It’s been two years since my last bout of extended illness, and much to my chagrin, I still struggle to cope with the challenges it presents. As an active person who was privileged enough to grow up healthy, being physically limited by anything leaves me frustrated enough to push myself to heal faster rather than giving my body the time it needs. The first time I experienced this powerlessness over my own body was when I was hospitalized in September of 2014 because mono caused swelling of my spleen and trashed my immune system for six months. The store suffered immensely from my absence and frequent closures, and when I became sick this year, I kept reliving that impact—an impact felt more keenly as the shop was busier now than in 2014.
Last night, I had the distinct privilege of visiting some wonderful women at the New Jerusalem Women’s Emergency Shelter, a program designed to help homeless women stay warm and safe this winter while also providing resources for growth and success. Everyone from the volunteers to the staff to the women themselves were smiling, joyful, and lovely to meet, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to give them a proper bra fitting, well, as proper as we could manage with only my eyes and a measuring tape. Still, it was a service many of them had never experienced, and we were able to chat briefly with each woman about sizing, fitting, and the many bra styles available. Our store is no stranger to accepting bra donations, and we work with both local domestic violence shelters as well as Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abuse (TROSA) to collect intimate apparel donations from around the state. In fact, my friend Kat who owns Luxury on the Outer Banks has also volunteered her time as a fitter to participate in a joint bra fitting event at TROSA in a few weeks.
[Trigger Warning & TL;DR: A long time brewing, my writing is rawer and edgier than in any other post, and I do broach topics like PTSD, assault, stalking, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and body image. Despite the negative sentiment in my warning, the post is optimistic, focusing on finding hope and purpose after adversity. I suffered silently, afraid to be open here, but I know others have gone through the same struggles. If my story encourages you to seek help or share yours, then we can heal together.]
My beloved blog has been rather silent this year, not for my lack of wanting to write new content, and today I want to briefly update here why posting has been irregular. Last year was not a good year. Between chronic illness and then my brother’s attack in September, the store truly suffered from closures, inconsistent hours, and order delays. We managed to keep our doors open and to even eek out a minuscule growth rate, but there were many times I questioned my decision to continue forward with A Sophisticated Pair. This year, however, has really seen an explosion for us. It feels like we are back on track with our customers and with our plans for expansion, and I cannot be happier. However, busy days, last minute appointments, and all the added responsibilities involved in strengthening our business have tested my time management skills to the limit. Blogging, despite being an outlet for my writing passion, was continually bumped to the bottom of my ever-expanding “To Do” list, along with posting updates on Facebook and Instagram, developing a new fit tool, dying my hair, and cleaning out my shed.
Okay, forgive me for indulging in a little bit of a click bait headline there, but I hope this is the only time and in the only context in which I ever post “I’m going to jail.” A couple weeks ago, a customer nominated me to be “Locked Up” to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. If you are nominated, you are not obligated to participate, and to be honest, I wavered initially. In addition to being busy with work, I have also been struggling to create a balance in my personal life and to overcome the lingering depression, anxiety, and trauma of my brother’s attack last fall. Did I really want to add another commitment to my already full plate? However, muscular dystrophy is not a disease unknown to our family, and supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) was always a priority for my mom. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to get involved and offer my help, even if that meant getting “locked up.”
Because I am an active supporter of men who choose to wear bras either for medical or personal reasons, I often am privileged to interact with some amazing people who face constant struggles to be accepted in the traditionally female lingerie world. Between inexperienced sales representatives to outright discrimination, it is not easy for a man to be fitted properly for a bra, and I believe it is essential for fitters and lingerie professionals to approach working with anyone, male or female, with a level of compassion and acceptance they would expect for their own choices. One of my male clients has gone on to launch the very successful Bra Guy blog, which focuses more on working with gynecomastia—a medical condition which results in enlarged breasts in men, but today I want to focus on an alternative reason why men may want to wear a bra: They enjoy it for themselves. Not everyone understands or accepts individuals who bend or break traditional gender rules, too frequently applying derogatory labels to their decisions. There is more than enough hate in the world, and I’d rather showcase why acceptance is so important and how life-changing it can be for the individual. To help me, I asked Trycia, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person, to write a guest post outlining her experiences with cross-dressing and shopping as a biological male in a female world. It took a lot of courage for Trycia to share her feelings so publicly, and I hope you enjoy her post as much as I do!
(Trigger Warning: I’m finally ready to open up about what happened with my brother and how our family has been coping, but this will include potentially triggering topics like assault, PTSD, body image, depression, and anxiety. It’s also long. Without many pictures. You have been warned. *said in stern voice*)
September 19th was a glorious day. It was a busy Saturday at the shop, and I felt confident and happy with how much progress I had made in the last several weeks physically and emotionally. In fact, my optimism was at such a high that I snapped a selfie—a totally out of character move for me—and posted it on my private Facebook profile:
Hot wings might be a slight undersell. However, 5 Alarm Habanero-Cayenne Spontaneous Internal (*Intestinal) Combustion Hot Wings just seemed like too long of a title. For the purpose of this post, I am just going to scale down the pepper amounts. You can always make them with BBQ sauce**, which I’ll include a recipe for, omit the peppers, or make them hotter to suit your tastes.
With demographics giving our sales context, today I am analyzing the sales distribution of band sizes. Per usual, I will omit cup size and instead examine how much of our sales is concentrated per size. Check out the graph below to see the percentage of total sales represented by each band size:
For a while now, I have toyed with idea of sharing some recipes on the blog related to my lactose-free lifestyle, and even though they embody the definition of “off topic,” I figured it would be a fun and tasty break from our regular posts. When I first became lactose intolerant a couple years ago, the symptoms were manageable with lactose enzyme pills, but after a vicious stomach virus wreaked havoc on my system, the mere hint of lactose rendered me a balled up mess of pain. I ultimately gave up all lactose complete, which does not seem terrible until you realize that everything from spaghetti sauce to hamburger buns to crackers to potato chips can contain dairy. I along with anyone unfortunate enough to be picking up food I would need to eat were forced to become obsessive label readers at the grocery store. My patience wore thin with this lifestyle pretty quick, and I scheduled doctors’ appointments to determine what caused the issue in the first place. After a battery of tests, including blood work, a colonoscopy, and stomach lining biopsies, my doctor told me I was in amazing shape and probably had the catch-all diagnosis of “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” I was also offered to be tested specifically for lactose intolerance, but the test is expensive and not always covered by insurance. Needless to say, I declined and moved on with my life.