What we wear has a way of defining the times of our lives. In “Life with the Girls” this Valentine’s Day, Janet Siroto sifts through three decades’ worth of memories to find that, though so much has changed, things have actually held up pretty well.
I was rooting around the back of my dresser, packing up to move out of the house I’d lived in for the last 15 years…years that saw our kids go from boys to men, filling the house with longboards and electric guitars. Years that saw my husband and I through midlife milestones good (woo-hoo, bigger and better jobs!) and not so good (boo-hoo, how did we get this deep into the home-equity line of credit?).
In the way, way back of the dresser, wedged behind socks, was The Green Bra. It was like unexpectedly bumping into an old friend you barely recognize: Here was this ancient lace thing in a squint-inducing shade of fluorescent green, a memento of single-girl days deep in the past. It brought back waves of memories: gallivanting around NYC’s East Village in its rough-and-tumble incarnation, when crack vials littered the streets and you could still pass Joey Ramone, may he rest in peace, on the corner. It reminded me of flirting in dive bars where tsunamis of cigarette smoke washed over us; of wearing skirts so short they were more like very wide belts; of emerging from clubs as the sun rose.
The Green Bra embodied a transitional time. It was bought when I was a wild young thing and stayed in rotation for a brief period when I was an engaged woman, but it disappeared when I was a wedded lady. No need to send an “eyes over here!” message anymore.
The Green Bra got me thinking. As my marriage nears its 30th anniversary—the same age I was when I wed my husband—I looked back over the pieces that defined the eras of our union.
Forging a Foundation
I still have the cream satin bra I wore on my wedding day. (Doesn’t everyone, or am I overly sentimental?) Just as I hung onto the gown and shoes, I wanted to keep every last special froufrou item to remind me of my big day, when I had the big hair and everyone made a fuss over me and my husband as we started official life together. In those early moments of marriage, I also had the requisite WonderBra that smushed your assets up under your chin. When you got hitched, you were supposed to have an arsenal of amazing lingerie for married frolicking. Things sure changed fast.
My husband and I had rushed headlong into parenthood. By the time we’d known each other five years, we’d been married for four and had two kids—kind of like those accelerated MBA degrees you see advertised on bus shelters, but the matrimonial version. I can still conjure up memories of my nursing bras with a shiver. Good god, I hope they look better now. Mine looked like something from a surgical-supply shop…layers of nasty beige fabric, seams everywhere, innumerable hook-and-eye fittings—and the size! I don’t dare reveal it. I remember my husband and I sitting on the couch, me cycling through the ‘football hold’ and other breastfeeding positions, trying to get our howling newborn to latch, both of us observing that each of my breasts was bigger than the kiddo’s head. That ugly bra was a rite of passage, a momentous shift into the world of mom-hood.
The Lingerie of the Every Day
Life became dominated by logistics. I was so busy at work or on my hands and knees looking for lost Legos that most of the time, I couldn’t be bothered with frills. The T-shirt bra was a marvel of modern engineering that saved my self-esteem. Any woman who’s had a child can tell you that her breasts ain’t what they used to be, what with that formerly convex curve on top going concave on you. As life issues go, not a biggie, and my husband reassured me that he loved me any shape and size (he’s a good egg), but my deflated profile deflated my ego. With its uplifting underwires and padding, the T-shirt bra arrived just in time to save my days.
This Midlife Moment
“I’m happy to find myself still in love with a person I met half my lifetime ago”
My husband and I have recently entered the fun if confounding empty-nest era, largely defined by the question, “What the hell is my life about now?” I’m happy to find myself still in love with a person I met half my lifetime ago. Our union is stable and solid. My body, a little less so. At midlife, menopause, middle age—whatever M-word you’d like to use—one’s figure does some shape-shifty stuff. Time and its best pal, gravity, have a way of rearranging your flesh. In my case and to my surprise, they have conspired to bump up my bra size. Maybe this will be my moment to reinvent myself as a bosom-y older woman, like Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate with her leopard-print lingerie. That could be fun. But hold the Dustin Hoffman and keep my husband in the frame.