The ins and outs of bra shopping

2008-11-18 00:00

Judging by the number of e-mails that pour into my in box every day, there are an awful lot of men who need help with a rather sensitive matter. If I’d taken up all the offers to extend my penis I’m convinced that it would stretch around the entire globe by now. I’d also know the secret to “attracting hot chix”, having pecs like Popeye and a six-pack of abs “many men would kill for”.

That’s partly why I sulked my way into a clothing outlet change room recently thinking: “Why is it that matters of male sexual functioning are ‘out there’ in the public realm but no one ever talks about the horrors that women go through?” And I’m not talking about the details of procreation that our mothers hoped vainly to outsource to the biology teacher. I’m talking about something far worse, the horrible reason why I was out mall trawling: bra shopping.

I have it on the good authority of the women I consulted in a brief survey, that many, if not most, women hate shopping for bras. First off, they hate paying good money (sometimes a lot of it) for something that seems deliberately designed (by men) to be uncomfortable. I have yet to meet a bra I liked or found anything less than torturous to wear. I think the feminists had something when they said bras were a patriarchal plot, a strategy of repressive Victorian society to control women and their sexuality.

Second, women hate having a complete stranger not only see them in their underwear but also prodding and poking them to check “the fit” and the degree of “support”. Especially when that stranger is a man, as can be the case if you feel inclined to consult a proper corsetière. Do sales assistants in men’s clothing departments — including the women assistants — go into the change rooms to check “the fit” of men’s undergarments? Do they prod and poke to ensure that there is enough support? I think not.

Then there’s the issue of type and style. The last time I went bra shopping, admittedly before stick-ons or the Wonderbra, a bra was a bra was a bra, but no longer. Now you have to decide on colour, fabric type, added support for sport or not sport, straps or strapless, style of straps, underwired or not, padded or unpadded and so it goes ... all the way back to the marketing personnel employed to dream up product modifications to make women buy more bras.

During my recent foray into the world of “foundation garments” as they used to be known in polite society, I discovered that women like me who are “mammarily challenged” have fallen off the radar screen of corsetry. My request for a size 36A was met with pitying shakes of the head as manufacturers no longer make “A” cups in that size. What is their case? Do they think we’ve all had breast augmentation surgery? Or has the reported “upsizing” of clothing to suit “traditionally built” women stretched to include underwear?

Whatever the case, I am happy to report that I am now done with bra shopping for a good few years. I’ve been upsized to 36B and managed to find double packs that didn’t cost me my whole Christmas bonus. To the sales staff of the mall underwear outlets I say: “Be at peace, you won’t be seeing me again for many years”. And I apologise for locking you out of the change room.

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