It's that time of year again to get a new prosthesis for my missing breast, which I lost due to breast cancer. The prosthesis store is 45 minutes away, so I ask my 87-year-old mother if she'd like to take a ride and accompany me on my journey to purchase a squishy breast form. She glibly tells me that it was much more fun to go with her grandmother to buy a corset in the 1930s. I ask her why.
"Because my grandma would buy me a pineapple ice cream sundae at Woolworth's."
"I'll buy you a pineapple martini, how's that?"
"Not the same."
Needless to say, I can't get Mom to go with me. She's been fighting a cold and it's the day before Thanksgiving. Mom is hosting eight people at her house on Turkey Day. She's got some tidying up to do.
So, I ask my husband one more time if he'll go with me. He declines, too.
With the Sirius Broadway channel blaring "One Singular Sensation" from A Chorus Line, heater cranked up and seat-warmer activated, I begin my travels to the prosthesis store.
As I drive, I am looking forward to purchasing the new form. Out with the old and in with the new. A new breast form is somewhat like a new beginning. Will I wear the same size as last year? Will they fit me with a slightly bigger one since I gained a little weight? It's all so scientific.
I know that the ladies at the store are highly trained. I trust their judgment. They will eyeball the bra with the chosen form in place. Is it too big? Too little? Just right?
About 40 minutes later, I arrive at the store. I park and go in. In their foyer, a huge artificial Christmas tree sits on its side wrapped up in green plastic tarp. Behind this is a rack of last summer's bathing suits marked at 60 percent off. I am greeted by Mary, the owner of the store. She flashes me a big smile. "Hello." She recognizes me. I've been coming to this place for almost three years now.
"Hi, Mary," I say.
When I step foot into the store proper, I am then greeted by Cindy, a tiny woman who will do my fitting. I feel comfortable with Cindy. I know that I will allow her to poke and prod me, and I will not feel embarrassed. I think back on watching my Mom's grandmother, my great grandmother, try on a corset in the 1960s. A little five-year-old in 1968, I stood in the corner of the dressing room at Polsky's in Akron, Ohio and watched my great grandma try on the corset over her clothes. Modesty was the key with Gram. There was no striping down to partial nakedness like there would be with me in just a few minutes in the fancy dressing room at the prosthesis store.
"OK,” said Cindy. "Come right in here." I enter the large dressing area and she shuts the door.
"I think I'd like to stick with the number eight form," I say, getting right down to business. I'm in a hurry. I have to pick up a customized birthday cake for my brother whose birthday we will celebrate tomorrow, and I also want to stop at the little thrift store in the valley. Oh, and I've got to go to the library and retrieve season nine of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" for my husband.
"Right," she says. "And you were interested in those seamless, molded cup bras."
"Yes. Did you say they come in navy blue?"
"I'll have a navy and two nudes."
"Well, let's see if you like them."
Cindy disappears to the back of the store where all of the prostheses are kept. While she is getting the merchandise for me to purchase, I take off my black sweater and my old nude-colored brassiere. When she returns, I am half naked, ready to expedite the process. How different it is these days when purchasing a body-altering item. No modesty. They do have a cream-colored nylon robe I could slip on, but I'm not embarrassed. I study my breasts, what's let of them. I've got an implant on one side, and on the other, just skin because they had to remove the right implant. Back in 2016, I developed an angiosarcoma, which had to be cut out.
Cindy returns with a square box that houses the new form.
She fits it into the navy blue bra.
On it goes, and Cindy is hooking the thing to me. It's snug.
"Better have one size up," I say.
"Right. This one runs small."
We get the correct size, and everything is looking hunky-dory. Then, Cindy says, "It needs a little adjustment. Do you mind if I adjust it?"
"No," I say.
Cindy sticks her tiny hand into the navy bra and slides the form up a tad. I imagine Gram with the sales clerk's cold hands on her body, back in the day. Would have never happened. That was a different time. A time of modesty and decorum. And Gram was extra modest.
In a few minutes, I'm leaving the store with a big shopping bag full of a new form and three new bras.
Do I have time for that pineapple martini? It sounds delicious.
I'll get one and drink a toast to Gram, a woman born in 1883. My lineage. From one body-altering gal to another.
I pull into a local bar. Will they even have pineapple martinis?
Chocolate martinis will do.