren't helped by the fact that I'd done some reading up on bra sizing and realized that I'd been wearing the wrong size bra for oh, my entire post-pubescent life. I went from a 36B Ski Jump to a 34C Rounded High Shelf, which, from what I read, is pretty typical change in size. C sounds bigger, but really isn't, since a 34C is about the same breast volume as a 36B. Just arranged differently.

Very differently. For a while, every time I looked down I was surprised at how close my boobs were to my face. Hellllooooo cleavage.

My friends and acquaintances found it surprising too. Every time I wore one of the new bras, I would notice people I knew staring at my tits with their eyebrows all quizzled up. I worried they thought I'd had the same work done as all the other girly girls in Ottawa and often wanted to lean over and whisper, "It's just the bra." Shelley would catch herself staring, then shake her head and say, "That's all bra? Crazy." Gradually, my Ski Jumps wore out and I was left with the Rounded High Shelfs. My tits started looking more consistent and people got used to it.

I have never really gotten used to my body. Every time I think I do - and I sometimes manage to go a year or where I don't have to think about what size I am, I just know this is my pants' size, this is the kind of skirt that suits my size and shape - something happens. Last year, the break up happened. First there was the pre-break-up getting in shape, with running and yoga, both of which changed the shape of my body. Then, even though I was brutally sad about the break up, I was also thoroughly relieved. I started eating more. My cells stopped being bathed in the hormones of anxious and sad and I started absorbing more nutrients. It all took a while to kick in. By January last year, I'd gained about 10 pounds of happy fat.

Not a noticeable difference for most people, but a big difference for me. I had gotten used to being skinny. I didn't love it, necessarily, but I'd been a couple years at that weight and had relaxed a bit into my skin. You know, buying clothes and not worrying that they might not fit in 6 months; being able to pick a pair of pants off the rack and correctly judge whether they'd go over my thighs; buying new bras that actually fit my breasts. Stuff like that. The ten pounds was enough to shake all that and put me back in a place where from the inside, I couldn't judge the size of my outside.

There was a taste of this in Halifax. I did a bit of thrifting, first at the Dartmouth Value Village and then the row of secondhand stores on Queen Street. Altogether, I tried on about a dozen pieces of clothing. I bought one skirt and one dress. They were the only two things that fit. Everything else either fell off or didn't get on in the first place. I just kind of thought sheesh, it's crazy how that happens to people.

Then Shelley and I were walking down the street talking about organizing her room and she mentioned some clothes she hadn't worn in a while. "And who knows if they'll even fit," I said. She looked at me, surprised. "Why wouldn't they fit?" she asked.

I was shocked on a basic level. The level where I consider myself the norm. I mean, when I think about it, of course I know that not everyone's body works like mine. I've even heard Shelley comment on the fact that she's been a stable weight for years and years. But that knowledge hadn't sunk in on a practical level, hadn't filtred out into a recognition of the impact those differences might have on mundane habits. Like saving old pants for three years because maybe you might gain weight again but probably not but just in case, and then chucking them two months before you gain 10 pounds and could wear them again.

The Foxification Bras have needed replacing for a while now. The elastic was kinda stretched out. The foam was getting a little dented, and lord knows you don't want denty foam in a Rounded High Shelf. Along with most of my clothes, they had gotten too small . In a fit of remarkable cognitive dissonance, I managed to both recognize and not realize this last fact.

Which is how I happened to be wearing a 34C in the changeroom at La Senza, fiercely whispering to the salesgirl through a crack in the door "This doesn't fit right, does it? Did you guys change your sizing? Because I'm not a D." I couldn't be a 34D. I know my body, right, so I can tell you that I have medium-sized breasts, because I have always had medium-sized breasts, which means that they are are not small, and are not big, and so very definitely not a D because a D is big. No matter what the size around your ribs is. No matter that I've been looking at my boobs spilling out of the Foxification C-cups and thinking "Hmm. Is this bra perhaps too small?" No matter. I am not a D. Not. Possible.

Except then
the salesgirl said "No, I don't think we've changed our sizes." I pursed my lips. Bullshit, I thought. Bull. Shit. Stores are always changing their sizes and what the fuck. Stupid. It's just stupid, because obviously I know my own body. Christ almighty. Fucking La Senza. But I wasn't going to pay $70 for bras that didn't fit. So I bought the Ds and cranked out of the store and back to work.

Except later
Shelley said, "Actually, I've noticed your boobs have gotten bigger. You're definitely at least a C." And I thought, What? Well fuck. Because Shelley always picks the right size for me when we shop together. Her, her I trust.

I was disappointed. I wanted it to be Them. I wanted it to be the fault of the stupid clothing industry and their stupid random sizing designed to trick people into feeling more like buying their stupid clothes.

I didn't want it to be the disjuncture between my brain and my messy, uncontrollable body. But that doesn't change the fact of the matter. It was. And that pisses me off.


Jo Stockton said...

My current "them" is the birth control pills. The internet warned me that I'd gain weight and gain boobs and voila! Here is the weight! Here are the boobs! Things are shaking that never shook before. I don't know if anyone but me will notice, but man, I'm pissed too. Grrrr.

Harmony said...

Don't know if you've ever been pregnant, but talk about being shocked by bodily changes. You can't believe what's going on. Your breasts become two canteloupes perched on a watermelon. HUGE canteloupes on a BIG melon. And then there are all the other changes besides. I won't even go into breast-feeding. And the aftermath...

SLM said...

I, for one, think this post would have been much clearer were it illustrated with photos.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have anything to worry about, I saw you biking down Bank Street today and you looked as smashing as always.

Asteroidea Press said...

Jo: I haven't noticed! But I'll grr with you anyway. Grr.

Harmony: See, this is one of my biggest reasons for not getting pregnant. I've watched a few people go through it recently and I have to say, it mostly didn't look like fun.

SLM: Be careful what you ask for!

Anon: Thank you, that's very kind. It's not that I think I look bad. My body is my body and some days I like it, some days I don't. What's pissing me off is how can I be 32 years old and not know my body? I find that beyond frustrating.

zoom said...

Excellent post Megan. I think it's partly that our bodies keep changing and partly that the manufacturers are completely inconsistent about sizing. And size is such a weirdly critical perceptual thing for women, so it really messes with our heads when our body numbers inexplicably change.

Harmony said...

But remember, and to paraphrase that Mastercard commercial...
Pregnancy: not much fun.
Body changes during pregnancy: not fun at all.
Tiny human resulting from pregnancy: priceless.

Evey said...

When you're in a hating your body phase, it's nice to have company. I've gained some weight over the past few months, which I guess could be normal, only now I'm past the "I can sort of fit into this size jeans" to actually buying the next size up. I feel like my body shouldn't be doing this to me, I'm nice and I feed it and we get exercise (apparently not enough). Thanks for posting this, it makes me feel much better. :)

suge said...

I admit I didn't read most of this, but I thought it was pertinent:

I did, however, read all of your post, as well as the supplemental ones above. well done all around!