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May 18, 2012

Bra Shopping with Daddy

Junior miss bra

Some claim that I, a straight American male, am biologically hard-wired to notice breasts.

I won't argue with science.

Unless the breasts in question belong to my tweenage daughter.

Just the other day there she was: this sweet little thing in a princess gown, buckled snugly at 5-points in her car seat, singing about the yumminess of fruit salad.

Then I blinked, and there was my precious baby girl leaning across the kitchen counter and ...

OMIGOD! WHERE DID THOSE COME FROM??!!

After recovering from hysterical blindness, my dear innocent angel announced to me over lunch, of which I had to cut off the crusts, that I needed to take her shopping.

For a bra.

strapless bra.

Summoning up all the urbane wit and sophistication I've gleaned from repeated viewings of William Powell in "The Thin Man," I let out an utterly smooth and charming, "Uhhhh ..."

"I need it for my dance recital Sunday," she said. "My costume has really thin straps so the teacher said I should get a strapless bra."

I know bra shopping is one thing she has done before (and would rather do) with the adult women in her life. So why me, Lord? Why now?

Simple. Process of elimination. My wife was on a business trip to China. My sister had just left for a Bahamas vacation. Ladies and gentlemen of the parenting jury, I am literally … the booby prize.

"Uhhh ...," I said, "then to Target."

+ + +

I'm surprised by just how big the lingerie department here is. By big, I mean, their key demographic must be body doubles for Sofia Vergara. It's also a dazzling, colorful wonderland like one of those candy stores where the walls are lined with tube after tube of exotically flavored jelly beans. 

After wandering around this rainbow of tandem parachutes, we find the juniors section. 

Seamless bandeau, structured bandeau, Spandau Ballet. 

Scoop, demi, Ashton.

Extra padding, lightly lined; wings, no wings.

I have not been this overwhelmed by selection since I shopped Home Depot for sheet metal screws.

"Will this work?" I say. "The tag says it's a convertible bra."

"No. It has straps."

"But it SAYS it's a convertible. Doesn't that mean the top comes off?"

"I don't know," she says.

And I think to myself, I hope you never will … until you're married.

It's then that I spot her. A short, squat Latina woman over by the sports bras. She has a cart. It's overflowing with a mish-mash of clothing, sporting goods and toys. More importantly, she wears a bright red jacket and a bull's eye name tag.

"Let me go ask that clerk ..."

"Dad-dy, nooooooooooooooooooo!"

"All right," I say. "Just remember that answer when you're on stage and the girls make an unexpected curtain call."

Finally, we find some strapless bras. They are in hot pink. In passion purple. Day Glo green. I've seen Vegas showgirls wear less flashy double-barreled catapults.

At last we locate a couple that would not be noticeable from a nautical mile in a  London fog. They also happen to be in her size.

Not that my daughter knows her bra size. That would have been too easy.

See, I KNOW where you think this is going. But I've been down this road before.

Not with bras but with pants, underwear, shirts, jock straps – nearly every piece of clothing my children own because this dad does the shopping in our house, from groceries to garage doors.

So before we left the house, I went to her room, found one of her bras and checked the tag.

Now, the next time some marketing genius tells you women make the vast majority of purchasing decisions in the United States, you have the permission of this member of the minority to kick that person squarely in the statisticals.

We head to the fitting rooms, and I let her go on her way. Suddenly, I forget what to do with my arms. Fold them? No. Hands in pockets? No -- NO!

This keeps me perplexed while I wait. And I wait. And I wait ...

Suddenly, I am a child again. Waist high to a headless mannequin in a tube top and bell bottoms in some long-demolished women's department store. I'm confused. Lost. My mom has dragged me shopping with her AGAIN. The hopelessness. The suffering. The boredom. … The boredom. Things start pulling away and I'm falling down a hole walled with endless racks of frilly rack holders. I'm weightless, I'm floating! Below, I can almost see my boyish self ...

Wait a sec.

I really CAN see my boyish self.

It's my 9-year-old son. I forgot we took him along on this expedition.

"Son," I say, extending my right arm and index finger. "Pet supplies, office supplies, greeting cards. Choose your pleasure."

After a contemplative look, he picks greeting cards. I tell him we'll be there in a few minutes.

And we are. 

+ + +

The next morning, the sun still rose in the east.

And this Sunday, when my daughter bounds across the stage for her final curtsy, I will be there applauding and standing proud and firm.

Just. Like. Her bosom.

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