I am what they used to call a “full sized” gal. And please, before you give me the “don’t put yourself down” speech, I’m not putting myself down. I’m stating fact, and the fact is, there is nothing that can be done to undue the mental and physical impact of the daily requirement of putting on a bra, especially since that requirement started when I was 11. I will never forget the first time my mother took me to get a bra. “It’s time,” she said to Ruth the sales clerk. Ruth wore an overly tailored sales woman outfit circa 1978, and armed with her measuring tape draped over her shoulders she came at my chest and started doing the appropriate algebra until the proper foundation garment was determined. And so it began, 39 years of uninterrupted brassiere wearing confinement.
I have tried every brand, every type, every style. From your bullet proof betties to your demure décolletage damsels … and frankly, I have never found one that I love. There are some I like, and there are many I hate, but there isn’t anything out there made for me, and I have come to just deal with it. Beyond the lack of bra brand loyalty, I also have a major league chip on my shoulder, and that is the impact on my wallet. Because of my size, I can’t get away with cheap bras. Rather, I need to spend real cash, and that means $50 to $75 or more for one bra. Yesterday I bought 4 new bras and spent $265 … and that was on sale.
Last month, while riding in my spin class, I felt pressure on my breast bone. The room was dark, so when I looked down I had a tough time seeing what it may be, I reached down and there it was, my underwire that came dislodged from my $95 sport bra and was now jabbing me in the sternum. I grabbed it and pulled it out and continued my ride, hoping I wouldn’t injure the rider on the bike in front of me when I thrust forward doing a tricep dip.
In 1983, Gloria Steinem published an essay in her book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions entitled: “If Men Could Menstruate.” Among other changes in how society views menstruation including Congressionally backed Institute of Dysmenorrhea to combat monthly workplace productivity impact, research on why men were superior due to their ability to bleed on a time clock and federal funding for free sanitary supplies. When I read this essay in my feminist literature class my senior year in high school, Gloria’s point burned into my brain and my feminist sensibilities.
If we take her point about sanitary products, and expand it to bras, the cost of doing business, just to be a woman is in the neighborhood of $700 a year more than being a guy. I am basing this on six regular bras a year at $40 a bra, five sport bras a year at $65 a bra, plus a year’s supply of sanitary products. I am not including birth control in this total, but I should considering that we will need to be paying out-of-pocket for it, while men can just get handed their government subsidized Viagra, but that is another column for another day. Bottom line, I have a lot of things I would like to spend $700 on, other than clothing items that give me back pain.
Ladies, let’s be serious, no man is going to understand the indignity of spending this level of cash on a piece of Lycra. When feminists burned their bras they had it figured out, except for the small matter of how to avoid knocking yourself unconscious when exercising to your Jane Fonda tapes. Compound all of these hard feelings with those experienced by my more shapely sisters who, by virtue of our dimensions, are required to spend 50% more on bras than those whose chromosomes were more forgiving to their budgets, I think you get the picture.
There are expenditures that relate to being me that I actually don’t mind spending. I love makeup, statement necklaces, and coloring my hair, but these are things that make me feel like me. They are my look. The fact of the matter is the cost of doing business to be me, shouldn’t be so damn expensive, especially for something that is a necessity, and not an accessory.