When The Pandemic Lasts So Long You Start Experimenting With Your Underwear

Several months ago, I got adventurous with my lingerie at the urging of a friend. She’s retired like me, but unlike me she’s quite well-endowed on top. She had gone au naturel for the first nine months of the pandemic and urged me to do the same; I resisted. After months without girding or underwiring, her “girls” convinced her of the immutable law of gravity and cried out for support. That began her experimenting with and proselytizing for sports bras.

She sent me links to the ones she liked and I finally caved to her incessant nudging. I had been wearing the same brand and style of bra for decades, so perhaps it wasn’t a bad idea to change things up. If I were lucky, the switch might reinflate the ruts my current style had left in my shoulders, ribcage, and armpits.

Still. A “sports” garment? I’m not exactly a competitive athlete. But online retailers don’t know that and, besides, there was that one year of softball and two years of volleyball in grade school. Never mind that I played catcher because the only ball I could hope to snag was one hurled directly at my face, and defaulted to the B Team in volleyball because I could only serve underhanded. That’s none of their business, either.

Maybe they’re called “sports bras” because of the athleticism required to get them on and off. Pullover styles require something akin to wriggling into a form-fitting turtleneck. First, yank it over your head and distribute your arms into appropriate openings before the elasticized band snaps closed on the delicates. Observe the strict limit of one arm or head per hole. Next, locate your breasts, hopefully inside the garment at this point, but not necessarily. Hoist them upward to the latitude they occupied in your teens and wrestle each one into a front-facing position.

Removing the garment often requires considerable flailing as well. Pretend you’re sprinting through spider webs or escaping ill-tempered bees. If this fails, extricate yourself with a good pair of scissors and call it a day.

In addition to the conventional pullover style, I tried a racerback model. This one features front-closure hooks, shoulder straps very close to the neck, and a tiny vertical panel in back. One potential drawback to this design is that placing shoulder straps close to the neck shoves underarm and back flab into unnatural mounds riding high atop the shoulder blades. If you’re well-endowed in these unfortunate areas, anyone who hugs you may wonder whether there are two more breasts back there. But as long as we’re in the middle of a no-hug pandemic, very few people will discover your bonus bosom.

The front view of sports bras is even more attractive. Remember Madonna’s 1990 cone bra? It’s nothing like that. No mountains, all plains. Maybe a couple of minor mesas. Unlike the Playtex bra’s promise to “lift and separate,” sports bras will smash and merge every bit of rib, muscle, and fat within their boundaries. Think Frank Costanza’s manssiere on Seinfeld.

I am counting the days until the coronavirus disappears and we can all venture outdoors, visit friends, and slowly unravel the feral lifestyles we’ve cultivated during quarantine. Just imagine: real shoes, tailored clothing, normal undergarments! Fingers crossed that day comes soon. Until then, I’ll be hanging out over here with the athletes.


  1. Oh Mary Kay, do you mind if I quote a few lines of this completely relatable bra adventure? My adamant brassier-loving friends will finally understand that, no, I don’t like any of them and none of them are comfortable.


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