It all began discreetly enough, with me timidly searching through a few of the bazillion brassieres to be found in the typical "intimate apparel" section of a nice department store.
Selecting a bra is one of those rituals of womanhood like having your pubic area waxed that I don't think men can fully comprehend the pain of, although if you're a guy and do feel our pubic agony, maybe you've bought a bra or two.
Part of what makes foundations- hunting tough is that there are so many kinds of the damned things, from ones with enough padding that they basically come with bosoms attached to humongous contraptions that look like they could harness the udders of a cow. The sizing is also tricky because you have to figure out what combo of a number and letter you are, bringing you up against the cold reality of the body part you're probably the most sensitive about.
You may be able to convince yourself most of the time that men prefer "just a mouthful," but staring at a stark triple A on the label makes it hard to deny that, face it, you were robbed while your sister inherited the family hooters, a matter you plan to take up with God the instant you pass through the Pearly Gates. Confronting multiple D's isn't so great either since those size cups look like you could carry a week's worth of groceries in them, proof that your breasts have turned into the drooping feedbags displayed on native women in National Geographic.
It's always with fear and loathing that I go in search of new foundations, especially since I'm a case of arrested development in that department anyway -- I didn't get around to buying or wearing a bra until I was 21, I kid you not. I came into bosomhood just as women were burning their bras so it seemed like a good idea to just skip the whole thing as long as I could, and no guy complained, I assure you, but it means I still don't have much confidence in my choosing abilities.
That's why the materializing vision of May Belle wearing a white doctor-like coat that had the words "certified fitter" embroidered in blue upon it and with a tape measure looped around her neck was such a welcome one. She looked capable of performing whatever drastic measures were necessary, including surgery, to get me into a bra that fit, and I was immediately ready to follow her to the far ends of the earth, not to mention the recesses of the dressing rooms.
Once she and I were sealed off behind a curtain and I had entered the Cult of The Bra, with May Belle as its high priestess, I felt my modesty melt away. For over a solid hour the woman was totally focused on my "bosoms," as she referred to them, her eyes scanning their peaks with trance-like intensity as she appeared to be channeling a foundations deity for the answer as to which bra fit me best. I swear she looked harder and longer at my bust than any man ever has.
When she wasn't circling me, tugging and adjusting while issuing contemplative murmurs, she was scurrying out to the floor to fetch still more styles for me to try. May Belle brought back at least a couple dozen bras before it was all over, and she held each and every one of them out for me to slip on, before nipping around to deftly hook them in the back.
Damn, I thought to myself, this must be what Princess Di felt like, and it struck me that what I've been missing all my life is to be attended to, to be dressed. I remembered a friend's anecdote about how when her mother would go shopping decades ago she would strip to her foundations, hold out her arms, and announce to the waiting salesladies, "I'm ready."
May Belle was a strict mistress in regard to exactly how I was supposed to put the bras on, eyeing me critically as I fumbled through the steps each time, starting with bending all the way over to get those babies in there, followed by her command to "Reach in and pull your bosoms up, really pull them up!" I then had to jiggle the bra below each strap to "settle them in," like they were fussy babies.
By the end of our session I felt like I had entered a newly discovered portal to womanhood. Now I ask you, would anyone care about my bosoms like that at Wal-Mart?