An Oppressed Catholic Woman Shops for a Bra

An Oppressed Catholic Woman Shops for a Bra March 13, 2012

On Sunday, the girls and I took an afternoon trip into Naples. I desperately needed some new bras and the Ogre, who was tired of my $10.99 Target bras falling apart every few months, insisted that I go to Nordstrom’s and be properly fitted (which I have never been) and get some high-quality brassieres. (When they cost over $30 they earn the title “brassiere”.)

The plan was for me to take the girls directly after Mass, but since I’m pregnant and useless I scarfed down some leftover chicken and promptly fell asleep directly after Mass. So directly after my extended nap I found myself, bleary-eyed and nauseous, trying to piece together an outfit out of my newly-maternitied wardrobe. My also-preggo sister-in-law, Sasha Feroce, just sent back some of my maternity clothes, among them my trusty “Birth Control is for Sissies” shirt.

Picture of me wearing said shirt while pregnant with Liam. Never mind the mess behind me; that was a good day in Chez Alexander

I decided that it was about time to spring the shirt on the unsuspecting population of Naples, Florida. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes I am clearly showing. Actually I look about four months pregnant. Par for the course for those of us with short torsos and a hatred of crunches.)

So wear the shirt I did.

Here’s the demographic breakdown of Naples, Florida: tourists and retirees. I’m sure there are probably other people who live here, as I see high schools and such now and then, but everywhere I have been in Naples I have only seen tourists and retirees. Yesterday was no exception.

There was not a single person in the lingerie department at Nordstrom’s under 50. As such, they appreciated neither my high-spirited girl-children nor my high-spirited shirt. I got many a dour and disapproving look from staff and clientele alike, and since the staff were too busy looking at me disapprovingly to offer to help, I decided that a bra fitting wasn’t in the cards and just proceeded to try and find bras in the size I usually buy.

Apparently the third demographic group in Naples is composed of female porn stars, because finding a bra in my usual size was a herculean undertaking. 32D, 32DD, 32F, 32G and 32H abounded, but nowhere did I see the humbler ABC’s. Finally I decided that I simply wasn’t going to waste an hour drive and marched up to a saleswoman to ask for a fitting. She was very kind and helpful, sweet to the girls, and only stuttered just a little when she read my shirt.

She also measured my ribcage and informed me that I measure a full five inches smaller than the bra size I have been in the habit of buying. She actually sounded a little worried when she saw the tag on my current bra and asked, “Sweetie, do you know what size bra this is that you are wearing?” After trying on a few different “fitting” bras she also let me know that I have been buying bras two full cup sizes too small, and putting them on wrong my entire life. Once she finally had me in some bras that actually fit, she made me put my shirt on over them so I could see the difference.

I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that a bra could be such an important part of a woman’s wardrobe. My figure looked totally different with a properly-sized bra to help it out. (Sadly the bra had no impact on my rapidly expanding waist-line.)

I finally walked out of Nordstrom’s with two unbelievably expensive and pretty bras and several nasty looks under my belt. Feeling triumphant, I figured I should probably go ahead and find the kids some church shoes while we were at the mall-ish-type-outdoor-ritz-fest thing. (Can you tell I’m uncomfortable living so close to a ritzy tourist-ey beach town? It gives me the super wigs.)

We headed over to Baby Gap and Gap Kids, which were having 30% off sales, and I found not only church shoes for the girls and Liam, but lovely Easter dresses for the girls as well. Other than vaguely disapproving looks and a few frowns, though, no one said anything about  my shirt.

Honestly, it was kind of surprising to me. In Vegas I got various highly vocal responses, ranging from the ubiqutious “Are you a Mormon?” and the “Hey, I’m a Mormon too! Way to go!” to the derisively muttered “that’s disgusting” and the occasional pompous lecture on the unsustainability of the world population. In Naples, the women mostly just ignored it while the elderly retired men gave VERY pointed looks of disapproval. I found that a little odd. 

After we got the kids clothes I took the girls to Haagen-Dazs for ice cream. The forty-something woman behind the counter looked…well, she didn’t look too happy to be working in a Haagen-Dazs in a beach town, serving overpriced ice cream to overstimulated children. I wouldn’t either, honestly, so I tried to be overly friendly and nice to her. She started to smile back and then read my shirt.

I have never seen someone’s expression go sour so fast. She could have bit into a lemon and looked happier. Not only that, but from the moment she read my shirt to the moment I paid for our ice cream, she refused to look at my face again. She looked at my shirt. She talked to my shirt. She glared angrily at my shirt and refused to thank my shirt for the tip I gave her. I actually hovered while she was making Charlotte’s milkshake, just to make sure she didn’t spit it in. I wouldn’t have put it past her. This was a woman who thought my shirt was neither clever nor amusing. I imagine she also probably follows Cher on Twitter.

After that we went to Trader Joe’s, that liberal bastion of preservative-free and reasonably-priced food, where I have never failed to provoke a stir with my shirt. This time, however, something altogether more pleasant happened.

As I was getting our weekly 3 gallons of milk, I heard a friendly voice say, “You live in Emerson Park, don’t you?” I turned around to see a smiling couple pushing a stroller. I smiled back and said, “Why yes, I do!” The woman said, “we knew you must be from Ave Maria after we saw your shirt.”

Score one for oppressed Catholic women with a sense of humor! We provide solidarity for each other in the midst of our suffering.

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