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If the Cup Fits, Wear It

by Roberta McReynolds


Admit it … didn’t you at one time or another question why you needed to learn a particular subject in school? A student’s doubt was usually proportional to however low the grades were in that class, as I remember it.

When am I ever going to need to know if Train-A leaves Sacramento at 79 mph and Train-B leaves Chicago at 60 mph, at what point will they meet? I hope they never actually meet at all! One of them better pull off onto a siding so the other one can get past. I know that isn’t the answer the teacher was hoping to read on a homework paper, but it’s been my personal experience that real life doesn’t work that way. The California Zephyr usually falls behind schedule shortly after leaving Chicago and that’s the engineer’s problem, not mine. My solution is to locate the dining car and pass the time there.

I’ve yet to come across a situation when x(3÷y)=z automatically pops into my head and I think, "I’m sure glad Mr. Jones prepared me for everyday living by insisting I learn that!" So far, when the supermarket advertises three cans of pork and beans for $1.25, I’ll take the grocer at his word. He does the math and I hand over the money. The cash register is programmed to know what to do when the cans are swiped across the scanner, even if I only want two cans instead of three.

Yet contrary to those examples, there are circumstances when a degree in algebra would certainly be beneficial. Never once did any of my instructors say, "Pay attention young ladies! You’re going to need to know how to calculate your correct bra size someday and it won’t remain the same throughout your life. You don’t want people to look at your chest and realize you flunked algebra, do you?"

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that branch of mathematics is called algebra.

Shopping for bras is on my ‘Ten Most Dreadful Activities I Will Avoid as Long as Possible’ list. I haven’t examined my motives behind this deep-seated aversion, since analyzing my quirky behaviors is also on the list.

Every two or three years the issue of new bras creeps up to the top of ‘Things I Can’t Ignore Anymore’ list and I literally have to do the math.

A one-inch thick popular home-shopping catalog with the next seasonal fashion trends graced the mailbox in a timely manner. My husband checked out the men’s work clothes section and marked the single page (out of 900, including the cover) he planned to use when placing an order. Did you realize that denim overalls are always in season? It’s not fair.

Mike slid the catalog toward my end of the countertop so I could take a turn. I flipped though layered looks, coordinates, evening gowns, jackets and sleepwear, followed by foundation garments. I suspect that manufacturers theorize women may be willing to accept foundation garments as a bit more pricey than if the product was labeled as ordinary underwear.

I hesitated a moment, tempted by the ease of shopping from home: twenty-seven pages of bras to scrutinize, excluding the maternity section. The photographer’s models all looked healthy, although young, with believable silhouettes. There wasn’t an anorexic woman in the bunch. My hopes were raised.

I first narrowed the field by avoiding anything constructed with narrow straps. That’s a definite no-no for my ‘grandmotherly’ figure. I skipped past push-ups, pocket bras (whatever those are), tubes, strapless and the ‘special occasion convertible torsolette’. I eliminated bras constructed with lace, embroidery, polyurethane, or any vaguely described as using domestic/imported materials, along with previously unfamiliar man-made fabrics such as Crepeset®, elastane or Spanette®. Do I need to mention that zebra and baby leopard prints are automatically out of the running?

It was time to get real and locate the full-figure pages. Correction: make that page, as in one, singular, lonely little page with six bras. Yes, there were other full figure bras here and there, but all were cast aside for not meeting my previously explained criteria. The teaser across the top of this, the very last page of the bra section, was "Ease shoulder strain, increase back support, correct posture — Average/Full Figure 34-52/B-I." I pump my fist into the air with a triumphant, "Yes!" (I’m thankful Mike had long since found something else to occupy his attention and was no longer in the room.)

Two out of the six bras were long-line styles with front hook closures that I didn’t want to consider. Three of the remaining four bras also had front hook closures with only one position, limiting any adjustments that may be necessary down the road due to water retention or late night indulgence with a quart of Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream and a tablespoon.

The final bra had an innovative three-position front hook closure, wide camisole straps, double undercups, wide stretch sides, and reinforced crisscross powernet to straighten the shoulders and back. However … it was trimmed with lace which always feels scratchy against my skin and didn’t have any underwire in the cups, which I think of as required scaffolding for my ‘girls’.

I was desperate enough at this point to give the bra a second look. I read further into the description and noted that the available sizes didn’t include mine. Maybe it was time to take new measurements following the women’s sizing charts on page 354, just in case.

I read the instructions for calculating a proper fit. Discovering the magic information appears to be a fairly straightforward equation. Measuring around the chest, above the bust and below the arms (while remembering to keep the tape measure snug, but not too tight) provides me with a number represented by ‘A’. So, right off I’m dealing with a figure that varies by 2-3 inches depending on my subjective interpretation of the difference between ‘snug’ and ‘tight’.

The next step is the actual bust measurement, known as ‘B’ in the formula. It is at this point that my thoughts begin to wander. How reliable could that possibly be if I’m wearing a bra that doesn’t fit? Where is the formula for figuring in the ‘thy cup runneth over’ factor? That’s crossing the line from basic math to geometry and this catalog doesn’t appear to get into that subject.

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©2008 Roberta McReynolds for SeniorWomenWeb
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