My Midlife Crisis Bra

Can It Stop Me From Becoming Invisible?

I have bought a new bra. It‘s red and lacy, and I think it signals a crisis of confidence.

The world tells me I’m at an age where I should be becoming invisible, and I think my dazzling new bra may be a cry for help.

I’m no slattern. I don’t consider many-wash-grey an acceptable shade for underwear, and I am a fan of matching bra and pants, (she states, voluminous chest puffed out). But red? That’s a whole new adventure for me.

Perhaps I’m becoming more daring in my late-forties, losing my inhibitions and veering away from the safe blacks and whites of my twenties and thirties. But I think it runs deeper than that.

My new purchase is all the more extraordinary because last year I stepped into the beige zone. When I came home from the shops with nude bra and knickers, I felt I’d reached a new threshold of middle-age. In truth, it felt like I’d given up. I couldn’t imagine doing a sexy striptease and, at the crucial moment, revealing the top of a pair of light brown nanna pants, even if they did have a lace edging which merged perfectly with my stretch marks.

I told every woman I knew about my foray into the world of sensible underwear and was met with empathy and similar stories of capitulation. One friend told me about how her daughter had screamed when she’d first come across her mother in skin toned pants. ‘I thought you’d grown a Barbie snatch,’ the poor teen said. You can see her point.

Since I’ve already plumbed the depths of utility underwear and, so far, avoided self-loathing and divorce, why have I gone out and bought something so pretty, uncomfortable and impractical?

I blame that French bugger.

Recently, Yann Moix, a fifty-year-old French Author, shocked the world by stating that women over fifty are, ‘Too old to love.’ He went on to say, ‘I prefer younger women’s bodies.’

I laughed when I heard it. It seemed so outrageous and ridiculous that surely it was meant as a joke. Except it wasn’t.

My husband said, ‘He’s missing out,’ which was lovely to hear, until I remembered that I’m not yet fifty and wondered how he knew…

A distant memory sparked in my brain of friend at University telling me, with absolute certainty, that women over the age of forty become invisible. I informed her, indignantly, that would never happen to me; but those words haunt me every time I come across another grey hair.

Image by Rawpixel on Upsplash

Still, I refuse to be part of that pattern. I haven’t let my roots grow out, or given up wearing make-up, but I believe how I appear should be my choice alone, nothing to do with other people’s expectations. I’m increasingly furious that men don’t have to do anything to mask their age, yet some, like M. Moix, think it’s acceptable to judge women on the number of years since their birth.

And men get to wear really big pants.

It’s not fair. It’s also not new.

I remember my mother buying a pair of red cowboy boots when she was a little younger than I am now. I was a teenager and my enlarged humiliation gland went into overdrive when my mum pulled those patent beacons of mid-life crisis onto her still-slim calves. I was mortified. Why couldn’t she just grow old gracefully like the plump, permed, acceptably bland mothers of my friends?

Is my red bra the equivalent of those cowboy boots? Am I stating, at least to myself, that I want to still be visible, despite my gender and my age?

Is it a gateway garment? Will it be underwear this month, then increasingly spangly earrings, even more animal prints, until I end up looking like the love-child Pat Butcher and Bett Lynch?

Like the aforementioned, I also have enormous bosoms. My boobs treat bras like escape rooms, trying to wriggle out any which way they can. Unless I want to look like I have four separate breasts, my bras have to fit perfectly, which means structured garments and mountains of cash.

In the pricey boutique where I purchased my mid-life crisis bra, the assistant didn’t wait to be invited in to check if it fitted. She flung the dressing room curtain back, hoiked the bra straps tighter, seemingly oblivious to my sensitivity about the doughnuts of fat making wobbly back-boobs, and the way my black knickers were rolling down incrementally under the excess Christmas tummy blubber.

She informed me, loudly enough for the whole shop to hear, that it looked marvellous and the colour was very fashionable right now.

So I bought it. I bought it because it fit me, it was fashionable, it was red, and I am not invisible.

I’m not that far from being fifty, and whatever that French numpty thinks, I still have a right to be seen. I might just be asserting that under my clothes for now, but it won’t be long until I find my very own pair of red, patent cowboy boots. And, if they don’t stop me from visually slipping away, then I have a voice and a keyboard and the tenacity of a clamp-jawed Pitbull.

And, Mr Frenchman, I also have a very nice red bra, which you, my friend, will never have the pleasure of seeing.

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