Supermarket Panties

braI probably shouldn’t admit this without donning my funny nose and glasses disguise, but I have never purchased a bra from Victoria’s Secret before — before yesterday, that is. Panties? Yes. Pajamas? Of course. A thong? Just the once, but that’s a story I shall save for another day. NEVER, prior to yesterday, had I EVER left that store with a brassiere for myself wrapped in that delightful, yet a little too pink, striped bag. My teenage daughter shops there all the time. Fangette, of the lovely “C”-cup, has always been able to shop there for her undergarments. But, me? Never.

Victoria’s Secret has never been my “go-to” store when shopping for bras. Seeing as I am a “DD”, I have always been far more comfortable at Macy’s or Kohl’s. And, okay, I’ll admit it — once or twice I may have plucked a couple of those “Playtex 18-hour” jobs off of the display at Target. While they are certainly not my favorite brassiere — not by a long shot — there have been times when, owing to a lack of money, a lack of time, or some combination of the two, that I have been forced to resort to that old stand-by. Those things always make me feel like I’m wearing my mother’s bra, but what can you do? Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

Speaking of measuring, one of the things that I hate about places like Victoria’s Secret is that they almost always insist on measuring you — to make sure that you are wearing the correct size. I find it intrusive, rather than instructive. These experiences have often left me feeling a bit squeamish and, well, fat. Not that I’ve ever been particularly fat, but I’ve almost always been a little overweight. And the girls? The girls, especially on my small frame, could probably have their own zip code. And the sales clerks almost always find a way to make me feel stupid — they always manage to work in how I’ve been wearing the wrong size bra or exclaiming over how long I’ve owned the model I walked in wearing. Whatever. I have no doubt that left to my own devices I’ve frequently chosen the wrong size bra. I don’t care — at least I did it in private — absent the snickering of thin, judgmental, and condescending sales clerks.

I didn’t set out to go bra shopping last night. It just kind of happened. Over the past year, or so, I’ve lost a little weight. As a result, I’ve had to embark upon a few shopping expeditions. I’ve discovered that I love JC Penney and Ann Taylor Loft. Last night, in an effort to procure a couple of more Loft t-shirts (LOVE THEM!) before they reverted back to their regular price and to bolster my severe lack of lightweight bottoms, I headed off to the mall. I did this, may I add, all by myself.

More often than not, when I go shopping I have Fangette in tow. Her presence limits me for a number of reasons. The first and foremost being because my kid could bankrupt Bill Gates — and I am no Bill Gates. Every time we go shopping, even if the purpose of the trip is for me to procure something as simple as a bag of socks, she manages to wangle a good bit of money out of me for such necessities as infinity scarves, a new pair of Vans, yet another pair of Hollister jeans, or those American Eagle chinos that she loves, loves, loves! And don’t even get me started on Aerie. I should own that place. Usually, I’m lucky if, by the end of the trip, I can afford a pair of socks, let alone the multi-pack I set out to purchase.

Aside from the obvious financial difficulties that shopping with your average adolescent female present, there are other, more sinister, elements to having her along. Like, for example, being told that I look “ridiculous” in everything I try on. Now, I’m not saying that the blue paisley peasant blouse did not, indeed, put one in mind of an actual Russian peasant (for a small woman, I am broad-shouldered and, thus, must guard against anything that draws unnecessary attention to that area of my body), but I think that “ridiculous” should be reserved for things that make one appear clown-like — things like oversized red shoes or multi-colored striped jumpsuits. That sort of thing.

I’m not an idiot. I know that she deliberately undermines me — that she understands our limited resources and takes full advantage of my self-esteem issues (especially where my shoulders are concerned!) knowing full well that if I buy nothing, there will be more money to spend on the things that she wants or needs. It’s simple economics, really. It’s in these moments, when she demonstrates her true manipulative nature, that she both exasperates me and makes me proud. She’ll do well out in the big, bad world. If nursing school doesn’t work out, there’s always politics!

Most of the time, though, she is just downright annoying to shop with. So, it was with great pleasure that I browsed through JC Penney last night. I even found myself an awesome pair of something called “boyfriend fit crop chinos” — luckily, they only had one pair in my size, otherwise I might not have had enough money to even consider wandering into Victoria’s Secret. For a woman that has been known to buy her panties at the grocery store, I tend to suffer from “sticker shock” at Victoria’s Secret.

Their prices notwithstanding, I also find the atmosphere there slightly off-putting. There are just altogether too many choices. Too many colors. Too many descriptors. It’s also far too well-lit. I would prefer to purchase my underwear the way I imagine people purchase their cocaine or lay down their bets — in a more clandestine atmosphere — like on a street corner or in the back room of a smoke-filled bar.

But, there I was. And, as luck would have it, there was also a very bored and extremely lovely young woman whose job it was to guide the likes of me — a woman who was wearing a clearly ill-fitting undergarment — through the enormous rabbit hole that is Victoria’s Secret — without actually making her feel like she didn’t belong there. Her name, in a quirky twist of fate, was Vicki. (Seriously. It was. It was on her name tag and everything!)

She was probably only a couple of years older than Fangette but, unlike Fangette, her job was to get me to spend money on myself. And, boy, did she ever! That she did so in such a way that I barely noticed is as much a testament to her warmth and force of personality as it is to the training program provided by her employer. (I suspect that this young woman could sell a ski lift in Florida — she was THAT good!) It was, far and away, the absolute BEST bra shopping experience I have ever had. It was a pleasure. I only hope that when I am ready to replace the bras that I bought last night that Vicki hasn’t moved on to greener pastures — like the used car lot or some other such place where her commission rate will, undoubtedly, be much higher. I hope that she sells bras for the love of selling bras. Because she’s terrific at it!

I loved her. And the girls? They are very grateful to her. They got some very well-deserved pampering and attention! And, dare I say it? They look magnificent!

photo credit: bra (morguefile.com)

For the record, I have not received remuneration of any kind from ANY of the retailers mentioned in this post!