Not me. Not even close.
I turned fifty a few weeks ago. I’d been gearing up to write about it for quite a while, but when the time came, I just had too many mixed emotions to do it. For one thing, it was difficult even typing the number. 50. There. I did it. I was going to go all Roman numeral and just start telling people that I was “L,” but that seemed a little lame. Pig latin is kind of a dead language, so “ifty fay” wasn’t going to cut it either.
My roommate, Amadeus, said, “Tell me what you want to do on your birthday, and we’ll do it,” but my mind went as blank as Paris Hilton’s facial expressions. I posted an ad in the Rants and Raves section of Craigslist asking for ideas, and got a few responses.
“Stay at this lodge!”
“Watch this porno video!” It was, after all, Craigslist.
Then, someone wrote and said something like, “Shame on you for thinking that fifty is ancient. You should go out camping in the woods with some friends, and just enjoy the day. Eat some s’mores.” I liked it.
So Amadeus and I were going to go to the Buffalo River. I sensed that a bottle of champagne might enhance the whole nature experience, so that was in the plans too, but in the end, he had a flat and we ended up at Sears instead.
“Actually, this is kind of good,” said Amadeus. “I wanted you to shop for your gift anyway. You like clothes, so I figured you could buy some.” It was a little overwhelming . A whole mall at my disposal?
I’m unemployed and semi-practical, so I decided to opt for some new undergarments. I hadn’t done any serious foundation shopping since my last mid-life crisis birthday two years ago. But, being that it was my big 5-0, I figured I’d forego the Sears industrial granny panties and Teflon bras and head for Victoria’s Secret instead. I’d never actually shopped there, and gee, it was my birthday.
I stood basking in the beauty of all the silky, lacy shininess, and was greeted by a middle-aged, friendly looking woman. “May I help you?” she asked. “Well,” I told her, “it’s my birthday, and uh….I need some bras?” She grabbed my hand and said, “You come with me.” She dragged me back to the pink Victoria’s Secret dressing room and I confided to her my desire for cleavage and the 5 for $25 panty special. My new friend measured me and studied my upper torso (you know, the part where the boobs are). I looked at her badge. “Bunny,” it said. What a happy-sounding name. “We’re going to fix you right up,” she said cheerily, and told me she’d be right back.
Bunny was going to save me, I just knew it. I have to tell you that I was a bit anxiety-ridden. For one thing, I’m not exactly used to having carte blanche with a charge card. I didn’t want to spend a lot of Amadeus’ loot, though he’d given me no limit. Secondly, I’d lost some weight since that last birthday bra thing and I’m having body image issues. Losing weight means losing boobage, so I knew I was down at least a half a cup. Oh yeah, and I had just turned L.
The first bra Bunny brought was too big, the second was too small, and the third was just right. “Okay, now we have a starting point,” she said. “I’ll be right back.” She returned with a handful of gorgeous, late-model numbers with all the bells and whistles. Solids, prints, lace, underwire, minimal padding, convertible straps, a built-in CD player and one that made me look like Dolly Parton’s little sister. The price tags ranged from $45 to $85, which made me kind of choke a little.
“Oh gosh, ” I said in wonder, trying the Dolly’s Sis model on and studying my silhouette. “This bra could totally change my life.” Bunny smiled knowingly.
“But it’s a lie,” I said. “I need a more honest bra. Plus, Bunny, I have to tell you that, while I know that a lot of your customers come in and spend tons of their men’s money, I just can’t do that to my roommate. I need something more practical, like your two- for- one special. “
Infinitely patient, she left and came back with some bras that were more Ford Taurus than Mercedes. They were still beautiful and all, but much more simple than the others she had shown me. I tried one on. It didn’t alter my universe, but it was nice. Still, looking into the mirror, I grimaced. Fifty. Sigh….”I’ve lost weight and I’ve gone down a whole cup size,” I confided.
“Listen,” said My New Best Friend Ever, “you have to put this all into perspective. There are women who come in here who’ve had mastectomies. They have no breasts at all. And you have to stop worrying so much. You look beautiful. Chin up. Shoulders back. Enjoy your day.”
I knew at that moment that I loved Bunny with all my heart and soul. She really was lovely. She looked like a former stripper- kind of faded and world-weary, with big blonde hair and a warm smile.
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll take two. Black and taupe.”
She rolled her eyes. “Get a pattern! Do something fun!”
“I can’t really afford fun,” I said. “I have to go functional. But I swear, Bunny, I’ll pick out fun panties– at least one pair.”
We went and got my sensible colored bras, four solid colored panties, and one, as a concession to my new-found friend, with a butterfly print on it. I was still a little anxious about the cost of all of this, and about the whole day in general. I headed back to the dressing room to gather up my things, Bunny following behind. She wasn’t through counseling me.
“You know, you have to get a grip on this,” she said. “We have teenaged girls coming in here who are getting their armpits liposuctioned. What kind of priorities are those?”
“I know,” I replied, secretly adding armpit lipo to my plastic surgery wish list. “I know none of it matters at all. There are people starving all over the world, and I’m worried about turning fifty. But the way I’m feeling is just temporary. I’ll adjust.”
“I know you will, hon,” she said.
“You are so great, Bunny,” I told her. “You’ve really made my day.” We were both getting all teary eyed, bonding over those bras.
“You are too. And I’m sorry for lecturing, but you wouldn’t believe what I see and hear, working at this place.” She paused thoughtfully for a moment, then asked, “How old do you think I am?”
“Sixty-five.” I was shocked. She appeared at least ten years younger.
“What I’ve learned is this– you have to be happy within yourself. None of this stuff matters.” She motioned around the cute little dressing room. Oh my god, I adored my philosopher/ bra saleslady. We sniffled. It was such a touching conversation. Then:
“I find my happiness with Him,” she said, pointing up to the ceiling of the dressing room. At first I thought she meant some roofer or something, but then I realized she meant The Man Upstairs, The One Above the Mall. Uh oh. “Do you know Him? Do you read the Bible?”
“Um…no. And I’m really not into organized religion.”
“Neither am I,” she said, “but you know, you have to make a decision. Do you want to go to Heaven, or do you want to go to Hell?” Great. Yet another decision to make. I couldn’t even figure out which bra to buy, for Pete’s sake.
I groaned inwardly. She was trying to save me– in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room. I love things like this, but at the same time I hate it, because when very righteous people find out that I’m a died-in-the-wool heathen, it often ruins the mood.
“Well, see, I have a problem with that concept too. But I do see what you’re saying, and I am listening.” For a moment, I considered the fact that if getting saved meant that I stayed as well-preserved as Bunny, it might just be worth looking into.
She looked at me sadly for a moment, shook her head, then left the dressing room without a word. I gathered up my purse, my two bras and five panties and went to the register. Amadeus met me there, and I told him about my fabulous saleslady. A cashier rang up my birthday gifts and put them into one of those adorable pink striped bags.
“Wait,” I told Amadeus. “I want to go and thank Bunny, and tell her goodbye.”
I looked around the entire shop, but she was nowhere to be found. Nowhere. Poof. It was a little spooky. Had she even existed? Had she been sent as some sort of birthday present from God?
“Wow,” I said to my roommate as we left the store, “I think I met a real live Victoria’s Secret Angel.”