Today while I was calling customers letting them know that their bras were back from alterations one of the women from hosiery came in looking for a bra fitter. I was surrounded by a mountain of bras, clothes, and bags with the phone in my hand, calling wrong numbers because I couldn’t read the tailors handwriting. Everyone was too busy to help this “little lady that needs a bra”, so I left my pile and followed the saleswoman out to the floor.
There I found who I was to spend the next hour with, standing, slightly crouched over, looking confused and lost amidst the bustle of the department and the traffic on the aisle. I walked over and asked her what she needed. I could hardly hear her or understand. I thought she needed a prosthesis fit, which I explained I couldn’t help her with, but that I could go get someone. This look of fear flew into her eyes as she looked into mine, and told me no no that I could help her. I asked her again, differently what it was she needed and she explained she needed a sports bra, in which I told her that activewear would carry more of what she wanted. Again I got a look of fear, confusion, and no no you can help me. I had to step back in my head, and concentrate, make the room go silent, and listen to what she was trying to say. It was hard for her to talk, and clearly she’d been shuffled around, and just wanted someone to slow down and take the time to listen to her and help her.
So I shut everything out, and looked deep into her confused blue eyes, and listened, and heard in her eyes what she was asking for. She needed a bra, a sports bra that she could pull on and off over her head because she couldn’t lift her arms. She can’t clasp bras anymore, and has been wearing sports bras, and needs something new. My mind went through all the options we have, like a file, I do this daily. I told her that I could help her, but that the what I had for sports bras weren’t going to help. “But I do have some bralettes I can show you.” “What are those?” She asked. I explained that they were light bras with only elastic that offered light support and could be pulled over your head. She wanted to see them so I took her over to our most basic option, stretchy microfiber, that is easily pulled on and off. She was excited and and wanted to try some. I pulled two sizes. She then looked deep into my eyes and tried to explain by hand movement across her chest she wanted something pretty. Even the most tomboy of women have moments of femininity, age is no different.
I have a particular favorite lace bralette by Cosabella that I swear by. They are stretchy, comfortable, all lace, and still sexy, offering just enough support for small to average bustlines. Anyway, I walked her over and told her I had just the thing for her. Her eyes lit up and she smiled as I showed her. We pulled two sizes and I asked her if she was ready for a fitting room. She nodded.
I led her into the fitting rooms. She asked me how my day was going as we walked over, I said fine, though now I wish I’d said a little more, I was too busy thinking about my messy pile in back I had to deal with. I picked a room, opened the door and entered after her. It was a struggle for her to put her things down. I offered if I could help her take her clothes off, she said yes please, and I helped her get out of her jacket, her sweater, her second sweater, and finally, pull her sports bra over her head. She had no range of motion in her arms, they stayed forward only and bent at the elbow. I imagined what it must be like for her in day to day life, how hard it must be, how much harder its been to watch her mobility fade like this.
We tried the first bra, and the second, the third and the fourth. She told me about how her daughter nags her about her mobility, and how she thinks its crazy she even bothers wearing a bra. We picked the sizes that worked best. But as we were trying them on, she said to me, dont help, I have to see if I can do this by myself. The hardest thing, is to stand there and watch, as someone struggles. But she managed. And I only help when the tag got in her way. She took two microfiber bralettes. A black one. And she asked for a second in navy. “If I don’t have the navy, what other color could I get you?” “What else do you have?” She asked. I listed off the colors I could remember, and a little smirk crossed her face as she said, ” If you can’t get navy I want red.” I have to say. I admire a woman that doesn’t get nude, black, and white. I had it in navy. She was tired after all of this, and wore the lace Cosabella bralette out of the store.
I cut off all the tags at the cashwrap, and waited for her. I helped her get her shirt on before leaving, and gave her the option of helping her get dressed, or finding the navy. She told me to go hunt. When she met me at the cashwrap she needed me to look up her card. It was too hard for her to dig through her purse, I helped get her ID out. I asked her to write down the pertinent information I needed to retrieve the card number, but she struggled so I offered to write it for her. I felt so stupid in that instant, I should have known writing would be a struggle, her hands barely worked for her anymore. But i got the card, followed through with the transaction. I helped her put her sweater on, and she looked deep into my eyes again, and I in hers and she thanked me so much for the help I gave her with a smile on her face. I told her to have a good rest of her day and enjoy the sunshine.
Part of what made this such an intense experience, besides her obvious mobility and speech impairment, was the eye contact. It was intense, and deep. Not like something I’ve experienced. Her eyes were blue, with tiny little pupils in the center. We looked deep into each other as we spoke, like we were making some sort of connection. It was intense, and almost magic (?). I’m not sure really how to explain it, but looking deep into them made everything clearer, and I could understand better. Not watching her lips, or listening harder, but just staring into her eyes.
So many things we take for granted and never think about. Imagine not being able to do the things you wanted. And have to rely on people. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for her to even get to my store. And how tired she was after the ordeal. I hope that she is happy, and I hope that the bras work. Its the only difference I can make in her life, and I hope it works. Its so easy to pass off people that don’t perhaps function like the rest of us. To move quickly and solve a problem without listening. I did that. I tried to pass her off twice before actually listening, understanding, and helping. Next time, I will listen. Every missed opportunity is an opportunity to improve.