The day after Donald J. Trump was elected president, I went to Town Shop Lingerie at 2270 Broadway to purchase a new bra. It seemed as good a way to attempt to contain the formless anxiety of my battered spirit as any.
Not that I didn’t need a brassiere. A real one, I mean. My relationship with these presumed essentials of the female wardrobe had always been, well, two-sided. As a child of the sixties, when my breasts were small, young and firm (Nixon Administration), I dispensed with underwear of all kinds. On Wall Street (Reagan era), the goal was to conceal as much as possible under my mannish suits. When my children were born, (George H. W. Bush) I transitioned to nursing models to sports bras -- those generic, unfitted scraps of non-committal synthetic fabric that only grew more flaccid and non-elastic as time went on.
On the plus side, sports bras were easy to purge of spit-up, strained carrots, spilled coffee and well-earned perspiration. After breastfeeding, (Clinton) my mammaries seemed more in need of protection than desirous of attention. Often camouflaged beneath loose, asexual T-shirts and sweatshirts (also easy to launder), I envisioned my glands morphing into the sagging sacs of the African women often exposed to America’s young baby-boomers in National Geographic (Kennedy).
The salespeople I encountered at Town Shop were professionally trained African-American women of various ages and body types. I was randomly and happily assigned to Margaret, a short, well-endowed church lady type who sized me up quickly, pronouncing, “I can tell instantly whether a bra fits or not.” I didn’t doubt it for a minute.
Without asking permission, she joined me in my dressing room with choices that met my specifications (no sports bras, no underwires). The last time I bared my torso so freely with an adult woman was probably in the Johnson Administration, when my mom took me to pick out what was then euphemistically called a junior bra (junior as in they’re starting to sprout but have a long way to go, but all my friends have one so I need one, too). Margaret nurtured, coaxed and cajoled more confidently and attentively than any mother could have. Too, the woman was a visionary with no use for preconceived notions of cup size and hook settings. She gently adjusted straps for me (no pinching), unequivocally separating the good fits from those that induced “drooping.”
For me, Margaret provided everything I needed to recover from the shock of Trump’s victory – structure, support, calm, and a crystal clear, non-judgmental grip on reality. (You’re a D, not a C. It’s not too tight; you want it to hold you up, don’t you?) The price was way higher than I had imagined but, as even the Donald might agree, you get what you pay for (or in his case, what you don’t pay for). Weeding my selection of four excellent specimens down to two, I felt practical, extravagant and virtuous all at once.
I looked great; in my eyes I was a perfect 10, Trump be damned. Even in these dark times, I could at least hold my head and my chest high. My soul still drooped, but the twin sisters of my femininity were fresh and radiant. In my elegantly engineered new accessory, I felt new resolve and resilience. No matter what hell was breaking out on the political scene, comfort could still be found in well-fitted lingerie, the warm attention of other women, the sanctity of our soft, strong, resilient bodies.
With one of my new purchases fully deployed under my blouse, I stepped firmly onto the sidewalk. I was ready to confront the scary, mysogynist world out there, one pair at a time. My cups ran over.