My mother says that she feels like Brunhilda. So that I understand completely what she means, she said "I feel like that cartoon character that has big metal plates over her breasts." My mother is sick and tired of her bras. "They are mostly artificial anyway" she says "all foam and wire. I'm tired and I want to be set free. I should be like grandma and just go without a bra. You know grandma did this, so she was always looking for shirts that had two pockets in the front so that she could then go without a bra."
I happen to also know, that on really hot days, my 92 year old grandmother tended to her housework totally nude. This was not because she had dementia. No, grandma had all her wits about her. She would say that the perk of being old is that you could say anything, anything at all and get away with it. Grandma also realized that by 92 you can treasure your comfort over conventional, social behavior. Oh, I remember the times I patiently waited on grandma's front door step so that she could put on clothing and answer the door. Because I guess it just feels really good to walk around the house in the nude.
When my mother and I were in Maine we drove about an hour and a half, each way, to go to a store that sold organic cotton bras. The lure of these bras, besides that they are made out of organic cotton, is that they have no wires. We arrived at the store and they had two bras left, besides the nursing bras, and those were a size 42 and 46. These are extra, extra-large sizes. My mom is probably a medium size, perhaps a 36. Mom said, "They must be discontinuing their stock". I said, "No, I think a lot of people were buying their bras. We drove all this way just to buy a bra. I think if you do it, other people are doing it as well."
On a hunch, while my husband and I were out walking through town several weeks ago, I stopped at a store that is named "Save Our Corporations From Themselves." You see this large sign out front and you look around for the real name of the store because you can't believe anyone would name their store such a mouth full. What the store sells is clothing made mainly from hemp, but also bamboo and organic cotton. On a hunch, I went inside, and discovered, a whole back wall covered in organic cotton bras. I was euphoric. There were many styles of bras, all without wire and padding, all doing their best to give comfort to the wearer. Some had elastics, some had clever gathering, and some were sturdy, while others were slight. Some made half hearted attempts to lift and separate the breasts, others just bound the breasts together and held them against the chest, making, one uniform lump going across your chest. And it isn't even a big lump, it is a tiny lump.
On the day I discovered that we sell organic cotton bras in my hometown, I of course called my mother, and she set her sights on visiting as soon as possible. Today we both visited the store and mom tried on about ten different styles of bras. She bought three. She also bought two shirts and a skirt. The skirt and one of the shirts was on sale, thank goodness, because ecologically natural clothing isn't cheap. The man at the counter added up all my mother's purchases and, when the sum went over two hundred dollars, my mom said, "Don't you have a discount for seniors?" She had out her check book but she looked reluctant to open it. The man at the counter, perhaps perceiving that he was going to lose a sale, said, "I can't give you a discount for the items on sale, but the rest, I can give you a ten percent discount." And just like that, the total came down, and the check book was opened.
I was so pleased with the clothing my mother bought. It was all soft and feminine and appropriate for a woman who is seventy. She looked stylish as hell even wearing those anti-Victoria's Secret bras that merely flatten a bit and stop from jiggling everything that is already drooping. I thought my mother looked good enough to stand there in the dressing room with a martini in her hand.
The skirt was my idea. My mother said to me in the car before we arrived at the store, "I need pants that cut off right below the knees." Uncertain as to what style she had in mind, I said, "Where have you seen these pants?" She replied, "Oh, I don't know. I just can't wear shorts because my knees look bad, but in hot weather I don't want to wear long pants."
"Ah" I said, "You need a skirt." My mother made an unhappy sound, committing to nothing. At the store they had beautiful, solid colored skirts that had a draw string waist and came down to your ankles. They were made out of hemp, which looks exactly to my uninformed eye like linen. I picked out one for her to try on. She in turn saw a top that she liked. But when she tried on the top with the skirt I heard more unhappy noises coming out of the dressing room. My mother had put on the shirt and then tucked it into the skirt. The way it looked she was cut off in the middle by the draw string. "Untuck the shirt" I told her, and we did this, and then I explained the rule that all the shirts were to fall naturally over this type of skirt.
It doesn't surprise me that two months after the man my mother loved died, she wants to get rid of all her bras. She is feeling some freedom. I don't think she wants to look unattractive, only the rules by which men find women attractive are no longer important to her, - she isn't going to play any of that old game between the sexes. She isn't looking for a new man, she is deep in mourning for the old man. And his death seemed to give her permission to live her life in any way she sees fit. She isn't dressing for a loved one's approval. The only approval she seeks is her own.
Of course, when her daughter told her that she looked beautiful, I hope she heard the compliment.