To my great dismay, I was the first girl in my class to develop breasts and in the fifth grade I got my first bra.
Shopping for your first bra has got to be one of the most profound exercises in female pre-teen humiliation.
When you're 11, you can think of nothing more embarrassing than standing in the dressing room at the Marshal Fields while some old woman, who reeks of Estee Lauder and moth balls, pokes and prods at your newfound ninnies.
Along with the horror show of getting my first period, shopping for my first over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder, was one of the many adolescent moments when my mother chose to phone every member of our family and tell them, that I was in fact, one step closer to womanhood.
(God only knows the kind of long distance bill the woman will rack up when I go for my first mammogram).
So it was with a fair amount of nostalgia and trepidation I recently embarked on my first serious adult-size brassiere fitting.
I'm 33 and like most women my age I've been cramming my cans into Victoria's version of a support system since high school. Needless to say my once ample 36-D sized sweater puppies were in desperate need of a legitimate lock and lift.
It was on a recent trip home to Wisconsin to see the folks and indulge in a little Midwestern style rest and relaxation that I invited my mother to join me on my journey to the next stage of feminine foundations. Granted, she would be the one shelling out the clams for my new undergarments, but I knew she secretly longed to do all the girly bonding bullshit I never let her do when I was a sullen teenager. And anyway, it's her damn genetics that cursed me with these calamities in the first place.
So one afternoon, we climbed into Mommy's Volvo and headed to Allure in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Allure is a lovely store full of pricey underthings and a considerate sales staff.
My self-imposed marching orders were the following:
A. Give the girls a high and dry respite from the recent South of the border action they'd been experiencing.
B. Look ridiculously good in an expensive sweater dress I purchased last season.
C. Entice the gentlemen to sample rather than just size-up my assets (think amuse bouche and bite).
So began the odyssey of acquiring the perfect bra.
The saleswoman, Mahrukh could not have been nicer.
There she stood in her perfect 34-C cup glory, pink tank top and cute capris, ready to leverage my larger than life lungs.
I leveled with her, "I don't care what my size is, I just want to look gooooood."
"That's a great attitude," she said.
(Validation so soon in the process was very reassuring).
Mahrukh proceeded to bring bra after bra into the changing room.
"Try this one and this one and this one and then we'll try that and this and those."
Who knew bra shopping took such endurance and tenacity? Half way through the fitting I was gasping for Gatorade and an oxygen mask.
The first bra I tried provided me so much elevation and made my stomach look so flat it could have doubled for a landing strip on the summit of Everest. Sherpa this boys.
The second one I snapped into place shaped my chesticles into the kind of cone-shape you'd be likely to see on a screen siren from the 1940's. Lana Turner ain't got nothin' on me. You better believe the postman always rings twice.
The third, Mahrukh referred to as the ideal "Saturday bra." It was perfect for running errands in. And it made me look so casually chic, I almost asked the guy next to me in line at the Harris Teeter last weekend to kindly check my egg cartons for cracks. Needless to say, he wouldn't have found anything but farm fresh perfection.
The fourth was a convertible number that made me look at halter tops and strapless dresses in a whole new light. No longer would Haute couture be reserved for the flat and fancy. I too could partake in Prada and put an eye out in the process.
Finally, like the fifth course of a delicious prix fix dinner, the lacy, violet confection Mahrukh presented to me would, to my mother's dismay, be designated as my "date bra." Come hither gentlemen and let me rain purple on your parade.
Still, the process, while far less perturbing than Grandma Moses feeling me up, was still a bit unnerving as I am naturally bashful when it comes to taking my clothes off in front of people.
I'm the girl who snuck into the private bathroom stall when changing in the locker room for gym class.
And I'm the woman who insists the lights be turned off and the shades be drawn before I do the deed.
So, I had to try really hard to resist the urge to be self-depricating when standing there with my top off in front of mama and Mahrukh.
"I need to lose 20 pounds," I muttered under my breath.
"No you don't Kate, I think you look great."
It's most likely she was lying, as it is her job to do so, but even so, I smiled, exhaled my belly, and stopped apologizing for my every roll and jiggle.
This was, ultimately, an attempt to accentuate the positive and showcase the tatas so generously bestowed upon me.
I'm certainly not the first person to proclaim "thank you Jesus!" when coming face to face with my twins, so why not get loud and proud about my God-given assets and give my loaves and fishes the righteous mountain-top vista they have so long deserved.
I can't tell you what a difference a little perspective and stronger strap makes in the way you feel about your physical appearance.
I went from dumpy to diva in less than an hour and a half I couldn't have been happier.
The only thing that would have improved the experience was a free pony with every purchase and a couple go-rounds on the Tiltawhirl.
I felt like a new woman, with a new lease on life, love, and cashmere.
Granted, the pursuit wasn't cheap or realistic for ladies on a tighter budget (or with a less generous mummy to flit the tab), but with some dedicated shopping, a Mahrukh of your own, and a few less lattes during week, you too can branch out from frumpy to fantastic.
All any woman really needs are three or four bras, one nude, one black, and a convertible/strapless.
(Running bras are a different endeavor altogether - for me, we're talking an Ace True Value Hardware and some bungee cords. See future blog for step-by-step instructions).
On laundry day, buy yourself a big bottle of Woolite, hand-wash, and hang-dry those puppy packers for best results.
So go for it, lift those ladies, and before you know it, your wopbopaloobops will be singing a happier tune too.