“Who needs a Handbag? I put my money in my Bra”—Neneh Cherry
YES, you read it right. I am about to splurge all my words on ‘Bras’ in this one.
Because it’s just a few months away from the world entering 2020, and India, ranks #2 in terms of world’s population with 48.2% females, yet is somehow not educated enough to take this issue up. We insist on shying away or simply not bothering to nudge this topic at all. And I hope my readers feel nothing but down right pride after... necessarily my folks.
(Well, of course, I’m going to be talking about India. That’s where I am from and know the most about in terms of social norms, society, unsaid rules, & bizarre regulations.)
Undoubtedly, this is one of the allegedly untouched topics in the society I grew up in. I can’t clearly pinpoint as to why (misogyny maybe?). To start off, let me share my side of the story.
I came to America to pursue a Bachelor’s degree four years ago. And if you already didn’t see this coming... I went lingerie shopping with my amazing Mother a few weeks before I was going to leave India. I got all the goodies... in a few colors, comfortable yet not too explicit or vulgar (cause again, Mom’s around). My beloved Father wasn’t going to let his little birdie take-off to a whole new country on her own, so he accompanied and I honestly, couldn’t be more grateful. Excited, scared, and nervous... I was glad he flew with me. Without him there to settle me in... I would’ve definitely been a mess.
We went and bought a few new things to make my dorm feel less like a prison cell. It was around the end of August, just about when the Duluth air begins to get a little crisp. After hanging out with me for two weeks, and bidding me goodbye, he went back home. No biggie, I had sweet roomies and similarly unfamiliar International Students to keep the awkward phase going.
The weather started getting a little chilly toward Halloween (so October end). I had my woolens, coats, jackets, beanies, gloves, scarfs, and even ear-warmers all packed to battle the cold. But nobody told me (more like warned me) about the bra situation I was going to get into.
So for readers not familiar to living in cold regions... outdoors in snow-ridden places are an absolute shit-show of a mix of blowing snow accompanied by high winds aimed straight at your face; making you breathless at times. However, the indoors are super cozy and comfortable, cause they have centralized heating (yep, just how we got centralized air conditioning in India). So it’s all good once you step inside a block-shaped structure.
Each morning, I would put on my outfit, layer it, and walk out to face the cold. I’d get to my class, take off my coat... and TA-DA, my perky nipples would be staring right at whoever’s in front. I noticed, only cause people I was conversing with noticed more than me. Besides being the ‘usual embarrassed’ and ‘ trying to cover it up,’ ‘or making it go away,’ I was concerned about the solution.
We hardly buy (or even ask/look for) padded bras in India, cause #1 it’s hot as magma, #2 never thought of it (what I wore worked just fine), #3 nobody introduced the concept of padded, underwired, laced, etc., not even my own mother (obviously, cause we don’t talk about it, hush-hush... and honestly, I wondered if she even knew for herself)
Sensitive content alert!
We (woman & man alike) have all witnessed our sisters’, mothers’, grandmothers’, aunts’, or whoever is the lady of the home’s bra hanging around or being carefully placed to not be in plain sight on drying rods at least once.
Yes, every girl wears them! Bummer! Honestly, I have never, ever seen a beautiful, sexy, decorative bra in the households I have been an intruder in (in India). They’re all standard. Predominantly, tan, black, or white. Those three colors are your best bets and that’s about it.
Moving on with my story, I noticed that people around me noticed and some of them seemed uncomfortable (maybe my poky nipples threatened them). So, I talked to some of my girl-friends. They had a spectrum of solutions from stuffing cotton around... to putting on band-aids or pasties on the nipple. So I went on and Googled a little, until I discovered solution. A whole new world of lingerie options. I found a Victoria’s Secret outlet near me (clearly, cause I’m boujee, plus I had known & seen only VS in commercials before). I mean, if I was going to make a purchase, I was going all in or nothing. Only high-end for my chest (breasts sounds scientific, and boobs is obviously provocative).
So on a weekend, me and my girls decided to check out Victoria’s Secret. We got to the store and as I stepped in, I was literally transported to another realm. Such beautiful colors, patterns, designs, fabrics, cup-cuts, styles to choose from. My brain was happy as Larry (that’s a new expression I learned). The ladies at the store assisted me, and for the first time I formally found out my size. She measured me with a tape and had me try on three different bras to determine the right cup size. It wasn’t just a youngish man, or an old auntie looking at my tits and approximating my boobs (is it okay to call my chest that yet; do I need to be censored?).
This went down as one of my lavish experiences in America. Finding out my correct size (I ain’t going to declare it, you pervs!), wearing the right bra to hold my posture, and having an abundance of options to choose from. I was stoked to come across this paradise, and simultaneously face the sadness at the fact ‘my gals out in India didn’t have direct and open access to the same comfortable and non-stigmatized purchasing.‘ There were men in that store with their partners, or just by themselves buying lingerie (some of them might be weirdos, but who am I to assume). Regardless, I not only solved my perky nipple situation, but also felt empowered.
The only downside to this conundrum was the price tag. Damn are these bras expensive! Industries attached to female products are definitely abusive, but this is outrageous. Beauty products are a fair choice. One opts to use them (besides sunscreen). But a bra, in my opinion, is a necessity. I don’t want my boobs hanging down to my knees before I reach my 30s. Therefore, a proper bra is significant.
Wearing a beautiful set of undergarments gave my confidence a daily boost. I genuinely felt more confident (cause, for one, nobody was staring at my boobs anymore... at least not for the poky situation. And two, I didn’t have droopy shoulders anymore). Honestly, carrying this mass of fatty tissue on your chest is no joke. Especially for bigger breasts (just want to be scientifically correct this time), the pressure is on, literally, on the shoulders and back.
It’s crazy how the stigmatized mentality has been able to keep me and other women away from the support we and our boobs need. Back when I was a teenager, I always had these bra markings around the sides from the actual elastic digging into my skin. Evidently from wearing the wrong size bra... cause guess what, I never knew my size until was 19 years old. And I have been wearing a bra since I was 13-14 I believe.
I sincerely believe that times are turning; the feminist movement is bringing about overdue change. However, this awkwardness built around such crucial topics are unnecessary. It’s straight up rubbish.
I hope the takeaway from this blog is to pay attention to your bodily needs. A correct bra, is not a luxury (unless you boujee like me!). To all the Indian mothers out there, get yourself a set of bomb lingerie and get your daughters one, too. In my case, I bought my mom her first VS bras when I came back for the summer.
Wear it for yourselves before you do it for someone else. Also choose wisely, as there are a bunch of styles–bullet, plunge, balconette, soft-cup, push-up, corset, triangle, sport, bralette, swim, underwire, strapless, and more (yeah, just wanted to flaunt my knowledge there).
I’m going to end this one with a fun quote:
I hate when people are like “Oh, I can see your bra strap”
Do you know how expensive bras are?
You are lucky I don’t walk around in just that.