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Stacked like me? Theres no faking it

I have a theory: Bra shopping is like a Rorschach test for the female psyche. The kind of bra that a woman wears speaks volumes about her.

For example: A black lace underwire? Serious femme fatale. An unstructured flesh-toned number? No-nonsense girl.

You get the picture.

I fall somewhere in between. While I do like a little vavoom under my Gap, I am also too pragmatic to wear a bra with all the bells and whistles, like viscous gel inserts and Posturepedic-like stuffing.

But navigating these two poles can get dicey, especially when I find myself in a dressing room surrounded by a thicket of tiny hangers. Each holds a different style, and therefore a different me to, ahem, project to the world.

'That bra gives you a really nice shape,' says the salesgirl who is examining my topography.

'Don't they look É dome-like?' I ask, considering myself from several fluorescent-lit angles. 'I kind of feel like Gilligan in that episode where he wears a coconut-shell top.'

'That will soften up,' she continues, her authority substantiated by the measuring tape draped around her neck. 'It's our best bra. It's expensive, but it will last a long time if you care for it correctly.'

And because I'm a sucker for the 'you get what you pay for' speech, I head for the wrap desk to purchase several colors in the same style.

This is when I start to feel like I've come in for a Toyota and end up leaving with a Mercedes: Bra shopping is like car shopping in that there are lots of options. But instead of leather seats and CD players, there are accessories to care for one's finery, such as mesh wash bags and detergent that is gentle enough to bathe a newborn Ñ even one that is wearing a high-end brassiere.

When I say that I already own all the mandatory laundering provisions, I receive a scornful look that says, 'Sure you do. And now you are going straight home to scrub your new bras with a Brillo pad.'

'Just don't use Woolite,' she says succinctly. 'It's a petroleum-based product, so it doesn't rinse clean; the chemicals will eventually destroy the fabric.'

Visions of tattered undergarments in my mind, it strikes me that the world has become a very complicated place.

Days later, I'm wearing my new coconuts, er, bra, while having dinner with a girlfriend.

'Have you É um É had work done?' she asks, her eyes settling about 12 inches below my face.

'No!' I hiss, horrified that she'd think I'd do such a thing after our pact to avoid the knife, no matter what gravity throws at us.

'I bought some new bras and they're just É highly misrepresentational,' I reply, settling deeper into my chair.

'I'll say,' she says. 'You just don't look like you.'

That was it. She'd hit the nail on the head. I had a bust line that said, 'high maintenance' and a body that said, 'I'll kick your ass on the basketball court.'

I return to the store the next day, boobie booty in hand.

'I have a confession to make,' I tell a salesgirl. 'I bought these bras Ñ I'm wearing one Ñ and the truth is, I just don't want my boobs to look bigger.'

She reaches into the bag and pulls out the offending garments to examine.

'Look,' I say, poking the top of the garment into a concave shape. 'You could fit a family of four in here. It just doesn't seem like the right fit.'

Much to my relief, she agrees, which makes me believe I might not be an anomaly after all.

And so, 20 minutes and one perfect style later, I leave the store, pleased to feel like myself again and determined to leave the coconut bras to Gilligan.

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