JJ017Note: That photo up there was taken post-tattoo, post-book, long after the moment below happened. In the following, I was just trying to do and finish the project, feeling like I sucked at everything, trying to do what I said I would do, all amidst the core of being a mother. … Huh, kindof like this moment now, plugging away at finishing the whole book, for you, for me, for all of us. (Okay then, she says to herself, if you did it before, you can do it again; keep going.) Enjoy, lovelies. Love and hugs, Jene’

Clothed for Clubbing

I had to go to the mall. I hate the mall. But a friend who often went clubbing recommended a store there for club-worthy outfits. I needed a bra, too. A real bra! Not for breastfeeding! Victoria’s Secret, here I come! Having and raising our kids had felt like a time-warp. I couldn’t remember how to be pretty, with only a vague movie-driven idea of what to wear to go dancing. My body had not been my own for years. What am I doing? I don’t even know how to live.

The recommended store was a dud. Nothing fit. Nothing looked good. I am old and fat and impossible. Despair walked me to Victoria’s Secret, but I determined to hope. After all, I was about to be in capable hands. I had no idea what my boobs had been doing, had felt for years like they were acting all on their own, with a life quite apart from the one connected to my chest. But the Victoria’s Secret people were pros. They could help me to the other side of Post-Nursing-Bra Mountain.

“Hi,” I said to a clerk. “I need to get measured for a bra.”

She frowned and said, “Our bra fitter isn’t here tonight.” She, looking all of fifteen with her raccoon eyeliner and pale lip-glossed pout, sighed and said, “I could make an appointment for next week.”

Panic rose. “It’s for an event, so I can’t wait a week. No one here can measure me?” I said. Are you kidding me? This is the Temple of Bra.

Her face looked confused now, but hopeful. “Well,” she said, “I could measure you.” She tried to smile.

You have to be over 17 to work at the mall, right? Exuding the confidence I knew she needed, I said, “Yes! Thank you so much.” How bad can it be? She fumbled for a tape measure and proceeded to measure me right there, next to the cash register, with all my layers of clothes still on—nursing bra included.

“34D!” she said, as though talking to herself.

“Really?” I said. That’s a nice number. I thought it would be larger, but I’ll take it. Sweet.

She examined her tape measure again and declared, “Yes. 34D.”

I suspected her method but figured she was the pro, so off I went to the 34D sale bins. Oh, such prettinesses! I spent over half an hour filling my arms with beautiful, somewhat practical 34Ds. In the changing room, I took off my shirt and hid my grubby, stretched-out 38E nursing bra under it and got to work.

Two bras in, I knew I must have misheard the clerk, blaming myself (as usual). Two more, I was cursing her. Maybe my boobs had changed after nursing our first two children, but I had only noticed it now, after Leo. They were like water balloons not quiet full enough to easily hold, like slippery gel tube toys that squirt out of your hand if squeezed too hard. When they filled with milk, it felt like the deep hum fluorescent gymnasium lights make when turned on. They were so big, they entered the room before me, taut and begging for release. But after Leo nursed, as he had done before I left on this expedition, they were definitely deflated. I couldn’t wait to return to a smaller cup size someday. It was only standing there alone, in a changing room at the mall, under pressure, in a hurry, nervous, that I realized how profoundly they had changed. Heck, I hadn’t ever paid attention to what they were like uncovered, and Jack never said much about them. Who is that person in the mirror?

The 34 band was tight enough to constrict my breath—though I could close the clasp! But when I tried to fit my boobs into the cups, the flesh would not cooperate, flowing over the sides and middle and bottom. I kept hoping, I did. I tried on every single one of the twenty or so bras I had gleefully grabbed. By the end of the pile, I burned with a hatred of bras. Of that neophyte clerk. Of the Victoria’s Secret system and their garish, foam-pumped-up store. Pink! I hate pink! Of my decision to even try. Why did I even try? Of my willful, rebellious breasts. Of myself. Of myself.

I could not muster the energy or calm or courage to find help, or to try on another size. It was all over. I had to get out of there.

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