A Case for Full-Length Mirrors

We had a full length mirror once, but when we rearranged the house to accommodate the bun we lost all our wall space. We always intended to put it back up, but days passed, then weeks, and we just kept putting it off. Now we don't put it off; I actually can't remember where it is. My mother watched the bun this afternoon, and I almost sprinted out of the house to go shopping. Once upon a time I wasn't a shopping person, but now that I don't have time to do it at all, I can't think of anything that would be as enjoyable for a couple of hours as trawling up and down the rows of clothes, talking to no-one, touching clean fabric, relishing that I don't have to slowly explain to an unsympathetic audience why he can't eat the electrical cord or the cat food or the ancient avocado that is black with cat fur.

I raced to the store to find pants I've been lusting after since I got the catalog, and found myself plundering aisles of clothes almost like a starving person faced with the buffet at the Hotel Bellagio. Clothes! All new, none with yoghurt stains or eau de derriere on them. They weren't out of date by two (three? four?) years! They weren't even on deep discount in the bargain bins!

It was crazy. I was completely overwhelmed.

I took stacks of clothing to the dressing room. I had one hour-- I had to maximize my time. I had four or five different changes of outfit, and I wanted to make sure, for the first time in my life, that they fit since I might literally never have another hour to return them.

I stripped down and began throwing clothes on my body: plaid pants with a flower print shirt. Brown sweater with yellow pants. It was chaos, anarchy. It was every article for itself, and I took no prisoners. I felt like a kid cut loose in Wonka's factory: I was crazed, delirious from the consumer madness, drugged from the stimuli, slightly ill from being so wound up. It was intoxicating and disgusting, buzz and hangover, rolled into one.

After the initial high of wearing clothes that hadn't yet lost their shape due to over-washing, I caught a glimpse of my mostly-naked body in the mirror that stretched from floor to ceiling. It could have been worse. But I got a good, long look at a terrifying sight.

Baggy, limp, grey, shapeless, stained, stretched-out.

My bra was like a hobo personified by lingerie.

When I bought these bras a year ago, they were function over form, one hundred percent. White, cotton, no under-wire, good support, comfortable, your basic nursing bra. They were a beacon of functional design, a paeon to utility. They wouldn't win any awards on the Paris runways, but I could sleep in them and whip out the udders from the completely un-sexy, unflattering peek-a-boob flaps in an instant, and it was one less thing I had to think about.

I've lived in them 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a year. And it shows.

The nursing bra phenomenon is a necessary evil. In the beginning, you need anything that will make your boobs seem less an enemy to you when they bloat up, leak and misbehave at all the wrong times. The flaps seem ridiculous before you have to stick your boob in the face of a squalling infant; but after a couple of days, you realize that anything that will make your boobs more accessible are a heaven-send. Tuck in an absorbent breast pad, and you've met your new best friend. Eventually, I forgot that my bra was even separate from me.

Now, a year into my adventure, I forget to latch up the boob-flaps all the time. I've constantly got wrinkles under my shirt from the sagging cotton and unhooked buckles; at times it's like I've got a wandering nipple or the skin of an elephant sagging around my chest. I've worn these bras so long that I've forgotten what it's like to let my boobs fly free as they were meant to be in a state of nature. The bras are literally a second skin.

So it was pretty alarming to turn around and discover how pathetic they were. There I was, one slightly dingy boob-flap hanging down, the other one latched but dimpled and baggy. The straps were stretched out and I had never bothered to tighten them up again. It was perhaps better than looking at myself in control-top panty-hose over a pair of granny pants, but only by the slimmest of margins.

I came home with a few new clothes and a grim appreciation of the need for nice undies. I told my husband about the event and scratched my head in wonder: "I had no idea what I looked like in my bras," I said. "It's been literally months since I've seen myself from the neck down in a mirror,"

He gazed off. "It's been months since I've seen you in your bra too," he said dreamily.

This is completely untrue, of course. He sees me in all states of undress, often with one boob unceremoniously hanging out after I've forgotten not just to latch the flap, but to even pull it back up over my nipple. He sees me wandering through the house topless, clad only in boxer shorts or pajama bottoms that don't fit and these hideous nursing bras. I think he blocks it out mentally. If he took a good look, he would get a retinal burn and possibly never recover.

Oh, he's seen me in my bra, all right. He just hasn't seen me in any nice ones.