I recently bought a bra based on an extremely compelling Instagram advertisement. Mostly, I was drawn to how much the bra was built to be comfortable, supportive and, according to the picture, not at all alluring.
When the bra was delivered and tried on, I was surprised how comfortable it was. It wasn't as binding as a sports bra, but it somehow provided more coverage than a mock turtleneck. When my husband saw me in it, he mistook it for scuba gear.
Besides being able to buy something online without three hours of dressing room cursing, the other draw of this particular bra was that it wasn't built for outsiders and onlookers. It's the first underwear--no, scratch that--the first product that's been marketed to me, and not by its appeal to anyone other than me.
You see, when I saw the advertisement for this beige-colored contraption, it was a few minutes after seeing an advertisement for pads you put in your cleavage while you sleep so as to prevent (or correct) cleave wrinkles.
Now, I've always known our tits have been a strong topic of concern since I grew my own and discovered that both their size and height would always be of great importance to everyone around me. Bra shopping is nothing if not downplaying what you do have (side boob, back fat, jiggle or a wide-set rack) and playing up what you don't have (roundness, fullness, lift or cleavage).
Salespeople claim, while forcing themselves into your dressing room with a tape measure, that something like only 2% of women know their actual bra size. Um, okay, maybe that's true, Brenda, but I'd still like you to respect my personal boundaries. Besides, I run different sizes depending on if the apparatus is trying to pull, push or pry.
But now, after 20 years of worrying if I have enough cleavage--or perhaps too much--I'm told I need to correct for all those tiny wrinkles the vice grip bras may have caused?
And this wouldn't be that big of a deal if my breasts were all I was told to worry about. But I've also got to wade through all the interesting new gadgets on the market to help me curl my hair in that loose ringlet look that started on procedural shows in the early 2000s and seems to be holding its grip on society's strands. In truth, I like to wear my hair this way. I think it looks nice because other people tell me it looks nice. And all I have to do to achieve the look is blow dry my naturally wavy hair straight before adding back in the waves with a blazing hot wand that will burn your neck and fingers occasionally. Stick of terror be damned, my hair needs more bounce, and life, and volume. Similar to my rack.
And maybe if it were just my breasts and my hair, it wouldn't be such a big deal. But I also have to worry about my skin. First of all, it's important to have the appearance of having been in the sun--especially if I am sexily splashing waves while wearing a tummy sucking tankini that doesn't make me look like a mom!--but to not actually ever step out into the sun. So for this, wear sunscreen every day. Not that drugstore bullshit you slather on your kids that's basically just runny mayonnaise. You'll need the expensive stuff in small jars that you apply lightly on your face with your ring finger. After that, apply a layer of makeup to even out any variation in your skin tone--without any sun, you're bound to look a little pale and blotchy--and then apply blush and bronzer to add color to your face. This will make it look as if you've been out frolicking freely in the sunshine without the burden of body image issues caused by endless references to getting you "swimsuit ready" and not at all as if you spent your day indoors applying brown and pink glitter to your cheeks.
And sure, maybe if I only had to worry about my tits, my hair, and my skin, it really wouldn't be that big of a deal. But don't forget I must also concern myself with eyebrows, lashes, lips, eyelids, neck, elbows, nails, and legs. Fear not! There's a continual barrage of advertisements and products constantly at the ready to help me. All I have to do is open my eyes and look around. Everywhere I turn is a new product, procedure or person to help turn me into something better than I woke up as.
Luckily, this is only a problem adult women have to deal with. We aren't pushing this shit on kids. My daughters don't seem to be inundated with images that make them question their beauty. I mean, sure, after we watched Tangled, my oldest said she wished her eyes were bigger and my youngest said she wished her hair were longer, but that's no more a problem than when I wanted a waist as small as Ariel's and boobs perky enough to hold up shells when I swam up on rocks. Those are just movies after all. And sure, the My Little Pony reboot has made the horses much, much prettier; the equestrian leads are much more human-shaped and their lashes are longer, their eyes are bigger, and their colors much more vibrant. But that's not trying to instill some deep-seated belief in my girls that their worth is in their beauty. That's just about making sure the ponies are groomed enough to prance. Prance ponies! Prance!
Surely I'm just taking this too personally. Surely I'm just reading too much into all the advertisements, and products, and movies. After all, I'm a strong, confident woman who feels beautiful every time I look in the mirror. So then why is it I keep buying eye cream? I often wonder that as I dip my ring finger into the thimble of it I paid an outrageous amount for. But then I catch a glimpse of beige in the corner of the mirror and I look down at my chest to see it completely covered with plain material, a material with no agenda--not to plump, or push, or pull. A bra so well built that its only purpose in life is to cover my tits and let me get on with my day.
I have things to do, after all.
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