The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bra Humbug

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

— Robert Burns, from the poem To A Louse
he wrote after seeing one on a lady’s bonnet at church

If the most humbling experience for a woman of a certain age is buying a bathing suit, the second most is getting fitted for a bra.
I did that last week for the first time since I was, oh, thirteen and didn’t really need one. Somewhere in my late teens, I settled into a 34B and have bought that size off the rack ever since. A recent weight loss got me to thinking I might have crept back closer to training bra range so I trekked on over to the Bay’s lingerie department, to one of their bra fitting experts.

“Hmm,” she said, “34, still. As for cup size…C, maybe D.”

What! An image of a woman from my church when I was a kid popped into my head. This woman’s bust kept you at such a distance you had to shout if you wanted to converse with her. “How can that be?” I said. “I’m wearing a 34B now.”

“Hmm,” she said again, not wanting to deliver a tutorial on Continental Drift, I suppose, or suggest the possibility that mine might be a generous B. Even bra manufacturers are guilty of downsizing to make us feel better. (How can zero be a dress size?)

My choices would be limited, the woman said, because Cs and Ds typically don’t come in 34. (Yeah? Tell that to Jennifer Lopez, Cheryl Tiegs, Kate Winslet and Drew Barrymore. I checked out the Celebrity Bra Sizes site.) We found a few. “Here,” she said, “try a 34B just for fun.” I slunk off to a change room while The Little Drummer Boy pa-rum-pum-pum-pummed in the background, putting me into a right foul mood. It isn’t even December. I bought the Cs, the ones with the $5 mail-in rebate tags.

On to yet another humbling experience: sitting for a portrait, something I did the day after getting my new bras. Something I needed to do for my book jacket. I’m embarrassingly old for a first book. What if browsers flip to my picture and decide they don’t want to read something by a dinosaur?

The photographer gave me a pep talk about pondering the unique qualities the years have carved into my face and said he would try to capture the real me. I wanted him to capture the me I’d like to be.

The session was almost fun. I winnowed down dozens of proofs to seven which I e-mailed to my writing group, my kids, my sister and a friend in Toronto, asking their preference. I went with the one my sister says looks like Diane Keaton. Anyone but me. Now, if Diane Keaton wears a 34C, it’ll be perfect.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to our south of the border friends!

Which twin has the Toni? (Only fellow dinosaurs will remember that ad campaign.) Diane Keaton, bottom right. Me, above, as I’ll appear on the jacket of my short story collection, Silent Girl.


Blogger Anne said...

I could add so much to the discussion, but I would need a more intimate forum.

Love the photo!

Thu Nov 22, 01:48:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Anne. Shall we retire to a change room and swap stories?

Thu Nov 22, 02:20:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

You two have a theme going...

And, I agree, tis a lovely photo. Professional, but not stuffy; attractive but not one of those annoying simpering-looking jacket photos.

Thu Nov 22, 07:28:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

I don't even know if I should be responding to these last couple of posts. Bras... what's next? Anyway, you do look great in that photo, Tricia. Very now, very vibrant.

Thu Nov 22, 07:53:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Chumplet said...

Beautiful picture, lovely smile and fabulous lighting!

Thu Nov 22, 08:24:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks Tamara, Tony, Chumplet.

Hope I didn't embarrass you, Tony, just preparing you for a houseful of maturing daughters.

Simpering, you say, Tamara. My favorite author photo is one of Nora Ephron with a turtleneck pulled up to her nose. It's on the back of the book, "I Feel Bad About My Neck: and other thoughts about being a woman." I didn't have to read it. The title was enough.

Chumplet, I wasn't clever enough to take my own photo like you did. You got the lighting right on yours, too.

Thu Nov 22, 09:02:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

You look fantastic, Tricia. But after all that bra talk, we can't even see the twins in the photo? What's up (ha!) with that?

Thu Nov 22, 10:23:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Ha! You can check 'em out when I come to Toronto. I'll try not to stand too close.

Thu Nov 22, 10:45:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I think your photo is perfect - how can you say you're too old for a first book? Oh my gosh, don't say that, it scares me. As for the bra buying, I too have upped a cup size this year in spite of a weight loss...I think there's some kind of conspiracy going on in the bra marketing backrooms...I'm just not sure what the motivation is...

Fri Nov 23, 01:48:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I just got the Toni joke - good one!

Fri Nov 23, 01:51:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Jen. Hey, I never thought of the bra marketing conspiracy as going UP in size rather than down like the rest of the clothing manufacturers. Interesting thought. They think we'll be flattered by being bigger? Not I.

Fri Nov 23, 03:41:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Looking good, Tricia!

Fri Nov 23, 04:58:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

You look beautiful! But after your story I was expecting you might go with a shot like in a bra cataloge! Standing by a window looking out over the fallen snow, statuesque, bra-ed, winsome. Save that for the novel?

This post was hilarious, btw.

Tue Nov 27, 08:59:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Steve. Thanks, Andrew. But do I look like Diane Keaton?

Tue Nov 27, 06:32:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne said...

Even prettier than Diane Keaton.

Tue Nov 27, 08:14:00 pm GMT-5  

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