The Girls


By Ellen J. Wallach

Let’s talk breasts, boobs, or as Stacey and Clinton call them on What Not to Wear - "the girls." My girls have been with me for 67 years. That’s a long time. They have become tired old women who seem to continue to grow and need increasingly sophisticated (read expensive) structural architecture as the years have gone by. It wasn’t always this way. I have two early memories of breasts. My first is my mother in a cone-shaped, pointed bra. You could always tell what direction she was coming from. Her girls looked confident and fierce. And then my elementary school teachers: In those days they were always women. Their breasts seemed to start at their shoulders, gently curving down and finally around to their waist as one solid piece. Their girls presented a soft but formidable front. Given my height, that’s what I saw first.

I noticed other girls’ girls before I noticed my own. Make no mistake, I was looking for them. I was what they called a “late bloomer.” The girls with the breasts were of interest to the boys and I wasn’t.  The poor girls who were very early bloomers with large breasts had the most trouble. They had to learn how to cope at the same time the boys were overwhelmed, literally and figuratively.

My breasts did finally arrive and I remember my mother buying me a “training bra.” What an amusing and confusing concept.  Do you wear it so that your breasts grow in the right place? Probably not. The training bra is more psychological than physical in its assistance.

I became obsessed with cleavage. How did all those movie stars get a vertical line between their breasts? Periodically I stood in front of the mirror, hoping for cleavage, squeezing my 32A and eventually B breasts together, but couldn’t do it. We didn’t know about the Wonder bra, but I don’t think it would have helped me. I came to believe that my breasts just grew too far apart. Perhaps my training bra really didn’t do its job.

Time passed. I got married and two years later was pregnant. Something miraculous happened. Sure, I had a fetus growing inside of me, but, the first thing that grew were my girls. They blossomed. This was their finest hour.  I was 5 months pregnant and hardly showing but I was wearing a 38DD. It was 1970 and I was the only female on the professional staff of three hundred men. I got a lot of attention. It was clear where the men were all looking. I started wearing maternity clothes so my mind rather than my chest might get noticed. By the end of my pregnancy I was wearing the largest bra made on earth, had indentations in my shoulders from the combined weight of my over-sized breasts and was stooping over. It was work to carry that load.

After decades and two children, my perky girls have given up. They just kept getting bigger and heavier. No Victoria’s Secret lacy numbers for me. I need infrastructure. My daughter decided I needed to see an expert, a fitter.  She had a name for me at Nordstrom’s. When I started asking around, everyone had the name of a fitter, but they all had different names. Thus began the search for the perfect fitter and fitting bra.

I will shorten the search and tell you that in recent years I have worn bras that ranged from 32D to 38DD and everything in between.  I noticed years ago that one of the girls is larger than the other, just like my feet. I don’t know if this is true for everyone or not.  I have also noticed that my left shoulder strap continues to slide off my shoulder regardless of what bra I am wearing or how tight I make the strap. I decided that I was a special case and drastic measures were needed.  I went to New York City.

Years ago I read an article about a bra specialty shop in NYC.  Two of my friends had recently gone and raved about the fittings. It was all I could do to dissuade them from opening their blouses and showing me their new bras. I did admire how perky they looked. Last year my husband Tom and I were vacationing in the City. Tom has a special fondness for the girls and wanted them to feel secure and happy. I went to the store; Tom went to Dean and DeLuca, a gourmet food store next door.

I had just walked in the door and was asking for help when the sales woman said, “You’re a 32DD.” It felt like it does when a police officer knows exactly how fast you were going without looking at a speedometer. Years of experience.  I thought I needed a 34DD, but no, I needed an extension on the 32. I didn’t know what an extension is. It attaches to the hooks and gives you more room around your torso to close the bra. My sales person also felt I needed thicker straps so they wouldn’t fall down.  I put my shirt on and looked in the mirror. They looked great.

It is a few months later on a hot, summer afternoon. My 5-¾ year old granddaughter, Amelia, was sitting on my lap facing me. We were talking. Suddenly, she pulled on the boat neck t-shirt I was wearing and looked inside. I asked her, “What do you want to see?” “Your breasts.” “You’ll have them, too, one day just like Mommy and me.” “Mommy’s bras are lacy and pretty and her straps are thinner.” “I’ve got a lot more to hold up.”  Oh, dear girls, don’t be offended. She is probably seeing me as I saw my first grade teacher! She’s too young to understand.

In the end there is a moment for all of us when we realize that somehow, overnight, someone switched our bodies. My “aha” was after my daughter’s wedding day. I looked at the pictures and saw that she had my body and I had my mother’s.

My left strap is still sliding, but I’ve developed a number of strategies to compensate for my 32DD load.

  • Stay away from horizontal lines.
  • If you wear all one color, you look thinner. No big prints.
  • Wear big earrings. That way, people will look up at your smiling face instead of down at your sagging girls.

The writer chose to be anonymous because she works as a business consultant and doesn't want her girls to get unneeded and unwelcome professional scrutiny.


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