Irony in the Intimates Department

In which I rediscover the extent to which the culture has divorced sex and childbearing …

As might be expected, sustaining two pregnancies in two years has irrevocably altered my figure. To me, this is neither a point of pride nor a point of shame; it is simply a point of reality to which the most appropriate response is acceptance and adaptation.

In that spirit, I recently resolved to buy new well-fitting undergarments (ahem, bras!). Underthings are, after all, foundational. Over ill-fitting unmentionables, even the chicest of blouses can appear frumpy. Conversely, atop something sleek and supportive, a plain frock assumes the proper shape and proportion.

Because I believe strongly with Auntie Leila that every mother should take every available opportunity to cuddle and bond with her babies (a.k.a. “nurse” them in the old-fashioned sense of the word) and because I’m blessedly able to breastfeed my little ones, I planned to restrict my search exclusively to nursing bras. No reason to spend a tidy little sum on an item I would wear only until Mint Julep arrives, at which point I’d relegate it to the back of my bureau.

My mother agreed to tag along to man Sweet Potato so I could actually spend a little solo time in a fitting room, and the three of us set out on a shopping expedition accordingly.

We went first to Macy’s, which did offer a small selection of nursing bras — but none that fit. I didn’t know how spoiled I was to have any options at all. Subsequently, we visited JCPenney, Dillard’s, Von Maur and, then, in desperation, that explosion of pink and lace, Victoria’s Secret. Not one stocked nursing bras. Silly me, to think intimates departments would sell garments to facilitate breastfeeding!

Mildly amused frustration gave way to outright irritation. I marched madly through the mall, venting to my mother: “I mean, really, what do they think these are for?”

That question, though — “What are these for?” — is not a question anyone asks these days. Teleology is, to put it mildly, unpopular. Meanwhile, pleasure — a subjective perk of various lived experiences that was once thought incidental to the ultimate purpose of those experiences — is paramount.

Suddenly, the entire experiment of bra shopping became for me yet another piece of evidence of a problem that plagues the broader culture: Sex is merely for pleasure, not procreation. The two are utterly divorced in the popular imagination.

Were they not, it would not seem so incongruous to professional department store buyers to stock their lingerie departments with at least one rack of undergarments that simultaneously accommodate the quintessential marital act and the quintessential maternal act. A “lovely little nursing bra” shouldn’t be a contradiction in terms!

And, yes, I’m aware of the relationship between supply and demand, of online shopping and of other department stores at other malls that do, in fact, have broader maternity selections. The anecdote still stands to do with what you will.

Then, again, maybe I’m not looking hard enough for the silver lining: After all, stores still sell bras. Despite all the bra burning of the 1960s, we’re not yet so in denial of our embodied maleness and femaleness to pretend women have no shape to accommodate at all.

3 thoughts on “Irony in the Intimates Department

  1. Thank you for including a link to our blog — and I can certainly relate to your quest and your frustration! Not any more, but there was a day… and it was worse then because no internet! Sears or nothing.
    God bless you and your lovely family!


  2. Thank you for the comment! I so enjoy “Like Mother, Like Daughter,” and have learned so much from it — and “The Little Oratory” was my go-to Christmas present for fellow mothers last year. One of the best books I’ve ever read on liturgical living!


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