I should have known it was a bad idea. What was I even thinking?
It all started when Bear needed a new suit rightthissecond. He only had one, and it had already been patched twice, and now there was another hole, in the same place. He needed it by, like, the next day, for a big meeting he suddenly remembered he had, and there was no time to get it fixed.
We went to Men’s Wearhouse near Union Square and got two for the price of one. It was very exciting. One was pale gray, and we both felt like it was really extra cool and a little daring. The other was dark gray, and it looked stately and solemn. I was unhelpful, because all suits look the same to me, and I think they all look good on Bear, and so I concentrate too hard, trying to figure out the differences, and then I focus on the wrong things and start to question my judgment.
“It’s too boxy. Except boxy is a flattering look on you. But I think the line of the bottom part is too straight. It looks severe. But I guess suits are severe, so that might be intentional. Wait, try the other one– that was less severe….OK, that’s not boxy enough.”
Bear seemed to trust his instincts, and, for a guy for whom normal jeans were a huge upgrade from the strange cargo pants he used to have, he has a surprisingly discerning eye for formal clothing. As far as I can tell. The whole thing took maybe twenty minutes.
And then, after we were very pleased with ourselves for getting two nice suits for the price of one, I thought it would be fun to stop in at Victoria’s Secret, just a couple blocks away. Valentine’s Day was coming up…My bras were all ancient and bedraggled. It might be fun. Did I already say that? You know that’s a bad sign.
I am bad at lingerie. Mostly just because I don’t care. I wrote this post for The Frisky about lingerie and Valentine’s Day. It’s set many years ago, when I was a teenager. That was the last time I bought lingerie for Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t even have a boyfriend then.
I am also bad at bras, in general. My breasts are, I mean. They don’t cooperate. They don’t get pushed up the right way. They don’t play nicely with lace. They look confused and unhappy. They look like they’re trying to figure out what I want from them, but it’s too complicated and they’re about to give up.
But I am married now and my breasts are a little bigger, because of the delightful weight gain (not sarcasm), and I figured, what the hell– it’s time. I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna get sexy lingerie from the world’s biggest, flashiest lingerie chain. The same one that offended me with their catalogues as a feminist child and later motivated me to stand in front of the mirror, at ten, clad only in a lace shift from the dress up box, and whisper mysteriously at my reflection, “I know Victoria’s secret…it’s sex!”
I did not exactly know what sex was. One of the boys in homeschooling group had mentioned that it had to do with the, you know, the THING. And the lady’s thing! Her butt!
But I knew it was what Victoria’s Secret was all about. I just knew there was a connection somewhere…And I was scandalized and intrigued.
And then, years and years later, I was simply bored. Seriously? Leopard print bras? Supermodels in wings and rhinestones? Guys, really.
And now– well, I’d rather go somewhere else, but Victoria’s Secret was right there, right by Men’s Wearhouse.
“Am I allowed in?” Bear asked, pausing at the door, looking profoundly uneasy.
“Yes, of course! There are tons of guys in here!” I wasn’t sure, but I wanted him to come in with me. It was scarily pink in there.
We went in— Bras! Bras! Bras! Pink and red and stripes and stars and plastic gems and glitter and animal print!
“I’ll just wait outside,” said Bear, “This is weird.”
“No!” I cried. “You have to help me pick stuff!”
We were going to do that thing that couples do. I saw it once, when I was fourteen, at the mall, with my mom. The guy was picking lingerie with his girlfriend. “This will look AMAZING on you, honey!” “You think so? Maybe I’ll get it…” “I’ll get it for you! This is the gift that just keeps giving…” “Honey!” Ew. But interesting.
We were going to pick sexy lingerie together, and then I’d wear it, and it’d be this whole fun thing. Exploring new territory together.
“Okay…” said Bear. “But I don’t know what you want.”
“Really sexy stuff– like really sparkly and sexy. 34B.”
I started pulling bras off the shelves. They all looked really similar. I’d get to underwear later.
Bear was just standing there.
“Come on!” I said. “What do you want me to wear?”
“Um,” he said. “None of this stuff?”
“No, no. Pick something!”
“I don’t think it’s that sexy. Your old stuff is sexier.”
I rolled my eyes. “That’s not even close to true.”
I had an armful of aggressive bras. Takes you up 2 cup sizes! said several of them. That would be interesting.
“They have the heat way up,” said Bear. “I think I’ll wait outside.”
“Just take off your coat.”
“I think I’ll be more comfortable outside.”
I sighed and let him escape. A saleswoman appeared next to me. “Do you need a bag?”
“What are you looking for?” she said, returning with it.
“Sparkly,” I said, feeling bold.
“Seems like you’re doing OK,” she said, laughing at my selection. “What size?”
“Um, I’m not sure.” I’m never sure. But ouch.
It turned out I was right about the B– they are a tiny bit bigger. But wrong about the 34. The rest of me is a tiny bit bigger, too. 36, now. I went back out again, and returned with a new bagful. Lace and sparkles and two whole cup sizes up and bows and hearts and pretty soon I had no idea how to judge any of them. It had been forty-five minutes. Maybe it had been an hour. We had not eaten lunch and it was suddenly 4:00 and Bear was still waiting outside, in the freezing cold.
“You could come in,” I texted. “Maybe pick out some sexy panties ”
“Are you almost done??” he wrote back.
I bought three bras. One that basically left my breasts alone, in beige, because I really need a new one. One in black lace that (tried) to push them up a little. And one 2 sizes up! in gray and hot pink lace, because it seemed like something I should have. I spent a lot of money. Well, I need them, I thought defensively.
I went outside. Bear was miserable. He didn’t want to talk to me. His eyes looked glassy and unseeing. His mouth was a pressed line.
He held out the shortbread and coffee he’d bought for me. “I thought you might want a snack.”
We walked to our favorite roast beef sandwich shop in silence. We walked to the subway in silence. We took the F train home.
“What the hell is your problem?” I said, aboveground again. “Why can’t you just be fun?”
“Why couldn’t you just go another day?”
“Why can’t you have fun with me?”
“Why is that supposed to be fun? We have lots of fun!”
“We only have weird joking around fun, when we’re alone. We never have normal people fun. It’s SEXY! It’s lingerie! That’s sexy! Why can’t you be a normal guy about it?”
“Normal guys don’t like that stuff!”
“Yes they do!”
“I don’t believe that.”
We got home. We unlocked the door. We ate. I watched Revenge as I ate. Bear looked over my shoulder. “What’s this about?” There was too much to explain.
“Do you want to show me the bras?”
I did. But I was still annoyed. “Maybe later.”
We were annoyed at each other all the way to the party at our friends’ apartment, where I hung out with some of my friends and he talked to some guys in sweater vests. I could see his back, across the room. Very broad, in the usual navy blue tee-shirt. He was wearing his only pair of jeans. The ones I’d convinced him to get about a year ago, finally. He needed a haircut. He was so cute. I was drinking champagne and being totally hilarious (I was sure of it), and I missed my husband, even though he had not wanted to pick out sexy lingerie for me.
We leaned against each other on the F train, headed home again.
“What was that whole thing, before?” Bear asked.
“I don’t know. Just a stupid moment.”
“You said we were having a Jonathan Franzen moment. That’s a really bad sign.”
I had said that, because we were both so irritated and neither one of us could explain ourselves and it was all very existential and tortured and layered and ordinary. “Yeah, but I just said it about that one moment.”
When we got home, I showed him my bras. The 2 size up one looked ridiculous. I put it back in the bag. And the beige one– so boring. I decided to return both of them.
“I want red lace,” I said, “for Valentine’s Day.”
We went online and found a red lace bra and bought it. And almost matching underwear. Bear shrugged. “It looks pretty,” he offered kindly.
“Ooh look! There it is in burnt orange!”
“I’ll get that one for you, too.”
“I’ll return one.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
I don’t think they’ll arrive in time for tonight, but whatever. We have other plans. So far they involve cornish hens and baby bok choy. And witty conversation. And maybe even that secret of Victoria’s, which does not require any of her products at all. I know, shocking.
* * *
Happy Valentine’s, guys! What are your plans? I’d love to hear about them. Maybe you’ll give me some ideas!
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in brown. It’s a great color.
P.S. There’s no such thing as a “normal” guy. I was being really stupid when I said those things.
P.P.S. Dear Bear, don’t worry– the next post will not involve you. I promise. Maybe.