I dislike buying bras so I do it only when I must — about once a decade I buy a bunch and wear them until they stretch out. Well, bra day is here, and I decide to go to J.C. Penney because I hope it will be cheaper than where I usually go and it's en route from where I'm working.
Apparently there have been major changes in the world of brassieres in the last decade. First of all, they come with boobs. Really! When I finally find my way to the underground lingerie department, what I see is aisle after aisle of hanging boobs. A decade ago, these were called "padded bras," but apparently women now prefer lingerie that requires no actual flesh to maintain its form.
I find myself feeling increasingly jittery as I plow through foam projectiles and finally find the plain cloth bras against a wall in the back. One of the main reasons I dislike buying bras is that I can never find my size. Nothing has changed in that department. There is no order to the sizes, so for a good 15 minutes, I go through every single bra on the over-stuffed racks, and finally find two for me. By now, my blood is pumping so hard I feel it in my eyeballs as I scurry toward the check-out counter. "Where is the dressing room?" I squeal, feeling as if I've been given an injection of speed, and a laconic young woman points behind her.
The dressing room is virtually empty. An attendant unlocks a private booth for me, but still I feel as if I'm in a race. "If you like it then you shoulda putta ring on it!" bubbles Beyoncé over the Muzak, and I realize I'm moving in time to her inhuman beat.
"All the single ladies! All the single ladies!" she belts as I rip off my blouse and bra and try to get a new one off the hanger. Even my skin is vibrating to her beat. "Now put your hands up, woo oh ooh, oh oh ooh, oh oh ooh," she vociferates as I push my breasts into the cups and struggle with the blasted back-strap hooks.
"Cuz if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it, If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it." I have never wanted to be married, yet I feel like I'm running out of time — there will be a line at check-out; I'll get caught in rush hour; I'll be late to walk my dog — and furiously I yank at the darn strap rings that won't shorten. "Don’t be mad once you see that he want it, If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it . . ."
"Do you like these?" asks the check-out girl, admiring a new shipment of shoes.
"What I really want is to get home," I pant, shoving my bras at her.
"You know you get a free one if you buy two," she tells me.
"Woo oh ooh," and I'm off to the back wall again.
Long story short, I find one more in my size, nearly dislocate my shoulder trying to get into it, pay for all three, and then look for an exit.
"All the single ladies, All the single ladies. . . "
"Which way out?!" I demand of the store guard.
"Just follow the signs."
The signs lead down a stairway — except I forgot the lingerie department is below ground, so you have to go up — to a door that says an alarm will go off if you open it.
"Now put your hands up, woo oh ooh oh oh ooh . . ."
And as I open it, Beyoncé fades into J.C. Penney. Oh, oh, oh, and whadeyaknow — no alarm blares, and 33rd Street at Sixth Avenue during rush hour feels calm.