A Bra Story: How My Husband's Callused Hands Helped Me Choose Cotton Over Lace

After years of feeling like I was choosing between the slippers and stilettos of breast fashion, I visited a high-end lingerie store.

My husband holds out his marred hands. The new blisters from raking the lawn are a bit offset from his hockey calluses, and he invites me to look them over with a bit of pride. These are marks made by care taking of the people he loves and he loves to take care…if not of his hands.

Sharing the slant of morning sunlight from our east-facing window, I look away from his palms into my bra drawer. I am faced with the same choice every morning: the soft comfort of plain cotton versus the scratchy — but sexy  lace.

After years of feeling like I was choosing between the slippers and stilettos of breast fashion, I visited a high-end lingerie store. There the brusque woman manipulated my chest, squeezing and plumping, lifting and tightening, clucking and re-adjusting.

She deemed me a 40G, which I joked sounded more like an apartment number than a bra size. Maybe she had heard that one before, because she didn’t smile. I explained that I was looking for a hybrid. Something that would give me lift and shape, but didn’t make me want to rip it off in a bathroom stall by 11:30 a.m.

However, expertise and exorbitant prices did not change a thing. The new lace-boob prison scratched open sores into my side as I shifted against the underwire. By the evening I was pulling the pointy parts away from ribcage with my thumbs as I sipped wine with a friend. Instead of the enjoying the wine, all I could do was whine about the wire.

So here I was, my husband examining his hands, and me, the neatly folded bras.

Remembering his pride in his pain, I asked him if he ever made choices that hurt him for vanity.

“Just pulling out that one long eyebrow hair,” he answered.

Together we listed his self-inflicted aches and pains. His ski boots were tight; his arms ached as he carried our sleeping boys to bed. Sometimes he burned his hand going after an escaping bit of stir-fry from the wok, but in general his irritations were for love of sport or family — not in response to any societal expectation of beauty.

“In fact,” he added, face thoughtful, “I think I pulled the eyebrow hair to keep my conversations running smoothly. I notice people distracted by it when we are talking. They look from my eyes to my brows, and we lose the train of thought of our talk.”

For the most part I resist general societal ideas of beauty, particularly when they cause me discomfort. I wear clogs and let my eyebrows take their natural shape. I consider the newly-forming lines in my face the patina of a life of laughter, and never try to cover them with makeup or erase them with Botox. Somehow my breasts didn’t get the same leeway from me.

I remember the days of nursing, when they were magically elastic and stretching away from me like silly putty, as my sons craned their heads toward the sights and sounds outside of my embrace. My breasts retained that stretch, forever marking the time that they were a form of sustenance. Why would I try to reverse those signs? Why don’t I take care of them with comfy cotton and let them tell the story of how they took care of my boys?

Then I pulled the softest bra from the drawer and began to fasten it around my back. “I love this one,” my husband told me, and reached out with his callused hands to help.

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