I love to shop for shoes. My feet have been about the same size for years, and they look nice naked. There are other shopping expeditions, however, that rank right up there with, I don’t know, paying bills or maybe cleaning the bathrooms—except that those tasks don’t carry the added fillip of humiliation and self-flagellation necessitated by…
bra shopping.

I put off bra shopping as long as I can – and I’ve never figured out how to shop for my “intimates” online – but last week I had no choice but to confront the ugly reality: the girls needed some serious cantilevering, Calatrava was nowhere to be found, and the state of my delicates were…unmentionable.

Off I went in search of foundation garments. Now, I refuse to add expensive insult to the overall indignity of bra shopping, so I don’t go to La Petite Coquette, or The Town Shoppe, or La Perla, or any of those places where four scraps of ribbon and a smattering of lace could set me back more than a hundred bucks. Instead, I go discount: Filene’s Basement (located disconcertingly on floors 4-6), Nordstrom Rack, or a little further west – Loehmann’s, TJ Maxx if I have to.  Shopping for bras always makes me nostalgic for the now long-defunct Lee Bauman’s, on 8th street, where the girls could get a decent fitting and the dressing rooms weren’t so small that you had to shimmy right up against your half-naked reflection.

Men don’t have to try on their underwear before they buy it, lucky dogs, but for women, shopping for a bra means unavoidable confrontation with…well, in my case, with my love of cookies eaten at night watching TV; my not-intense-enough exercise regimen; the aftermath of two pregnancies…and the inevitable downward descent of flesh as it approaches fifty. If things continue to erode at this rate, my ankles will awash in flesh by the time I’m 55.

And of course it is precisely this downward slippage that necessitates foundational garments. But wandering in the Nordstrom “intimates” section, I had to wonder: who decided that bras must be made of the same sort of material used in personal flotation devices? Racks and racks of bras—white, nude, brown, black, scarlet—all completely ready-molded, looking like rows and rows of Barbie boobs.  These spongy pre-formed cups have about as much to do with a female body as—well, Barbie.

Shopping for a bra takes time: wrestle the damn thing on, put a shirt back on to see if straps bind or seams show (what genius thought a seam going directly across the front of a bra was a good idea?), then off with the shirt, off with the bra, and on with the next.

It’s funny—ironic, actually—to spend so much time shopping for something I cannot wait to take off—and not in a hootchie-cootchie sort of “taking off.” Every woman I know has the same impulse: as soon as she can after getting home, whip that puppy off and OH! the joy of scratching the little pressure points caused by hooks and buckles and wires.

I wish I could say I found the perfect bra—the one that made me lose 15 pounds, be taller, and able to do a perfect headstand in yoga class.  But Nordstrom’s was out of  that particular style last week, alas.

But maybe I’m going about this bra shopping thing all wrong. Maybe if I did spend a hundred bucks on a piece of ribbon-threaded wire and some rosettes, I would be taller, thinner, headstandier. Or at least, maybe bra shopping would be more fun?

Nah. Because basically? the girls just don’t like to shop. They prefer to sit here with me on the couch, watching the cantilevered ladies of  “Mad Men,” and being grateful that the days of such armor-plated unmentionables are over.