Very close to celebrating my sixtieth birthday, I feel very secure in my masculinity, but a confession: never having had the blessing of having sisters or daughters, I grew up sharing the same opinion of Lewis Carroll’s unicorn that saw members of the opposite sex as fabulous creatures.
Nonetheless, I have survived many years in my confused ignorance until yesterday when my mother asked me to take her shopping. My mother is wheelchair bound so taking her shopping is a routine service I supply, and when she asked to go to Kohl’s I went with a joyful heart and a song on my lips little knowing the horror that awaited me.
Kohl’s is a department store and, on this Columbus Day, surprisingly empty and as I wheeled my mother around the displays she would stop me so she could inspect various items.
“Where to next, Mom?” I asked, and then she said the words that stopped my heart.
“I want to go look at the bras.”
There is a memory that I have when I was 14 years of age when my mother and I went shopping back in the halcyon days when she was mobile on her own. Before we split up, she told me to look for her over in ‘that’ department and she pointed to a sign at the end of the store hanging from the ceiling.
Little did I know that "lingerie" is pronounced lahn-zhuh-REY and I said, “Oh! Over in the linger-REE department?” The peals of laughter from my mother and various people who overheard me have seared my soul to this day. The result is that I steer clear of the woman’s intimates departments and I have hated the French language with a passion ever since.
But I am nothing if not a dedicated son, so I wheeled my mother over to No Man’s Land.
“What is the price on that one?” my mother asked.
With trembling fingers I touched it waiting for security to tackle me at any given moment and looked at the price.
I now know why the ancient Jewish men would sometimes pray, “Thank you, Lord, that I was not born a woman.” That tiny piece of cloth made of fabric and frills and wire and snaps that no man can ever work came in at a cool $29.95.
And that was one of the cheap ones.
My word! The bedroom bureau drawer that holds every woman’s intimates must have the economic value of a small Middle Eastern kingdom! How come men with daughters aren’t standing on street corners holding tin cans and cardboard signs with the scrawled words: Father of Daughters. Need Bra Money.”?
“Keep going, son,” my mom ordered and obediently I pushed her through the narrow aisle surrounded by brassieres (How I hate the French language!) on hangers on both sides.
And because the universe at its base is infinitely cruel, the stands of bras were not parallel and unbeknownst to me they narrowed at the end.
When I realized the trap I was in, I confess I panicked. I shoved my mother and her wheelchair through the remainder of the aisle, bras and their respective hangers snagging on everything, and when we burst through the end, my mother, her wheelchair, and I had dozens of bras hanging from us. No joke. Dozens.
I envision that in the security department a man watching the surveillance cameras immediately grabbed his radio, “Pervert alert in the brassiere aisle! Everybody converge … no … hold up …wait a minute. False alarm. Now uploading video to YouTube!”
I could feel my face so crimson with embarrassment that an egg could have been fried on my forehead. “Mom, for the first time as a man,” I said holding back tears of shame, “I have to go clean up a bra aisle.”
Gales of laughter from a nearby aisle (women are so cruel) simply added insult to injury as I went back into forbidden territory and cleaned up the destructive wake I and my mother’s wheelchair had left behind.
I learned three important lessons:
- I am still secure in my masculinity.
- Padded bras are really gross.
- The next time I take my beloved mother shopping we’re only going to supermarkets, hardware stores and office supply companies.