Intimacy with strangers just happens to me. There was the gentleman confessor of an adulterous liaison on the flight back from Boulder and now there is the Breast Expert with vertigo.
It happened in the Macy's at the City Creek Center in Salt Lake City, just a two block hike from my stay at the Peery Hotel, a doppelganger for the hotel in The Shining.
Instead of waiting around for the walls to start bleeding and "Redrum" graffiti to scar every door behind which Jack Nicholson awaited me with particularly fangy incisors and an ax, I fled to the mall.
That was my first mistake.
I told myself I was not going to spend money on pleasurable items.
Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was I to buy myself anything FUN. Like a checked skirt or a dress with a peplum, or a red clown nose.
NOTHING THAT WOULD GIVE JOY!
But I did need underwear and bras. My Victoria's Secret bras seemed to be on their last leg. And my Yummy Tummy Spanx-like underwear kept rolling up my thighs into my crotch.
This may have been an indicator I should lay off the macaroons that followed me home from France, but I thought I should probably just buy bigger underwear.
Focus Shannon! The whole point of the previous paragraph was to say that I should feel VERY GUILTY if I spent 150$ on a frivolous item because we definitely have to tighten our waistbands these days (figuratively speaking), but it would be TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE to spend 150$ on necessities and bras and underwear are kind of like bread.
Or eggs. Or milk. They're fucking staples, people! You can't feel guilty about buying the staples. (Come to think of it, why don't they have bra stamps?)
So there I was, my 150$ burning a hole in my credit card, in the Intimate Apparel department standing before a veritable phalanx of bralettes, balconettes, racerbacks, demi cups, plunges, no-peeks, push ups ... when I became overwhelmed and started hyperventilating a little.
The room began spinning. My breasts quaked in terror at all of the freaking choices. Why did my breasts and I have to live in America?? Sometimes there's such a thing as too much bounty! I don't think they've got no-peeks in Uzbekistan.
Just as I was prepared to flee back to my hotel, the likely site of my imminent death, a booming voice with, it must be said, a heavy Japanese accent assaulted me.
"You rook for bra?"
I turned to see the tiniest elderly Asian woman I had ever seen in my life. I could've picked her up, tucked her between my cleavage and she wouldn't have been excavated for eons. Or, I suppose, until my demise in my hotel room.
"Well," I waffled, not really wanting to share the intimacies of a Lingerie Quest with a stranger, but at the same time really wanting to spend that $150, "Yes, I'm looking for a bra that fits. Preferably a thrifty one."
Without a word, and much like a trained Ninja (which I recognize is an un-PC stereotype), she reached out and snapped my bra strap.
"That dead bra," she said, confirming my darkest suspicions. "You are in ruck! I am breast expert. I get you a bra that fits!"
"A breast expert?" I queried. Was there such a thing? Did it require a degree? How much did it pay? Could I submit my resume?
"Yes," she said, with a great deal of dignity and a definite whiff of yes-I-am-here-to-rescue-you-from-making-a-potentially-life-altering-mistake.
Yes, "life altering" my male readers. Let me ask you this. If you were wearing the wrong size jock strap, how big a deal would that be? Would your man parts become uncomfortable, maybe even chafed, maybe even throttled and strangled rendering them incapable of fertilization hence incapable of propagating the species? Which would precipitate the end of all mankind?
I believe you said yes.
It's the same for women with their boobs. That's right. Boob chafing could end civilization as we know it.
I had no choice. I put myself into the hands of the Breast Expert.
The first thing she did was brandish a cloth measuring tape wrenched from the demi-cup bralette encompassing her fledgling breasts and measured mine.
The bra I was wearing in that moment - the dead bra - was a 36C.
I was proud of those two numbers and one letter. In high school I'd been a 32AA (two AAs is smaller than one A). 36C was retribution for Aaron Molinar never asking me on a date. 36C Aaron!! Read 'em and weep.
But I digress.
The Breast Expert deftly whipped that measuring tape around my chest before my senoritas knew what hit 'em.
"You 34 double D," she said. (two Ds is bigger than one D)
I looked behind me to see who she was talking to. No one was there.
"Yes. You 34 double D."
"But that can't be right."
"I am breast expert."
"I AM BREAST EXPERT!!"
I worried she might kick me in the shins then practice an ancient martial arts neck grip that would kill me. I was feeling quite vulnerable thanks to that fucking Amityville Horror Hotel I was staying in.
"It shall be as you say," I dead-panned, hoping the Breast Expert couldn't smell my fear.
"We take the Wacoal bras. You made for them. What color you like?"
"Mauve?" she queried, lip crinkling in distaste, "What color is that?"
"It's kind of a fleshy purple? Or a purpley flesh?"
She just stared. Trying to mask her disapproval. "I bring you ebony and ivory."
I considered serenading her with the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney rendition of Ebony and Ivory when she yelled, "You go! Go find room! I be right there!"
I ran toward the dressing rooms. What else could I do? She was a force to be reckoned with. I found an empty dressing room, stripped to the waist and waited.
Time passed. All of the glaciers melted in the Arctic. Then a new Ice Age was born. Then Sandra Bullock re-entered the atmosphere in the Tian-gong space capsule and I sat in just my underwear with my boobs in my hands in a dressing room in the City Creek Center Macy's waiting for a diminutive Japanese Breast Expert to arrive with my booty or a Katana sword with which she'd end me.
(There seems to be a "death" motif running through this piece).
Eventually I heard what sounded like a small rodeo-calf slamming from side to side down the hallway of the dressing rooms leading to mine.
What the hell was all that racket? Was someone drunk and careening around out there? Was this a hostage situation? Should I get dressed? I didn't want to be taken naked.
Suddenly there was an efficient, professional rapping at my door. I peered through the slats to see my Breast Expert loaded down by a veritable mountain of bras. I let her in.
"I think these going to work very well for you."
She began hanging the bras on a little bar in the dressing room, displaying them for me like they were hookers in the windows of the Red Light District in Amsterdam.
I waited for her to leave.
She didn't leave.
I waited a little longer, emitting a dry, anal retentive cough.
"I help you try these on."
"Oh, no, that won't be necessary."
"I'M BREAST EXPERT!"
How could one argue with that? You try arguing with that kind of pedigree. You can't do it, can you? Can you?? Plus I really thought she could take me if she wanted to. So...
I let the Breast Expert have her way with me.
Oh, yes. I tried the bralettes, the demi cups, the seamless, the seamfull, the underwires, the overwires, the mid-wires, the minimizers and maximizers and just plain misers.
Sweet Jesus they all fit so beautifully. Those 34 double Ds were gold.
How I hated the Breast Expert in that moment. Because the bras were no longer staples. They were no longer bread and butter and ground beef. No!! They were dessert.
They were the fucking Cherries Jubilee lit on fire!
There was no way I was getting out of this store for only 150$. I was totally screwed.
Or so I thought.
Just as the Breast Expert was strapping my ladies into the Superchic Full-Busted Underwire suddenly, apropos of nothing, her eyes rolled back in her head.
Her face turned a terrifying shade of pale and, with her hands still tightening the straps of my Wacoal, she began to fall backwards.
Without thinking I reached out and gently cupped the back of her neck with my right hand as she weakly clutched my double D cups breasts in both her hands to stop herself from falling.
There we were, the two of us, suspended in time, in a sort of bosomy pas de deux, reminiscent of Cheryl Burke and Rob Kardashian in Dancing With The Stars.
I stopped her fall and didn't let go of her until she'd regained her balance.
Turns out the bucking bronco I'd heard coming down the dressing room hallway was my Breast Expert who suffered vertigo due to a chronic ear infection and she was flinging herself against walls in order not to fall over.
What is it about people? If you learn just one of their secrets, just ONE of their intimate frailties, you feel sort of responsible for them. And, in a minor but also important way, you begin to love them. And they begin to love you too, their confessor.
The bras and underwear my Breast Expert sold me should have cost 300$. But guess what? With just a few hidden coupons bestowed upon me by my now-beloved Breast Expert, I walked out of Macys having spent only a cool $150. Well, and 75 cents.