July 25, 2000
Dressing Secra

 


 
I am getting dressed for work. It is not going well.

Today's brave fashion experiment: short-sleeved white blouse, dark green linen vest, long flowered skirt. The skirt -- a flowing, calf-length number made out of some gloriously crinkly black material, strewn with tiny flowers and leaves -- still has the price tags on it. When I bought it a few weeks ago, I think I was envisioning a sort of *Corporate Stevie Nicks* effect: gold hoop earrings, long gold necklace, black platform sandals, a couple of bangly bracelets.

Not exactly the world's most "tasteful, professional" office attire, perhaps, but I don't care.  I am having a wretched week so far. The 72 Hours From Hell are sneaking up on me about eleven days early, this time around, and I plan to be as comfortable today as possible.

I look in the little bathroom mirror above the sink, standing on my tiptoes in order to view as much of my self as possible. The skirt actually looks OK: lighthearted, summery, feminine. 

That's the good news.

It is the TOP half of me that looks lumpy and distorted ... like I'm leaning into a Fun House mirror, and some parts of me are grotesquely larger than other parts. The bad news is: it still looks that way to me, even after I've walked away from the mirror.

I am filled with loathing for my body today.


      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I glance at the TV. The perky substitute newspuppet on KTVU is wearing a scoop-necked navy blue pullover, with a neat row of white buttons running down the front. I own that very same pullover. On her, it looks crisp and jaunty. On me, it looks like tent awning.

I hate her.

I look in the mirror again. Suddenly the flowery black skirt looks neither "lighthearted" nor "feminine." It just looks ridiculous. What was I thinking?? 

Irritated, I pull off the skirt and pull on the green linen pants that go with the vest. These pants are OK: they sort of billow comfortably around my thighs, and then taper to a slimmer line by the time you get to my ankles. I always feel very Barbara Eden-esque in these pants ... as though all I have to do is fold my arms in front of me, nod my head, blink, and -- *poof* -- my Master will be on one knee, offering up a diamond ring and a bucket of KFC Honey BBQ Strips.

I can live with this outfit today, I guess.

But that still doesn't do anything about camouflaging the TOP half of me. The green vest -- like most of my button-front tops and blouses -- is reinforced shut with a series of strategically-placed safety pins. Regardless of how tiny the safety pins are, or how carefully I try to conceal them from the inside, they always "show" a little bit. The fabric always puckers slightly, right between the buttons. To me it looks and feels sloppy and unprofessional. But I suppose it beats busting wide open, right in the middle of a People Committee Meeting. 

(Oh, the humanity.)


      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I am painfully aware of my breasts, every single minute of every single day right now.

I always have been, of course: when you are a DDD-cup, living in a B-cup world, it goes with the territory. You learn, early on, never to lean over too far while you're slamming that desk drawer shut.

But I know I'm not imagining things when I say that the awareness has been more acute since we met with the surgeon last week ... almost as though the act of throwing off my robe and allowing a total stranger to photograph my naked breasts from ten different angles has changed me in some fundamental way. (Darva Conger: "Wow! Can *I* relate!")

I've spent the past twenty-eight years or so very deliberately trying not to think about the size of my breasts: at first because it was too embarrassing, or because it was too baffling, or because it was too painful ... and then because I thought that maybe by not thinking about it, they would simply go away ...

... and more recently because I was too busy getting well and learning to feel good about myself again, and because I now have a loving and *supportive* partner who actually seems to LIKE the way I'm built.

But now all of a sudden it's all I think about.


      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

The *I Dream of Jeannie* vest and pants combo doesn't feel right, either. It is too "Casual Friday" -- and today is only Tuesday. I decide to go in a different fashion direction entirely, and I pull the mint-green pantsuit off the hangers.

I love this suit. I paid a buttload of money for this suit. It is easily the most elegant, most beautifully-tailored outfit in my closet. In fact, it's probably the nicest outfit I've ever owned, period. I look at it and it says "Wear me! I'll make you look like a bazillion bucks!"

I have worn this suit exactly once since I bought it last spring.

Mostly I don't like the way it pushes my breasts together in the front. A little cleavage is pretty much unavoidable, no matter what I'm wearing -- *I* could probably achieve cleavage in a TURTLENECK  -- but something about revealing the tops of my breasts in this particular suit doesn't feel right. It's like chewing bubblegum in a wedding gown: it spoils the illusion of cool, effortless glamour you're trying to achieve.

Plus, I'm beginning to sweat. All of this rapidfire changing, from one outfit to another, is making me feel damp and messy.  Suddenly the heavy mint-green jacket feels a little TOO heavy. It'll be like walking around in a sauna all day, I just know it.

I toss the jacket onto the bed. Maybe I'll just wear the mint-green slacks by themselves, without the jacket, and go with a lighter blouse instead. I begin pawing through my half of the closet, looking for something with the exact same shade of green in it. 

I have thistle green. I have olive green. I have avocado green. I have lime green. I have a green that's actually more of a blue than a green, and looks fabulous with my eye color, and never fails to garner me a compliment or three.

But no mint green.

So I pull on the little stretchy white pullover instead.


      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I'm not only conscious of *my* breasts, all of a sudden ... I'm conscious of ALL breasts, everywhere.

Large breasts. Small breasts. Bouncing breasts. Swinging breasts. Perky breasts. Pendulous breasts. Breasts harnessed in pretty lingerie, visible through clothing, and other breasts obviously -- and gloriously -- unfettered by undergarments.

Breasts in the produce department of the grocery store, and breasts in the Totem Pole lunch room. Breasts on TV. Breasts in the elevator. Breasts in magazines. Breasts passing on the sidewalk in front of the open door of The Ho Ho Express, as David and I are eating dinner.

Suddenly the world seems filled with breasts ... and I can't stop myself from looking. I feel like a thirteen-year-old girl in a Victoria's Secret store. (I almost wrote, "I feel like a thirteen-year-old boy in a Victoria's Secret store" ... but that would be wrong. There is nothing sexual about my looking. Just curiousity, and envy, and a sort of wild, desperate longing to feel more "normal" than I do right now.)

I sit next to David in the Subaru, at the red light, and I watch a young woman cross the street in front of us. She's about thirty years old, I would guess: not pretty or plain, not overweight but not thin either, with average-looking breasts ... just sort of "medium" in all respects. The thing I notice most about her, though, is the way she walks ... with her shoulders thrown back and her head held high and her chest thrust out like it's the most normal, natural thing in the world. I look at her and I think, How does that feel?

How does it feel to walk across a city street -- in full view of a captive *traffic audience* -- without feeling the need to clutch a book or a shopping bag or a purse to your chest?

And the second thing I think is, I want that.


      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

The little stretchy white pullover, by itself, is a mistake. I look like a honey baked ham stuffed into a gym sock.

I'm going to need a jacket over the pullover.


      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *


I turn to David in bed and take a deep breath. "So how long -- realistically -- do you figure it will be before we can schedule the surgery?" I ask him.

I don't want to ask. I'm afraid I already know the answer. But I ask anyway.

We have quite steadfastly not talked about the breast reduction surgery since my appointment with Dr. Togba last week. I think he has remained quiet about it in order to allow me time and space to process all of the information and make up my own mind, without any feedback  --  positive or negative  --  from him.

(I think he's also afraid I might start talking about DRAINAGE TUBES again.)

Now that I'm beginning to know what I want to do, though, it's time to start talking about logistics.

Slowly, carefully, he says ... "I'm not sure."

I understand his hesitation. David has spent the past couple of years slowly but surely digging himself out from under a mountain of debt. He is beginning to see a light at the end of the financial tunnel. At the same time, he continues to struggle with issues at work that threaten not only his paycheck but his good humor, occasionally.

I have my own financial stuff going on. All three of the Tots are flying down to see us next month, and the airfare isn't cheap. While they're here, I want to buy them school clothes (in the case of Daughter #2 and Son #Only) and glasses (in the case of Daughter #1). I will probably need to fly back up to TicTac for a visit sometime this fall, after the Tots are back in school, and then again of course at Christmas. More airfare.

And then there is the *us* stuff. Specifically: wanting to move into a bigger place. Specifically: wanting to achieve a certain level of financial security for ourselves and our kids. Specifically: monthly child support payments. Specifically: groceries.

Specifically: wanting to get married. (Soon. I hope. Preferably in a ceremony that doesn't involve an Elvis impersonator.)

"It seems like every time we're close to getting caught up," he says, "something else comes along."  I nod in mute agreement, but I'm beginning to get this sick, swirly feeling in the pit of my stomach. Maybe he sees the stricken look in my eyes, because he hastens to add that he still thinks this is "completely do-able."

"Probably sometime within the next year," he says.

This is precisely the answer I knew I would hear. I was fully prepared for this answer. I said the same exact thing myself on this very website, less than a week ago.

So why does this answer feel less like an *answer* ... and more like an extended sentence?


      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I have run out of time ... and wardrobe options. It is time to leave for the office. No more dilly-dallying.

David waits patiently in the living room as I shrug out of the little stretchy white pullover -- it is simply going to be too damn hot today to bother with a jacket -- and yank my unimaginative, all-purpose, failsafe "No Matter Whut" outfit from the closet: a plain black pull-on skirt, and a striped, short-sleeved blazer that buttons up the front. The safety pins are already in place.

And the stripes run vertically ... to *minimize* my bosom.



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