Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Attention to the men among my readers: this may get into the realm of oversharing across the gender lines. You're probably used to that, but I thought you might like some warning.

Edited: If you are reaching this post from the Going Braless site you will find this is not exactly what you thought you were getting. The link was put up on that forum by someone who apparently didn't read the piece very carefully, and who certainly did not consult me.

When I was in college and a women's studies major and very steeped in feminism all the, all the, all the time, I went without a bra for awhile. (I admit that the politics behind this were a little vague.) The thing is that I have fibrocystic condition--my breasts are lumpy and can be painful, varying with my cycle. When I got premenstrual, I'd put the bra back on, then a few days later relegate it to the back of the drawer. I'd have to readjust to not wearing one every month. It got to a point where I realized I was uncomfortable a good portion of the time, and I abandoned the project.

I was what--19? And several clothing sizes smaller, a 36B who hadn't seen much gravity, let alone pregnancy or nursing.

But the boobs, they have attained boobaliciousness, at least when properly supported. When I got pregnant I went from a 38B/C to a full C cup before I saw the second line on the peestick. By the end of pregnancy, when Z. was pushing all my innards upwards, I was a 40D. By the time my milk supply was established, I was a 38F or 40DD, more or less, depending on the make and model. That is where I've stayed, even though Z. is down to one nana session a day. If I thought fibrocystic condition was uncomfortable, nursing just blew that right out of the water. And then there was the leaking. Moms who've nursed, you know what I'm talking about. Bras are just not optional, not at all.

Last week, though, my dermatologist looked at a mole on my back, said "biopsy," injected lidocaine, and scraped. Because of the location of the mole in question (it was benign, just so you know), I walked out of there with a band-aid under my bra-band. It didn't heal right. It got itchy. It kept oozing. I'm not normally allergic to latex, but if my skin is already irritated I develop what look like mild burns in the vicinity. These appeared under the band-aid. A. started treating me twice a day with warm washcloths and neosporin ointment. After a few days of this I decided get rid of the band-aid, and then the bra for the duration.

I sure ain't 19 any more. I'm walking around the neighborhood in 80-degree weather with layers of tank tops on to control wobble, rather than bounce. It's not terrible, but I'll be glad when the mole-spot finishes itching. I find that I'm paying attention to other women's breasts, especially large-breasted women, out of something like professional interest. (Yeah, right, you say. It's true! Not that I'm blind most of the time, but I am 1) happily married to a lovely woman and 2) pretty low in the libido in my current hormonal situation.)

My bra drawer is rather lacking in civvy (non-nursing) bras, and I will need to restock over the next little while. Going bare (funny how under all the extra layers I feel naked) is making me feel like I'm approaching this question from outside of the bra-wearing population. What I find myself wondering during these braless days is what kind of engineering is happening in the lingerie? Or elsewhere: I passed a woman quite a bit larger than me at the bus stop and it looked like the engineering was all via spandex in the outerwear, with no room for nothin' underneath.

I feel that I ought to end with some kind of audience-participation question, but I can't really think of an apt, clever, or elegant one. So I simply turn the floor over to you. Bra experiences, anyone?


liz said...

Holy guacamole, I can't imagine going outside without the foundation garment (since you know I'm right there with you in the fibrous large uncomfortable breast department - but amazingly no back-aches)

One suggestion I have is a low-backed leotard or bathing suit, which might lend some support without irritating the spot.

susan said...

Being rather small myself, I have no bra experiences to share (except a story of resentment when my mother insisted on taking me shopping for a padded bra to wear to my sister's wedding, and kept saying to the lingerie shopkeeper, "but look at her!" while pointing to me. Very, very irritating. I ended up taking it off during the reception and I doubt anyone noticed. Bitter much? not me.)

I do have an I-almost-fainted-from-lidocaine-during-mole-scraping story, though, so I'm wishing you a speedy recovery and good biopsy results!

Magpie said...

I just can't find a bra that works. My breasts are the wrong shape or something. The only time I had bras that fit right was when I was nursing/pumping. So, no advice, but good luck!

niobe said...

My bra-related inquiry: Did anyone ever actually burn bras in the 1960s or is that just an urban legend?

Jody said...

I had one of those under-the-strap moles removed while in the hospital on bedrest, so the whole "no bra" thing was only an issue when my [male] pastor came to give me communion one Sunday.

Why it never occurred to me to get dressed in civvies while in the hospital, I'll never know. [Uh, actually, it was depression. Never mind.]

I wore my nursing bras into the ground and then went to Nordstrom, where they fit me in fantastic, "raised the shelf five inches higher" Wacoal bras. Now I order from HerRoom because I'm confident of the (way too large) size.

I cannot imagine going out in public without a bra: it would scare the wildlife, never mind the neighbors.

S. said...

This turned up more mole stories than I thought! Thought I should underline that it was benign--don't you hate not knowing the outcome of someone else's health saga? It feels so awkward!

Fortuitously, by the end of the day today the mole-spot was better enough to be okay under the bra just as the boobs had had enough of the freedom, already. I'm back in my Medela, wondering about when I'll find time for the trek out to Nordstrom's. I did order one Wacoal online, but I feel I may need professional help.

Liz, I knew this one would be close to your heart!

Niobe, I think it was probably a self-fulfilling urban legend. I mean, if you were of the right bra-wearing age at the time, wouldn't you have been tempted?

Genevieve said...

Yes to fitting at Nordstrom's, yes to Wacoal, and yes to me not going outside w/o for fear of scaring the horses.