Shopping for C Cups In SE Asia
It is not until you shop for underwear in Asia that you become aware of the differences in body types between the good old kiwi lass raised on meat and three veg, hardy puddings and force fed milk at the school gate kind of diet with the more elegant raised on a modest whatever the seasons provided and loads of rice kind of diet that our sisters in Asia grew up on.
This humble diet translates as you are what you eat, if you were raised on slabs of meat that will reflect in your body type, if you were raised on rice and small daily offerings of the gods of the seasons then that also will reflect in your body type. This sensible approach to eating has recently been discovered by Hollywood, relabelled and iconised as a new religion and is called macro biotics, favoured by screen goddesses such as Paltrow and maybe even Madonna is doing it this week.
Not that I have ever given much thought to that, but six months in India is hell on your clothes especially if you travel with the bare necessities as I do. I allow myself three bras which is ridiculous for someone like me who gets a kinky kind of twist by wearing outrageously sexy underwear beneath the kind of modest, loose clothes of the East. It's helpful for me to retain a sense of myself whilst travelling.
Since a bra has a shelf life of six months, which is the length of my visa, I don't foresee any problems when I pack my bag. I shudder at the thought buying any underwear in India!While India may be an emerging economic giant in the East, her knickers are trailing well behind. Sexy and underwear do not go together within the mind of Indian underwear manufacturers. Functional and uncomfortable is the motto of their day as they beaver away at machines creating the largest collection of the most hideous underwear on the face of the planet.
It hasn't been so many years since travellers from the West hoping to make some cash in India could arrive in Delhi at the beginning of the wedding season with a couple of suitcases of Victoria Secrets collections, book a room in a Five star hotel, advertise discreetly through wedding planners and be stampeded within hours by hordes of Punjabi wedding posies in such high states of excitement that a male friend of mine who did that once, still shakes when he recounts the tale.
Meanwhile back in the village where I mostly live, such delights have not even entered into the consciousness of desire with the women I know. Their underwear is as serviceable as a nun and not a topic of civilised conversation.
A trip to Kathmandu to sort out another visa is going to my opportunity to replace the original three with something a lot less serviceable than is on offer at the local market. Despite the overwhelming political difficulties of the Nepali people, the crippling poverty and overwhelming hardship of life, or perhaps because of it, Kathmandu is the high altitude playground of the restless West.
While a peoples war rages in the hills around Kathmandu, tourists remain untouched by the tragedy and move around under the protection of both warring parties. Consequently it is possible to stuff your face with chocolate cake within three hundred kilometres of a war where the people caught between are living on the verge of starvation. The gap between the rich and poor in Nepal is reflected in the plate glass windows of the five star shopping area where Dior objects are displayed beside other more generic labels of the west.
Politics aside, that's where I am headed on this day to track down underwear that reflect all the style and classy sexiness I have come to expect next to my skin. At first sight, the ground looks promising. A department store selling plastic junk, flash labels and everything else we think we need in the west. The bras and knickers are easily found and sparkle before my eyes like forgotten jewels. There is colour and sexy cut and even bling! After feasting my eyes for a dizzyingly gratifying second, I plunge into my elbows in search of my perfect fit.
"Madam is what size?" The assistant materialises at my side.
"36C," I respond. Her eyes slide towards her friend who also approaches. They whisper together behind hands the size of butterfly wings while I exclaim in surprise at the feast of lingerie beneath my hands, what I see is bloody marvellous! I will be home by lunchtime as the saying goes. Nothing brings more delight to me after sexy lingerie than getting an early mark from shopping.
I remember that I don't know how 36C translates to a metric number; perhaps that's why the girls are whispering together. But they seem to understand my request, if at least a little uncomfortable about it. Nepali hate to refuse a request, it takes ages to get a simple "no" out of them. My delight at the find of the year begins to dim.
They call in the supervisor and whisper my request. By now this little flurry has attracted the interest of the entire staff at this department store as I slowly come to realise that my request is not lost in translation but just not possible.
"No?" I prompt them for a straight answer. I am, as usual, too direct.
"No, no, no," they assure me in the negative. "What you need Madam is the upstairs department."
The upstairs department is the baby and mother department. I look at a variety of maternity bras; decide that no matter how inventive I get with the fold down flap, it just is not me. I shake me head and slink down the stairs where the wraithlike shop assistants still huddle together with the shock of my outrageous request.
"Yes Madam?" They enquire. I shake my head. From the reactions of the sales assistants so far, it would seem that 36C is a temporary aberration brought on by pregnancy or a freak of nature. I feel like the latter by now. The karma of a lifetime of being a force-fed carnivore weighs heavy on my chest.
Needing to retrieve something from this experience, I head for the knicker display and grab a few at random. The handful of knickers is as big as my disappointment, and its not until I get home and discover to my horror (and my French lovers delight) that they have no real front to the damn things. It certainly explains the muffled giggles I heard from the shop assistants as I left and headed for the Chinese market on the further end of town.
Surely, I tell myself, somewhere amongst the flood of Chinese goods making their way across the Himalayas into Nepal is a cancelled export order of Chinese made bras that some enterprising Nepali has turned into a business opportunity. All that happens there is that I garner the sympathy of more reed slim shop assistants and end up with a surplus of rebellious knickers. Heading home with the sloping tread of defeat, I spy an entire city street given over to stalls selling the export order I dreamed of but discover to my crushing dismay that everything over an A cup is entirely too ugly to be even considered, the sizing is optimistic since I am beginning to doubt that Asian bra designers had never even laid their hands on a genuine C cup.
Eventually, I buy two that squash my breasts into sausage roll shapes seriously undermining my confidence for the next four months and limp back to India.
Later Bangkok, the city of Botox and boob jobs promises more. I reckon that the growing boob job market is good news for C cups but alas, it is not a promising start. As I wait for a taxi to take me to the mega mall shopping area of Bangkok, a flutter of nothingness catches my eye.
A dress no bigger than the kind of scarf I wear in India, light and breezy, impossibly sexy and totally inappropriate drifts out from the clothing stall where I wait. I admire the lightness of the fabric and briefly imagine how it would feel on my skin in a tropical breeze.
"No hab." An old woman squatting beside her stall, assesses me over a bowl of noodles. She startles me back into reality.
"No hab what?" The chopsticks hover before her lips.
"No hab your size," she shoves the noodles into her mouth and chews for a few seconds.
Dismissing me, she turns her full concentration on her lunch.
In retaliation, I rattle around her dress rack, determined now to upset this bloody smug A Cup until I find something long and loose that will be wearable in India even if I wouldn't be caught in a bus crash in it at home.
But my triumph lasts three weeks of people enquiring about my baby to realise that she had sold me a maternity dress.
The shopping area of Bangkok is a multi orgasmic feast of consumerism gone troppo, so I hold high hopes as I emerge from the taxi. This, I decide, is going to be a Big Bra Day. The first few shops don't seem to understand my request, they send me to a sex shop. I didn't like the colours. I ask again and get sent to another sex shop but I explain that the point of having a bra is to cover your nipples.
Then I find my lifelong friend, Patrick the sales assistant who currently occupies the 'between gender' gender. As a fellow fish out of water, I sense a sympathetic soul. When I explain my outrageous request for a bra that is sexy but not from the sex scene and he murmurs in full understanding, I know I have made a sympathy hit.
"A bra that will take the 36C weight from my shoulders without calling in construction crew," I cry. He nods like a nurse in a hospice, I am totally encouraged. "A bra that will say beneath these old-fashioned clothes beats the heart of a siren!" I think I shouted this last piece but he remained orientally disciplined as he gently took my hand and led me to the widest range of C Cups I have seen in South East Asia and the entire Indian subcontinent.
I buy all three of them on the spot and I am home by lunchtime.
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Published on 8/10/06