The Commonality Between Cat's Cradle and Crossback Bras

We are going on a warm vacation for spring break next week. I’ve dusted off the few sleeveless tops that I have and the one crossback bra that miraculously makes the criss-cross straps disappear under said tops. Yesterday – following coffee, two Advil, and a pep talk from a friend – I made my way into the mall for the spring shopping trip. I pulled the receipts out to make the returns on items I bought in November but never wore. From experience, I planned to have three full hours in this place: two to find shirts and one to find bras for under the shirts. This plan was derived from lessons learned in past less well-planned shopping trips. On one trip, I found the most delightful, summery bras: one with bright pink stripes another with beautiful plum and soft yellow stripes. Living on the edge, I bought them in preparation for summer. A couple weeks later, I went shopping for tops and was quite successful in finding light cotton tops with my signature necklines that scoop or are v-shaped.

I’m not one to plan my outfit for the next day before I go to bed. At 7 a.m., excited by my new purchases, I pulled a spring mint green v-neck over by head and stepped back to see my reflection in the full-length mirror. Then, I counted the pink stripes on my bra. Through the shirt. My entire spring wardrobe was mismatched: the light colors and material of the shirts were opaque to the screaming striped bras. The spring bras went to the back of the drawer and waited for their re-assigned season: winter, under black v-necks. My black shirts and khaki pants look simple and hopefully stylish, but it’s a hot style mess underneath. Bras screaming, “But I was meant for spring! Spring, spring!”

Yesterday, I found brightly patterned v-necks and scooped tops. I’ve discovered that in addition to those particular necklines, patterns draw the eye away from my current roundish mid-section. A few of the tops were sleeveless. I took that shopping bag directly from the top shop to the bra shop, determined not to create the seasonal drama of last year.

I knew the size and the style I wanted in the bra – the exact same crossback style as the one that worked at home. At the display case, I threw open my shirt bag and worked at color coordination. Finding three that would work, I decided to try them on with the tops just to confirm. It had been an expensive seasonal goof last year.

Peering into the puzzle of straps and holes and judging where my arms and head must go, I had forgotten the game a woman must play getting into a crossback bra.  I yet again think of Cat’s Cradle: the string game played with two players. As you create the cradle and pass it back and forth between two sets of fingers, one slip and that’s it. There’s no recovery and the string must be re-strung to play again. Looking into that upside-down crossback bra, the view is the same as the one requiring a player to go into the cat’s cradle, pinch the x’s, and bring them out, up, and under the outer strings, taking the string off their partner’s fingers with just the right tension. Getting a crossback bra on is equally as complicated. Only it's played naked.

I study the path, knowing only too well that I haven’t done this since late summer. Focusing, I see the two holes to either side where my arms must go and the one in the middle, under the X, for my head. Taking a moment and a small breath, I dive in. Instantaneously, I am ensnared. My head and left arm are through the left arm hole. Two clear visions of possibility strike: Just take my head out of the arm hole and put it through the head hole. Hit the call button to get some help. Neither are good: the first impossible and the second too embarrassing.  I must heave the elastic contraption completely over my head and start again. Trembling, I push the bra up and pull my arms and head out. I have escaped! Attempt number two results in twisted straps, and I again disentangle -- easier this time.  On the third attempt, the cobwebs of fall and winter fall aside and I succeed in spring’s first game of Cat’s Cradle.

Now I am set for the season.  I will remember not to try any quick re-adjustment techniques from twisted straps or misplacement of limb or head, for there is no recovery. The string must always be re-strung.

Let the styles of spring and summer commence.

(My 9-year-old Liam helps me with Beauty Tips.)

P.S. Lazy summer afternoons and long car rides beg for the real Cat’s Cradle!