"I need to buy a bra while we're here."
Patty and I had just had lunch at the Sprout and Ivy or the Olive and Fig or some other trendy restaurant in the fashion district of Scottsdale, Ariz. We had salads, of course, chosen from an entire page of elaborate creations featuring cranberries, goat cheese, figs, microgreens, heirloom tomatoes and organic porcini mushrooms.
With an hour to kill before checking in for our Girls Just Want to Have Fun spa adventure, Nordstrom — just steps away — seemed to beckon.
"I could use a new bra too," I said.
In retrospect, I should have considered more carefully this little expedition with my friend of 30 years. Whereas Patty is the extrovert, chatting up cabdrivers, waiters, police officers, people walking their dogs, I am not. I talk to people when I have to.
So here we were, looking for the lingerie department. Most department stores have similar layouts, so I headed to the escalator. Not Patty. She headed for the cosmetics clerk.
"You're looking for Lingerie? I'm new, let me ask Lois," she said. Then loudly, "Lois, where is Lingerie?"
We now had two sales clerks involved in the hunt for unmentionables.
"Take a right at the top of the escalator. You can't miss it," Lois said from across the aisle. "There's a large sign that says Lingerie."
Up we went. The lingerie department was under a large sign that made good on its promise. I walked directly to the racks of bras. I knew my size. All I needed to do was find a couple of styles that I liked, take them to the dressing room, try them on and make my selection. Then off to the spa.
But this was not to be.
Without warning, Patty had found a "bra fitter." Our bra fitter was 16 years old. Well, okay. She was probably 24. Blond, beautiful, statuesque and pencil thin, she had a tape measure draped around her neck, its ends dangling from her perfectly shaped breasts.
She smiled sweetly. "Do you ladies want to share a room? That could be fun!"
"No," I said.
"Yes," Patty said.
So, one room it was.
Pencil Blond closed the door behind us, whipped the tape measure off her neck and looked at us expectantly.
"Blouses off, ladies," she said, beaming. I felt the urge to throttle her. "Let me measure around your chests."
Oh, Mother, I thought. In spite of her admonishments when I was young, I didn't have my best bra on. In fact, I had noticed when I put it on that morning that the underwire was starting to poke through. I didn't know that I would have a bra fitting today, I silently whined to my mother.
Pencil Blond studied my bra. Actually she studied what was spilling out of my bra. Then she studied Patty.
"What sizes did you say you are again?" Again we told her.
"Hmm. Let me bring a few sizes for you to try," she said, and skipped out of the room.
Patty and I looked at each other. Sizes?
PB returned with several bras on each arm.
"Okay, ladies. Bras off!"
Oh my God, I thought, she's going to stay with us while we try them on. And then Pencil Blond said the one thing guaranteed to ruin our spa retreat.
"I think that both of you will be much more comfortable in a larger size."
Oh, the humiliation.
When Patty and I met as fellow sales reps in the late '70s, we were 28 years old. We were professional businesswomen, making good money and fending off the guys. We were slim and wore our stylish clothes well. Our bra sizes would confirm that.
Over the years, as we moved up the career ladder, our bra sizes moved with us. But that was fine. They still served us well under our St. Johns and Eileen Fishers.
But now this. There was no sound in our mutual dressing room.
Pencil Blond hooked the bras around our backs, pulling and prodding.
"Yes. Nice and snug. Perfect!"
She was right, unfortunately.
The rest of our bra-fitting experience was a blur as we tried on various styles, Pencil Blond never far away. Finally we each chose one, handed them over the door, dressed and slunk out of the dressing room.
"Enjoy them, ladies!" Pencil Blond trilled as she turned to another unsuspecting victim.
At the escalator, Patty whispered, "Did this just happen?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
A long pause.
"Let's keep this between us, okay?"
Quite the introvert.
Catherine Rezak is co-founder of Paradigm Learning, an employee training company based in St. Petersburg.