My Bra in Quarantine
Warning for the delicate minded- there is a discussion of “ladies’ undergarments” that some might find offensive.
My first bra came in a cardboard box that was appropriately called “My First Bra.” I was ten years old and had no physical need for a bra, but my older sister determined it was time for that rite of passage. As I rode my purple stingray bike back home from TG&Y, proudly clutching onto that package, goosebumps ran down my arms despite the 90-degree temperature. I had a bra; I was a woman.
During my four years in college during the ’70s, I shunned the oppressive undergarment completely. I was a free, independent woman; I couldn’t be burdened with such an archaic device of constraint. My relationship with my bra in the last forty years can best be summed up by the Facebook relationship status, “It’s Complicated.” Social norms tell me I need it, but I don’t want it. I look better with it, but why does it have to be so miserable? And what psychopath thought a metal underwire in such a tender place was a good idea? Every woman can identify with the sheer joy at the end of the day when you walk through the door, and before the husband, kids, or dog are acknowledged, the bra comes off. It’s sheer bliss.
It’s my fifth week of quarantine, and I’m realizing the stages of quarantining are closely aligned with my bra status. Have you gone through similar stages? (A shoutout to Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)
Stage 1. Denial
Bra still on. My adult daughters tried to talk me into isolating. I resisted. Sometime in the last five years, we have switched roles, and my daughters have become protective of their “frail, elderly” mother. I balk at their premature assignation of my elderly status, but I know they always have my best interest at heart. They are the smartest people I know (I may be a bit biased), so I accepted their advice and made the decision to isolate myself. I reluctantly made one last colossal trip to the grocery store, turned over my life savings, and stocked up on enough groceries to feed ten people for a year. I spent the last afternoon before being banished with the person I would miss most in the world, my two-year-old grandson.
I didn’t allow myself to think about what was going on in the world. I busied myself with the incredibly important task of organizing my underwear drawer by color, cleaning the baseboards with a Q-Tip, and arranging my bookshelves alphabetically within genres. Whew, thank goodness those essential quarantine tasks are accomplished.
Stage 2. Anxiety
Bra off and flung to the back of the closet. I watched too much news, spent hours on social media, and mentally braced myself for a “Lord of the Flies” scenario. I had a heart-pounding, “through the roof” level of anxiety I’d never experienced before. I felt out of control and started imagining a Zombie Apocalypse future.
I was upset I couldn’t see my grandson. Would he remember me? Would he understand why the grandmother he usually saw three times a week suddenly stopped showing up? We did Facetime, I sent him videos of myself reading his favorite stories, and my son-in-law sent me daily pictures. All of the efforts helped, but it just wasn’t the same as hanging out with my grandson. One day when we were talking on Facetime, he dramatically threw himself on the couch and said, “Too Frustrating!” His precocious statement pretty much summed up my feelings about this stage.
Henry, my long-haired white cat I adopted from the shelter eight years ago, agreed with my grandson and tried to make a break for the outside. The call of the wild was more appealing than staying inside with me. So much for gratitude.
Stage 3. Bargaining
Bra off, bra on, bra off, bra on. My mind was whirling, trying to figure out a way I could bargain my way out of this, or at least figure out a way I could still maybe see my grandson. I dropped off surprise (sanitized) presents on his front porch after he went to sleep at night. I missed him so badly; I spent my time alternating between trying to figure out a way to safely see my grandson and whining pathetically when I realized it wasn’t happening anytime soon.
Our “beloved by both parties” Mayor suggested citizens put Christmas lights up to boost morale. I took it a step further, placing a big Santa figure and an Easter Bunny on the front yard. I strung lights and hung Easter eggs on all the trees. I was working hard to pretend to stay positive and bargain my way out of this mess with displays of cheer and fake optimism while secretly holding panic attacks at bay.
Stage 4. Depression
Bra? What’s that? I had no use for a bra; I was going nowhere. I brought Santa and the Easter Bunny back in; they deserved better than this and no longer wanted to be associated with doom and gloom. I missed my grandson. I sobbed, whined, and cried some more, all to no avail. Even my cats started avoiding me, giving me exasperated looks that said, “Meow, we’re sick of hearing you whine, get control of yourself human, meow!”
The room I referred to as the coffee-making room became my refuge. It turns out you can actually make food in that room! People call it a kitchen. The kitchen forgave my previous negligence and welcomed me back with wide-open refrigerator doors. I began baking in a fervor, as if preparing for a Baptist bake sale. No Baptists showed up, so I laid on the couch watching Schitt’s Creek for the third time and ate the bounty of my depression baking. I baked until the year’s ration of butter was all gone, my chocolate-streaked sweat pants were tight, and I could barely roll off the couch.
I still washed my hands frequently, but the showers became fewer and further between, and when I did get in the shower, I had to remind myself the purpose for the bottle with the word “Shampoo.” The cats moved as far down the couch as they could during the depression stage of Quarantine grief.
Stage 5. Acceptance
Bra back on (how did it shrink?!). In my current state, I’ve found a precarious balance of staying informed yet not allowing myself to become inundated with 24×7 Corona information. I’ve decided I’m only listening to scientists and real medical doctors, not politicians or pseudo-doctors. I say the Serenity Prayer anytime I find myself drifting back into a previous, less healthy stage, and I limit my time on social media. I’ve developed a good routine at home, including beginning the day with exercise to control depression and anxiety. Exercise is also needed to start whittling off the pounds gained during the previous stages of grief. I still miss my grandson terribly, but the whining is now limited to Wednesday wine/whine night.
I’ve achieved temporary acceptance status. At times I fear I may be starting to enjoy my hermit status a little too much; it’s almost scary what the mind can begin to adapt to as normal. My cats seem to like me again; I take that as a good sign.
For now, I’m grateful to feel safe at home. I’m doing my best to live as well as I can one day at a time, bra optional. I remind myself there will be a rainbow! My pot of gold at the end of the quarantine will include trips to the gym, meeting my favorite friends at Old School Bagel for coffee, and best of all – lots of time with my grandson!
Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.