My cousin was down from Joburg this festive season and above seeing her mother, staying in accommodation overlooking the beach and getting some much-needed down time, the highlight of her trip seemed to be going to Storm in a G Cup to get herself some new bras. She had the giddy expression of a 7-year old opening presents on Christmas morn.

Her infectious glee made me examine my own collection. It went like this: missing underwire, missing underwire, missing underwire, too small, too scratchy, broken, broken, missing underwire, rusty. I was then reminded that the last time I purchased bras was in 2008 (I'm not including nursing bras in this). That’s ten years ago! I remember because it was the last recession and I could only afford to buy two. At the time I was a 36B, or at least I thought I was. Both fitted poorly but I wore them anyway. As I examined my breasts, looking at old bruising from jabbing underwires, and scars from straps cutting my skin, I asked myself why we as womxn never buy new bras. Never ever? Never. Ever. Is it like a mattress purchase – buy once and lay on it till your back and eventually your entire body aches? Are they just too expensive? Is it because of sizes nowadays - that we just can’t come to grips with the fact that we’re a 38 GG? Why? Why is it seen as a flaw? Who here has ever been asked their bra size? Why do we feel shame for it? Ultimately, I came to this conclusion – it goes back to self-care and always putting others’ needs before our own. I’m speaking about us, mums. Every bra shopping trip has resulted in clothing, books and shoes for the kids. Well, at least in my case. A bra just didn’t seem that important.

Last year, I went bra shopping with my sister and what an awful experience! Actually awful is an understatement. My sister has been blessed with an ample bosom, although that’s only how I see it, and most of the world - blessed. Womxn who have bigger breasts may disagree, and after visiting every store known to man, I finally understood why. Firstly, it’s not a 15-minute experience, you simply can’t go to your nearest retailer and just find your size, oh no. Displays and racks consist of itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, lacy and racy, vibrant variants. Every fashionable colour you can think of. Every material. Every version of “lift” and support. Every brand. But where were the DDs and beyond? Shoved in a dark corner, on a plinth, 10 centimetres above the ground. Yes, I am not exaggerating, it was literallly on the ground for you to rummage through. Now disregarding the indignity of having to bend over and scavenge for bras, the average F cup pair of breasts weighs between 10 and 15 kilograms. Now imagine when you’re on your period with swollen, painful breasts having to do that, or on any other day. Imagine the toll it takes on your back. It’s practically inhumane. And then the colours! Beige. Light beige. And dark beige. Are curvy, beautiful womxn not allowed to look and feel sexy? Then the prices. Sizes D and up are about 20% more expensive ranging from R400 to R1200 each! Look, I get it, mo’ material, mo’ price but it’s an astronomical price to pay for a horrible experience. And the same goes for swimwear! I have been on both sides, with small and bigger breasts. In my early twenties I rarely wore bras.  So why was 20-year old me getting so much choice and 30-year old me shopping for bras on Exile Island? I don’t think it’s too much to ask that shops comfortably cater for all womxn, and have an array of options available at a reasonable price.

Now back to what could easily have been the highlight of my holiday. I popped into my local Woolies because I knew that they have someone in the bra section that takes your measurements to help you find the perfect fit. The last bra size I had in mind was 36B and I was certain that it was no longer that. Measuring took about 20 seconds and I was told that I was a 38D.  She then helped me pick a few bras that matched what I wanted in terms of lift, occasion, colour and fabric. In the fitting room I removed the barb wire wrapped in aluminium foil that I was wearing and tried one on. Holy Comfort, Batman! It felt like two velvet covered angels were gently cradling my breasts. I bought two (because January) and I wondered how many of us walk around not knowing our measurements. Or are ashamed of it. Or sit in agony wearing 10-year old bras. Let me tell you, you are more than a few friggin’ markings on a tape measure or words on a label or numbers on a scale.

I’ve stolen a few more words from Erin Hanson or Ernest Hemingway. Ich vergesse.

You are not your age, nor the size of clothes you wear,
You are not a weight, or the colour of your hair.
You are not your name, or the dimples in your cheeks.
You are all the books you read, and all the words you speak.
You are your croaky morning voice, and the smiles you try to hide.
You’re the sweetness in your laughter, and every tear you’ve cried.

You’re the songs you sing so loudly when you know you’re all alone.
You’re the places that you’ve been to, and the one that you call home.
You’re the things that you believe in, and the people whom you love.
You’re the photos in your bedroom, and the future you dream of.
You’re made of so much beauty, but it seems that you forgot
When you decided that you were defined by all the things you’re not.

And now in my own words: You are love. You are fire. You breathe life. You are magical. You’re a warrior. And you deserve a good f*cking bra!


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