LAURA MADELINE WISEMAN
How to Measure Your Breast Size
1) Measurement. Breasts are not shoes. Or rather breasts are not feet. They don’t stagnate after puberty. Given the pill, pregnancy, winter fat, nursing, the period, menopause, how they age, etc., expect fluctuation. Knowing this, you can begin. Take off your shirt, but not your bra. Don’t look in the mirror. Or do, to size yourself in the fluorescent light. Notice the dimples along your middle, what used to be your stomach. See the swing of flesh called the upper arm. Or wait. Maybe today is a skinny day. You can see the fine etching of ribs when you stretch. Your abs are there, beautiful lines of discipline. Good. Now take the tape and measure below your breasts. Pull it tight, but don’t suck in. Write that number in lipstick on the mirror. Eight of ten women wear the wrong bra size. One in nine women get breast cancer. Twelve is the average dress size for women. Numbers are important.
Remember the first time your bra was snapped. Sixth grade. Wesley Warrick. Behind you in math. Would gleek on you. Poke you with pencils. Pull your bra like a sling shot, releasing that “oh” that got your name on the board. If you were to tell your mother about this, she would say, “He liiiiikes you.” But it doesn’t feel like like. It feels like endurance. Learning to put up with pain in public. Accepting his fingers on your spine, how they hook up and under. You learn quickly to appease. If you squeal, he’ll only snap it once. If you refuse to react at all during the fifty minutes of long division, he will do it again and again. You never did get math that year. But you know obedience. Who is allowed to touch who.
2) Bandsize. Okay. Now that you have the first number, if the number is 33 or less, add 5. If it is above 33, add 3. This logic may not make sense to you, but take heart that you didn’t invent it. It’s a rule and like many rules (taxes due April fifteenth, liquor can’t be bought after two am, green lights mean go) they are arbitrary, but should be followed. Write this new number on the mirror. This is your bandsize (e.g., 32, 34, 36, etc.). Maybe you knew this number before, maybe you didn’t. Think about how many bras you’ve owned that have not been that number, especially all the sassy ones purchased for cuteness rather than fit. Feel a little guilty for punishing your breasts. Wallow in breast pity. Then move on. Clothes aren’t meant to be lessons, right. Except the training bra. Whatever was that bra training your breasts to do?
Eighth grade graduation. Maybe you did the whole ceremony thing. The flower dress. The curlers. The new underwire bra. Remember how you thought you’d never have your bra snapped again once in high school. Although by now, all kinds of hands have been on your bra since Wesley Warrick. Siblings, cousins, classmates, your balding uncle that smells faintly of band-aids. It makes you think how your bra and your breasts are hardly your own. As you walk on stage to receive your attendance award (absent twice all year), consider how since your breasts have grown, you’ve seemed to shrink. Not like your grandmother with her five cats and two mutts locked in an invisible fence. The pencil marks on the wall with your name, date, weight, and height still hold true. But rather how your chest has become something larger. Your overweight aunt with henna red hair jokes that your breasts probably stick straight out. An old man at the hospital in which you candy-striped for exactly one month said you’ve got puppy dog noses. Whatever that means. Men and boys study your bust as if the answers were there, but they never ask you what they are. If fact, they say very little to you. On the odd chance they do, they speak directly to your breasts. You admit you like the attention, but.
3) Cupsize. You’re taking a long time in the dressing room. That’s okay. Measuring yourself against a numbered piece of tape is hard work. The numbers don’t lie, though they are contrived. Now measure your cupsize. Make sure you’re not wearing a padding bra, as that will distort. You can distort later. Distortion is important and one of your rights. However for now, you’re after the truth. Listen to the young girl in the stall beside you and how the mother/aunt/older friend is concerned with the tightness of the blouse being tried on. “Everyone wears them like this,” the girl says. “But you don’t have to,” the older woman answers. Know she is wrong. She knows it, too. It’s only that wishful thinking women do to try and cope/conform with ideals. Okay, take the tape and wrap it around the widest part of your chest, usually the nipple. You want to pull the tape snug, so it won’t slip off, but not tight enough to create wide channels in your breasts. You’re upset about the channels, but these things happen. You’d like to see other breasts for comparison, given how valuable they are. Exposed they are. Problem is, they’re a best kept secret. You remember being small and seeing the hard nubs of a friend’s chest that sprouted early in fifth grade. Because of your curiosity and hers, you compare by touch. But never since. Touching a woman in that way means sex, clearly. And you’re straight, right? Right. So you will never get to see the sag lines above the nipple of another or the stretch marks of pregnancy. If fact, you will spend your life comparing your breasts to TV and supermodels. Air-brushed, open-mouthed, legs apart. See the lift of those bras. How exquisitely ample. How you’ll want to know, but never really know, what makes them ride so high. Anyway, back to the business at hand. You are finding your cupsize from the largest part of your chest. Check the tape. Write this number down. Now subtract your bandsize from this new number. This number is your cupsize (1/2=AA, 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, 4=D, 5=DD or E in European sizes, 6=DDD and so on). Ponder this for a minute or two. Take a couple of deep breaths. Reflect on all the times a sales gal has convinced you to buy a sister size that failed to hold your globes up past the third week. This is your bra past. You’re about to embark on your bra future. Don’t worry about money spent poorly, impulsively. Everyone does bad things. Chant slowly in your mind your actual bra size. Stick to this number no matter what.
You and your breasts grow up. Graduate from high school. Experience college campuses. Work shitty part-time jobs. Over time your breasts are hassled. The time at the bar when two young men whispered as you danced, “Shake it, bitch. Shake it.” Or the time that frat guy tried to titty fuck you and failed. Or maybe the fuck buddy that you secretly loved who liked to watch them sway during sex, even though it hurt them. Made them smart and pull above the nipple. Then there were the cat calls. The jeers. The men who followed you in cars and on foot. All the men and women who have felt it was their duty to tell you their opinion on your breasts. Nothing pisses you off more than when you explain your breasts to your friends and the first thing they say is: get a reduction. As if whacking them off is the logical solution. As if there shouldn’t be bras made for your tits. Or maybe your breasts are middle of the road. Breasts worthy of no consideration. As exciting as a paperclip. Simply breasts. Or maybe they’re really small. Your sister used to joke, “You make the wall jealous.” You’ve worn padding and push-ups and still you’re a nice B, before your period, when you’re bloated. Lovers from those lovely first make-out sessions have said after, meanly, probably without meaning to, probably, that you’re smaller than they thought. You’ve apologized for the deception. But still buy those squishy wedges of water, silicone, foam, rubber. You’ve considered gaining weight to have cleavage. You envy those new pregnant bumps for the ripe jugs above. Though you’re completely against extreme make-overs (botox, lipo, nose-jobs, etc), you’ve watched Nip & Tuck, for example, and consider breast enlargement okay. Certainly for women who’ve had mastectomies for breast cancer. And maybe other women, too. Perfectly healthy women. But you’ll never have the money and it’s a fantasy and most fantasies are meant to make us feel better. You know you don’t feel better. Admit that you hate your breasts a little because of the attention they bring. Dwell in the self-hate. Dwell. Dwell. Now get over it.
4) Shopping. Time to shop. If you’re not already there, go to an expensive department store. Do not shop bra stores designed for sex play. They sell bras that make you look pretty lying down, when you’re lucky, when you’ve mustered enough forethought to plan ahead. However, today you’re looking for a bra to wear for all the other times when you’re standing up. Stay clear of big box stores. If the first bra rack you go to says $20, this is not the store for you. Be willing to spend $50 and up. You want support. Once you’re in your store, search for your size. Don’t worry about colors. You are seeking a style and a brand. If you want it in hot pink or leopard print and it only comes in nude, order it from the internet tonight. Okay. Take at least eight would-be brides into the dressing room with you. Fondle them. The curlicues of lace. The faux pearl stitched to the ribbon. The satin shell of the push-up. The sexy lace for the nipple. Try them on one by one and force them rigorously through a series of tests. Ignore, for example, the anorexic middle-aged sales woman who asks for the third time how things are fitting. She wants to make a sale, and you, you want a bra that fits. See how these two purposes don’t line up. As you try on, consider your surroundings: the single French chair, the wall hooks, the carpet with amoebas of gum stains. The wide mouths of bras. The deflated centers. The arm holes like Munch’s Scream. And all those rows of hooks. You will get through this. You might even find it is easier to find a bra than it is to find a pair of jeans. Or you might not, but at least you know your size.
Ah, your first lover. Not high school with that boy who plunged his fingers into your cunt like he was Little Jack Horner and you were his Xmas pie. And then he pushed your breasts, not caressed or sucked, but shoved them with his callused hand like he was trying to work you straight through the mildewed basement couch. Not the college boys, either, with their two-minute thrusting limit before they rolled over for a keg cup refill. You might count that woman at the frat party. God, you were drunk and hooched up to seduce the drummer in the punk band playing that night. You watched those frat boys while you grinded with your crush as they untied the backs of bar shirts. Shirts inequitably not invented for support. A square of fabric in the front and a crisscrossing of strings in the back. Then there you were with this chick with a tongue ring from your chemistry lab in a chant circle of men: kiss, kiss, kiss. You did. Of course. The kiss wasn’t much, as she forced her stud into your mouth and it clanked against your teeth, but she also grabbed your right breast exactly the way it should be grabbed. And you felt. You felt. Well, never mind. You never did talk to her again. Nor she to you. No, your first lover you met at work. You were feeling a little on the chubby side and despite your efforts—and they were many and diverse—you couldn’t seem to lose any weight. He was blonde and worked out at the corporate gym over lunch, like you. He was buffing up and you were slimming down, or at least trying to. How you started talking by the free weights is beyond you. It must’ve been him in that soft old tee-shirt and pants with stripes and silver snaps that ran all the way up the sides. You thought a lot about those snaps. Was he a runner? A wrestler? A swimmer in his ever-distancing youth? You never did ask. But thought about the ease needed to unsnap the sides of his pants, click, click, click. The exercise banter went from friendly to flirtatious to naughty until you were in his house at night with his fingers up and under your bra. He had a way with breasts. Loved them maybe, because he unquestionably never did love you, with his ex-wife and three-year-old son and his fear of commitment popping into dialogue whenever you weren’t half-naked. But either way, once he had your breasts in his hands, his mouth, against his body, they had his undivided attention. Little did you know, but your breasts were connected to your cunt by an invisible string that he could pull so taut you cried out for the whole of him. And more than once you came simply by his manipulation of your breasts. Wow. Yeah.
5) Tests. Now for the tests. Adjust the black lacy strap to a desired length. Turn a few times for the mirror. Imagine your lover pinching your nipple. Pinch your own nipple. Try to have fun here. Tease your breasts. Tell them you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. Keep this in mind: often a style or cut of a particular bra is not right for you. Think of it like hair cuts. There will be ones you will probably want to avoid (the mullet, the military crew, the Princess Leia, etc). Test #1: Discard bra if the cups wrinkle over the nipple or if the cups press into the boob creating the dreaded double boob effect. Test #2: Discard bra if after you slide the straps off of your shoulders and practice the twist or the old “Jump Around” the bra falls off. The band, not the straps, should hold your breasts in place. Test #3: Discard if the center of the bra doesn’t touch the center of the chest. Are you pregnant? Or do you have a cup size of DD or more? Chances are you will never pass this particular test. Never ever. Test #4: Discard if wireless or if the underwire digs into your flesh. Continue trying on bras until one or two pass all the tests. Proceed to the check-out sales woman. There she’ll be at the register with smug measuring tape slung around her neck, ersatz glasses to make her look studious, an intellect at the bra game. Know, of course, that you now know more about your breasts than she does. As she folds your new pair of bras cooing softly, complementing you on your choice, check out the assortment of impulse purchases. Likely there will be something related to the holiday, mints in Xmas tins, a store credit card for mother’s day, the perfect Halloween kitty cuddling against a bag of miniature pumpkin soaps. Note also the items you’ve only ever heard about: shoulder strap cushions, invisible straps, falsies, lingerie tape, silicone breast petals, lingerie bags, and hand-washing formula detergent. Buy the latter two. Your grandma had these and now so do you. Consider these the spa treatment for your bras. If you’re good to them, they’ll be good to you.
Go home. Shower. Shave. Rub yourself in expensive lotion. Put on your new bra. Sigh. Affectionately tuck yourself into place. Ogle yourself in the mirror for many long minutes. Then, put on something dangerous. Get in the car and drive to your favorite restaurant, alone. Sit at the bar until your table is ready. Treat yourself to an extremely expensive bottle of Tuscan red wine. Scout the room. Count the number of potential lovers who rove your body, and gasp as they meet your eyes. Your bra did this. Invite them over without words. When you take the tall, dark, and delicious one home tonight, take your bra off with care. Kiss it twice. Thank it. Congratulations! You’re finally living your bra future. In the morning, after coffee and roses, go to the office and demand that raise. You deserve it.