Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wild Bra Chase

Mrs Newbie owes me big-time.

The other day I mentioned that I would be passing her favourite mall later that morning, and unwisely asked if she needed anything. "Yes, please," she replied, coming down the stairs and thrusting something soft into my hand. "Can you go to Macy's and get me two of these, one in white and one in black?"

I looked down at the small object in my hand. It was a beige bra.

Now I'm not a macho kind of guy. I've probably changed as many nappies as my wife (mostly without gagging too), and was recently complemented on my ability to tie my daughter's hair in a ponytail. But women's underwear is something different entirely. Although I don't mind admitting I've undone and removed my fair share for partners over the years, I've never actually bought any myself. The prospect therefore filled me with a certain dread.

Having reached and parked at the mall, my first problem was how to transport the object in question. I couldn't very well stuff it in my trouser pocket or walk around casually holding it my hand, so I emptied some shopping out of a Target bag in the back of my car, and stuffed the bra in there. At least that way I wouldn't draw too much attention to myself. "Here I go," I said, pulling up my man-pants.

After a great deal of searching around Macy's (are these stores designed to baffle men?), I finally found the lingerie department, where I decided against rifling through the racks of women's breast supports like a pervert, opting instead for a more inconspicuous approach: timidly asking an assistant for help.

"I'm sorry," the assistant said rather too loudly for my liking. "We don't sell that brand of bra. That's a Saks label."

So I stowed the bra away again in my Target bag, summoned up some courage for a second attempt, and headed over to the swanky Saks Fifth Avenue store on the far side of the mall. There, in an even more well-concealed nook of the shop, I tracked down their "intimate apparel" department, where a tall, smartly-dressed lady ignored my embarrassed look as I repeated my request and extricated the flesh-coloured undergarment from the Target bag.

After a cursory examination of the bra's label, she said, "I'm terribly sorry, sir. This isn't one of ours. But I'm pretty certain they have it at Nordstrom. Let me give them a call." And without waiting for my approval, she picked up the phone, dialled a number that she clearly knew off by heart, and spoke to her counterpart at Nordstrom.

"Hi Joanne, this is Sara Jane at Saks. I have a gentleman here who's looking for a size medium Luxuria bra in white and in black. Do you have them in stock? You do? Wonderful!" She then turned back to me, brazenly asked for my first name (as only Americans can do), relayed it to her colleague, explained where I had to go, and told me to ask for Joanne. But before hanging up, she said, "By the way, would you also like it nude?"

"Pardon?" I sputtered.
"Joanne wants to know if you'd also like it nude," she repeated with a completely straight face.

This was an optional service I definitely had not expected. Envisioning the prospect of a naked Joanne handing me skimpy undies, I cursed myself for not having bought any before, and was already planning my next shopping spree when the assistant's voice woke me from my reverie.

"Sir, I said, 'Do you also want it in nude: the same colour as the one you already have?'" Kicking myself at my clearly testosterone-fuelled naivety, I apologised for my momentary absentmindedness and shook my head, before heading over to Nordstrom, where a fully-clothed Joanne sold me a white and a black bra, which she delicately folded in paper before placing them in a square, white Nordstrom bag with string handles.

"May I?" Joanne said, gently but firmly taking the plastic Target bag from me and wrapping my wife's bra in with the other two. "You don't need this, do you?" she said, throwing the Target bag in a bin as if it were a soiled nappy.

"No," I lied, hurrying out of the store.