A while ago I stopped wearing bras on a daily basis, mostly because, unless I’m going for a run, I don’t need them. My breasts sort of have a natural lift anyway, and no one notices. This morning I happened to stoop over to reach for something in a dress I was wearing and simultaneously glance up at the mirror in front of me, and it’s a good thing I hadn’t stepped out of the house yet, because in that swift motion I realized that because of the cut of the dress, I could see more bending forward than I’d allow anyone else to see. If I wanted to wear this, I needed a bra.
So I undressed and slipped one over myself, and found, to my displeasure, that I was spilling over the cups. Or rather, I was pushing the cups out. Somehow, between 19 and 26, my bra size had changed–unfathomable, I know–and now I have to replace everything.
I took a tape measure, as one does, measured around first just below the bust, and then at the bust, and calculated the size. 30D. I stopped. I measured again, calculated again. 30D. That can’t be right. I remembered my first size at 19. 30B, the sister size of 32A (since most lingerie shops don’t carry band size 30).
No, it’s not accurate. I squinted suspiciously at my reflection. It doesn’t look true. (I knew even as I thought this that everyone is misinformed about how it’s “supposed” to look; the cup sizes are proportionate to the band size.) I had noticed, before this, that my bra had gradually grown uncomfortable, but bras are always uncomfortable when you first wear them after not having worn them for a while. I’d dismissed it was normal, like the first time I’d tried at 12 and wanted to rip it off immediately because it felt as though it would slowly strangle me to death. I didn’t have time in my life to think about this.
We’re going to call this 32C, I thought, the size I would actually be able to find in stores anyway. That was easier to–I can’t be.
I glanced in silent amazement at the drawer of bras that no longer fit–expensive bras, with lace or silk, some of which I’d purchased rather recently (yes, this was my own foolishness, to have done that without wearing any for a while). It reminded me of the day when, as I lay on a table with my legs crossed in the air while an aesthetician ripped wax off my skin, I did the math and concluded I spent $3,216 a year on “upkeep.”
That’s not even counting makeup or shampoos & conditioners or clothes. That’s solely grooming and primping–i.e. waxing and blowdrying–to maintain how I look when I’m not wearing makeup or clothes. It’s a monstrous number, and higher for women of color whose natural features (e.x. untamable hair) don’t conform to conventional standards. Or need to be “fixed” even when they do, which is why women with fake hair extensions are always telling me I have too much hair.
How do women afford this? How do women afford this and pay rent and utilities and car insurance? Incidentally, that was when I’d decided to opt for laser hair removal for silky smooth legs and, a few sessions later, never need to wax anything except the bikini area again. If all went as planned, I’d be down to spending $1,285 a year. That’s not including all the bras I need to replace. Or how expensive it is to menstruate. As one of my friends pointed out, this also means we have less to pile into our life savings compared to men, which affects our security and mobility.
And for those of you thinking, You don’t need to do any of this; you’re choosing it. Yes I do.
I am eternally grateful that shoe sizes stop growing, and I’ll forever be a size six.