How do you do what you do, every day?

I received this letter from a young woman who’s at the beginning of what I’m certain will be a big life in advertising. With her permission, I’m replying here.


Dear Stefanie,

What does a female need to do to have her name remembered in this business by the males she works with every day?

I thought it was something like “work really really hard,” “do really really good work that continues to make the wall and the pitches and the CCO’s desk.”

I read that it was to “lean in,” or “keep your hand up.”

I figured maybe “work the weekends,” “go in early / stay late” couldn’t hurt. And that “volunteer to work on this” would only yield positive results.

I even thought maybe the most basic, “introduce yourself” and “say hello in passing” might be totally valid ways. Seems sensible?

How is one expected to be motivated to keep doing the good work when if she does, a male writer is “accidentally” given the credit?

Or when she’s told, “He keeps forgetting you’re on this pitch. It’s weird. But I remind him and he thinks it’s really cool you want to help” ? Help? No, I want to win.

Who do you look to when there are literally no females in higher creative positions in your place of employment?

How do you do it? I’m sincerely asking. Is the answer simply “more”? More time, more work, more handshakes?

It makes me feel really sad. And sick. And then I wonder if my name was only remembered in the first place because I really liked to bake cookies in college. And that makes me sadder.

Sad Mad Woman

Dear Sad Mad Woman,

I have been obsessively thinking about your letter and how to answer you. In no small part because it could have been written by a 22-year-old me, just staring to make her way in the world and almost wholly unprepared.

You say it makes you sad. It used to make me furious. Probably sad is better, because you won’t ever find yourself having to live down a reputation for being “inappropriately angry,” “scary,” “dramatic,” and “overly emotional.”  You also won’t have the humbling experience of realizing it’s all true, and learning a new way to be.

I’ll tell you what I know. I’ll also tell you that I learned what I know from Cheryl Strayed, Anne Lamott, Tina Fey, Marie Forleo, Sheryl Sandberg, Janet Kestin & Nancy Vonk, Rebecca Solnit, and Naomi Dunford. So I did learn from the best.

This chart.

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Things you can’t control include: how other people behave, how other people treat you, what other people think of you, the weather, the past, who you are related to, your sexual preference, and everything you don’t acknowledge. Also, the laws of physics and the fact that the cat will immediately kick litter all over the floor immediately after you vacuum. Because cats are assholes.

Things you can control: your behavior and how you respond to the behavior of other people. It may not sound like a lot, but includes everything from who you spend time with to how you develop and use your talent to whether you make it a habit of flossing every night.

You can’t control who remembers your name or who takes credit for your work. Only how you respond to it.

Youth is prized. Immaturity isn’t.

I once read that there is no such thing as a neutral woman. Every choice we make — long hair or short, makeup or bare face, long nails or short, manicure and pedicure or natural, skirt or pants, length and kind of skirt, bra or no bra, and on and on — every one of these choices telegraphs something. I’m feeling it pretty acutely myself lately, and often stand in front of my closet, asking myself, “What do 46-year-old grown-up ladies wear?” I’m still figuring it out, but I’ve decided it’s not the plaid dress I’ve had since 1998.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/241175950/vintage-1980s1990s-jodi-kristopher?ref=market

Vintage. Like me.

I guess what I’m saying is, take inventory. Are you dressing and styling yourself to look like someone who ought to be taken seriously? How do the people in your office present themselves? Do you mesh with the vibe? Do you look like someone they’d happily put in front of clients? I’m not saying you need to wear a nice pantsuit (unless a nice pantsuit is your thing) or be anything other than unique yourself, but you do need to ask what story you’re telling about yourself with your choice of clothes, hair and makeup. Who do you look like? I know I probably sound like a traitor to post-feminism, but you know what? If you show up at the meeting in a dress that looks like a shirt and you forgot your pants, they STILL may not remember your name but you can be certain they will remember your fanny.

Don’t lean in so far you fall over.

Look, it’s not worth it to work harder and harder and longer and longer and lean in and raise your hand and then suddenly wake up one day to realize you’re 40 and your asshole cat is dead and you haven’t taken a vacation in 11 years. It’s just not.

You need to go home. You need to read and knit and do whatever else it is you want to do. You need a way to recharge your battery and meet people who are not people in your office. You need to have a life. And yes, the hours in our industry are notoriously brutal. But the trick is, only work that hard when it matters. On a pitch? Work until you drop, sure. A launch, a deadline…all good reasons to put in the hours. But on a regular basis, showing up and staying late just for the sake of being there isn’t worth it.

As for volunteering to work on projects — do your own time. Unless you bring something vital to the table that no one else can bring, like the pitch is for a knitting business and you’re the only knitter in your office (Do you even knit? I seem to think so.) Otherwise, let the assigned team do the job they were assigned to do, and YOU go home. Or better yet, to dance class or whiskey tasting club or to dinner with a skier you met at the farmer’s market over the weekend. You need to live a whole life.

That said, in some situations it is good to be generous and ask if you can help. Not in a way that seems like you are hovering or trying to edge in on anyone’s territory, but if someone looks like they’re drowning or the pitch team is being run ragged, go ahead and ask if you can lend a hand.

http://www.marymaxim.com/free-chunky-blanket-crochet-pattern.html

I wish I could knit, then maybe I’d stop spending all the money on fancy Pottery Barn throws.

Don’t apologize.

Unless you are wrong, of course. Then apologize quickly, humbly, and with sincerity. I’m talking about things like “Sorry but, I had an idea?” “Sorry but, I think maybe I disagree with you?” “Sorry, I know how busy you are, but could you review this copy?”

I don’t know if you do this, but if you do, stop. As one of mentors advised me, “Just be normal” and say what you mean: “I have an idea…” “I disagree with you and here’s why…” “Please look over this copy and let me know what you think by the morning…”

You do not have to apologize for showing up and doing your job well. You don’t have to apologize for your thoughts, your talent, or your opinions. You have nothing to be sorry for.

Don’t bake.

I am going to assume you no longer bake things and bring them to the office. But if you do, stop today. You can bake for your friends, your family, your boy/girlfriend, me, and your children, should you decide to have some. Do not bake for your workplace. You are not anyone’s mother, girlfriend, daughter or roommate at work. You don’t want them to remember you by your cookies.

Don’t sit on the floor.

Do you do this? There are no chairs left in the room so you sit on the floor? Stop it. Sit at the table or if there are no seats left, stand close by — not at the edges of the room and not in the corner.

http://www.johnnylovesjune.com/collections/canvas/products/corner-where-nobody-puts-baby

“Stop interrupting me.” “I just said that.” “No explanation needed.”

Internalize this powerful advice from Soraya Chemaly: http://www.alternet.org/words-every-woman-should-know

“We’ve met before…”

This comes in handy when someone doesn’t remember you. Do NOT let anyone get away with pretending they don’t know who you are. Remind them, with good humor, that you’ve met, and where, and when. Do this every time they forget you.

Believe people when they show you who they are.

That male copywriter who “accidentally” got credit for your idea and didn’t correct the mistake? He’s a thief. Remember that for all your future interactions with him. He will take credit for your work, he will not pull you into the meeting or support you. Let that inform all your future interactions with him. I don’t mean you should be rude or hostile to him, or gossip about him. But don’t give him anything — no favors, no ideas, no help, no support. And protect your work against him.

Keep your cool.

If you need to cry, go somewhere private. If you feel yourself getting flustered or losing your temper, excuse yourself. When this happens to me, I sometimes pretend my phone is ringing and I have to take a call, and I put a worried look on my face, apologize for the interruption, and leave the room to collect myself.

Find an ally. Or many.

There may not be any senior women creatives in your agency, and that’s awful. But there is the 3% conference, AWNY, and all these women. Go to conferences. Reach out via email. Build a network.

And after all of this, there will still be some people who don’t remember your name, don’t acknowledge your contributions, and forget you are on their pitch. Time is not the answer, working harder is not the answer. Boundaries, respecting yourself, doing amazing work, taking credit for what’s yours (and being generous with credit to anyone who collaborated or helped you), refusing to be forgotten, reminding them that they DO know you, that you’re NOT sorry, and you are NOT going anywhere, this is where you start.

Always,

Stefanie

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It’s a Date

With her 47th birthday rapidly approaching, my best friend, Lisa, has dipped a toe into online dating for the first time. Lisa is professionally successful, slim and lovely, hilarious and brilliant, cooks like Ina Garten, dresses like a model, and has a head of hair that would make a Disney princess angry. In other words, she is rich, gorgeous, generous, sensitive, and authentically cool (and I am totally unbiased).

And yet, her experience online so far has been less than a fairytale. And so it occurred to us one recent evening while simultaneously trolling Match.com and watching The Bachelor (shut up) that there ought to be a competitive elimination dating show for ladies and gentleman of a certain age. That age being the white-knuckle hydroplane into the black ice of “the middle.”

Join us, won’t you, for The B-AARP-chelor. One man with a prescription for Viagra and a houseful of perimenopausal women in the pursuit of love, marriage, and the chance to spend down their retirement plans together.

  • Watch as the women fight over the temperature in the house. It’s too hot!! No, it’s freezing!!
  • Adventure dates…for colonoscopies!
  • A night in the Fantasy Suite…where the couple talks about how much their knees hurt before dozing off in front of the TV while watching The Good WIfe!
  • Swapping beauty secrets…like which derm has the lightest hand with the Botox!
  • Dyeing each other’s hair…to cover the grey!
  • Fine dining…before 5pm!
  • And instead of a rose ceremony, the presentation of an aloe plant, to naturally hydrate dry skin!

We were kidding, of course. Sort of. This is the same kind of whistling in the dark we’ve been doing since we were old enough to whistle, since we were old enough to know there were awful things in the dark, terrible things we could only face by holding hands and telling jokes and making each other laugh until the laughing turned to crying and the crying let in the truth.

We have been friends for a very long time. So long, I have never known the world without her. We grew up together; tethered by our mothers’ lifelong friendship and our own sisterly attachment, which was forged in the fire of absent fathers and secrets we kept from everyone but each other. In the lonely confusion of childhood, she was as essential to me as my hands, my eyes. She still is.

In our 20s, our lives diverged. I married young, far too young, to the wrong man. And just as my first marriage was falling apart, Lisa married a man 20 years her senior, who promised her everything and gave her hell instead. I was already remarried and pregnant with my daughter, Emerson, when she left him. We were in our mid-30s by then, and in radically different places. She was raw from her divorce, and newly single. I was a newlywed and about to become a mother. But we were tied together more tightly than ever, and in the decade since we’ve each lived two lives, vicariously. Working mom and single world traveler. Gentrifying Brooklyn and chic Manhattan. The comforts of marriage and the excitement of potential.

I know her, is what I’m saying. I know her as well as I know myself, even better than I know myself, in some ways. And because I know her, from the way her hair misbehaves in humidity to the way she doesn’t feel properly groomed without a pedicure, I know what sorrow hides in that shadowy chasm between making fun of arrogant profiles on Match.com and the harem shenanigans of The Bachelor.

What hides there is the truth of being a woman in your late 40s who is still looking for the kind of love that feels like a homecoming. What hides there is the particular sadness of realizing that even if you do find that kind of love, you are too old to now to grow up with someone. What hides there is something that has already been irretrievably lost.

“This is some cast of characters,” I said, scrolling through potential dates for her. “Why does this 50-year-old man have a parrot on his shoulder in his profile picture? Is he a pirate?”

“You see what I’m up against?!” she laughed.

Despite the odds, she believes, we both believe, that is possible to fall in love, crazily in love, fantastically in love at our age, at any age. Who knows what surprises are yet to unfold? But for everything she has, everything she may yet still have, what she will never have is an uncomplicated beginning with someone who is still figuring himself out, who hasn’t already become whatever it is he’s going to be. A shitty first apartment together, to look back on and laugh about. Raising children together. Accumulating friends together. Making a life together.

Here in the middle, we already have our lives, and pasts. We have careers, and friends, cabinets full of good dishes and furniture we bought new. We’ve loved and lost multiple cats by now. We have children, some of us, and ex-spouses, ex-lovers. We have scars, and stories. Histories upon histories.

“It’s all so complicated,” she said. “The idea of taking two entire lives and fitting them together. It’s like starting a movie in the middle. Two movies that you have to watch at the same time.”

It is. But Lisa and I bet on love. We bet on hope. We bet on the improbable happy ending. Every single time. Because otherwise, we wouldn’t have made it this far. Otherwise, we would have given it all up for lost a long time ago.

“Maybe,” I said, “Or maybe it’s more like when Emerson plays with all of her Playmobil sets at once.”

Emmy has a half dozen of these plastic sets — dinosaurs and mammoths, a whole zoo full of animals, a camper with a pop up top and teeny tiny dishes. She plays with them without consideration for time or logic, the camping family driving into a prehistoric adventure, the zookeepers tending the mammoths. She plays it all at once, history folding into the present to make a single story where a caveman takes a shower in an RV and a lion marries a saber-toothed tiger.

Maybe that’s what it can be like, to love in the middle. Two stories that seem disparate but somehow synchronize, like when you play Dark Side of the Moon and watch The Wizard of Oz at the same time. It may not be the kind of beginning we get when we are young. But it is a place to start.

We’re still debating the best sponsor for our mid-life version of The Bachelor. I’m pulling for Maalox. She thinks Lipitor.

That’s Lisa. Playing it from the heart. Every time.

Unexpectedly Expecting

About two years ago I performed at The Jukebox, a storytelling/karaoke series run by my good friends Steve JacobsMargaret Lyons, and Steve Heisler. The topic of the evening was parenthood, and while the story I told isn’t the kind of thing Hallmark cards are made of, it is a love letter to my daughter, and so I thought I’d share it today.

Happy Mother’s Day, no matter how you got there.

*   *   *

I found out I was pregnant in a bathroom stall at Nickelodeon. And I was FURIOUS.

And shocked. The word “gobsmacked” comes to mind. But mostly furious.

Here’s why: I was 35, I was a newlywed, and I was madly in love. At my recent annual gynecologist appointment, my doctor had told me that for a variety of reasons I might have a very tough time getting pregnant. I was a little concerned because I was pretty sure I wanted to have a baby…eventually. Not now, but, you know, later. Eventually. When I told my doctor this, she said, quite gently, “You do realize that 35 is considered ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE.”

WTF? Apparently I had run out of “eventually” and if I had any intention of having a baby ever, we had to get the ball rolling. So even though I had absolutely no interest in getting pregnant right now, she pulled me off the pill with the idea that she’d run tests and check my hormones, and I would feel my mucous (totally gross) and we would see what my cycle was like when I was off the pill. And then maybe I would get pregnant in a year or two.

The other thing you need to know is that I was about to quit my job. Yes. I had a great big job then, with an office on the 38th floor of 1515 Broadway overlooking Times Square and an assistant and a bonus every year…and I despised it. I was a contract negotiator, which is an exciting job if you’re into that kind of thing, which I was decidedly not. I’m not a lawyer. I don’t have a business degree. In fact, I have a degree in Theatre, and a minor in Religious Studies. What was I doing negotiating contracts, you ask?

I came to New York City after college to be a stage director. And I had a job at Manhattan Theatre Club I adored, but it paid almost nothing and then I ran out of credit cards. So I took this job at MTV Networks in the Business and Legal Affairs department when I was 25, thinking I’d work there for a year and then I would go to grad school. And it never happened, because every year they promoted me, and the salary got bigger, and the bonus got bigger, and then I started thinking, who quits a job like this, I have such good benefits. And every year I died a little more inside.

On the day I found out I was pregnant in the bathroom, I had finally gotten to a place where I was ready to quit. I was going to quit big. I was going to quit my full time job, and take a $30,000 pay cut, and I was going to work as a freelance writer. It wasn’t as completely crazy as it sounds, because I had a permalance gig lined up to be the editorial director for tvland.com and nickatnite.com, but even so, I wasn’t flying out of the nest so much as I was flinging myself out of it… blindfolded…while on fire.

I should also mention that my husband, Jonathan, was working at EMS (an outdoor store sort of like REI) but his real focus was on finishing and selling a screenplay. So we got a fantastic discount on fleece, and every night at our house was like a scene out of Shakespeare in Lovebut when it came to our income, it was all pretty much on me.

But we had talked about this, and he was completely supportive of me quitting. I mean he was all, “You quit that job! You quit it hard! Full steam ahead on the quitting!”

And now I was pregnant.

So there I am in the bathroom stall with my pee stick and all I can think is, I don’t want to have this baby. Never mind it’s basically a miracle I got pregnant without trying, totally by accident, WHILE using a diaphragm (and I put spermicide in that thing EVERY TIME, just saying) after all the talk of advanced maternal age and checking the mucous.

Nope. No thank you. Because if I had this baby, there was no way in hell I could quit my job, with the paid maternity leave and the sweet benefits and the big paycheck. No way in hell. I would have to stay there, negotiating contracts forever, until I was just a shell of the person I once was, and then I’d retire, and then I’d die. And my tombstone would read, “She had amazing benefits.”

You guys, I came up with this awesome plan. The plan was, I was going to hide my pee stick in the trash and then march back to my desk and call my doctor and tell her I needed an abortion. Right now. Immediately. I wasn’t even going to tell anyone. I was just going go and quietly have an abortion and never tell anyone and then quit my job. A stealth abortion. A Stabortion. And then, in a year or so, when things had settled down a little, we’d have a baby. Maybe. Probably. Whatever. I don’t know. Abortion. Right now.

I hid my pee stick, and I left the bathroom, but instead of going to my office I took the elevator down to the lobby and I went across 44th street to the Starlight Deli, because as much as I desperately wanted an abortion at that exact moment I wanted a coffee the size of my head and a black & white cookie even more.

The head counterman at the Starlight Deli is this robust, wonderful, gregarious, friendly Egyptian man named Abraham. On the day of the pee stick, he’d been feeding me breakfast every work day for more than a decade. He fed me through my South Beach phase, and half a dozen bad breakups, and then he fed me though all the time I dated Jon, and planning our wedding. We were pals.

I walked into the Starlight and Abraham hollers out, “Hello beautiful! Coffee time! Yes?”

And I said, “Yes. But decaf.”

I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t want this dream-crushing, soul-sucking, scary baby. But I also didn’t want to hurt it.

Meanwhile, Abraham lights up and does an actual double-take. Because ever since I’d come back from my honeymoon he’d designated himself my Jewish mother and had been pestering me about where his babies were.

He points at me, and he says, “Decaf!? You baby?”

And I burst into tears. Wailing. Snotty wailing.

Abraham comes rushing out from behind the counter, and he takes me by the shoulders and he says, “Why you cry? Baby ok?”

I tried to explain about my job and quitting and my dreams and being a husk and my tombstone. And he just shook his head and he said, “You have baby. It’s good. You’ll see.”

And I was like, noooo, you don’t understand. $30,000 pay cut! How in the world can I possibly do this?

He shrugged, and he said, “I have five children. A blessing, every one. Every baby brings its own blessing. You ask me how you do this? You do it. Have your baby. Quit your job. Be brave. You’ll see, your blessings are just starting.”

I stood there with him, crying, and he actually took me in his arms and started to sway with me. He smelled like sugar and salami, which for a Jewish girl from the Bronx is the smell of home. He made it sound so easy. Have the baby. Quit the job. Both. Say yes.

It dawned on me that I had been saying no to myself for so long, I’d forgotten how to say yes that way. All of my choices, from the day I left the job I loved at Manhattan Theatre Club, were based on being safe. All of them. Everything was an “or.” It didn’t even occur to me until that moment I could choose “and.” Have the baby, and quit, and have it be ok.

I pulled myself together finally. Abraham poured me a decaf, bagged me a cookie, and sent me on my way.

And here’s what happened next.

I did call my gynecologist…

…the next morning, after I’d gone home and told Jonathan he was going to be a father, and we called our parents, and I called my best friend.

And then I quit my job.

Our daughter, Emerson, is going to be 9 this summer. She is the image of her daddy, and the love of my life. And every single thing I was scared of that day in the bathroom, they all turned out to be nonsense.

I was afraid I’d be trapped forever in a job I hated. Instead, emboldened by the need to contribute to my family’s wellbeing and motivated by a cellular desire to be the kind of person my daughter can admire, I kept pushing until I found a career that rewards me richly for being an information junkie with a tendency to burst into song.

I was afraid I’d lose myself completely, and instead I rediscovered everything I’d ever taken pleasure in: making up stories, singing songs, living room dance parties, talking in silly voices, themed Halloween costumes, ice cream for dinner, laughing until you pee.

I was afraid I’d resent her, but instead, I am indescribably grateful, for her laughter and sweetness, how she helps me see the world as a place of wonder and goodness. For the ways she’s softened me, made me kinder, slowed me down.

I am absolutely certain that every good thing in my life started the day I said yes to her. As Abraham predicted, she has brought an endless stream of blessings. And they have just started.

There were a lot of people around the day Emmy was born — Jonathan and my best friend, Lisa, were in the delivery room, and our parents were at the hospital also. I didn’t get to be alone with her until about 4 in the morning, when everyone had gone home to rest. And that first night, with her tiny head tucked under my chin, I whispered the most honest thing I have ever said to another person. “I have spent my entire life wondering what I’m supposed to be doing, where I’m supposed to be, what my purpose is. And it’s so clear now. I am here to love you.”

I know it’s corny, but motherhood is a corny business. It is made of promises, of hopes that are larger than everything you fear, of saying yes, and yes, and yes, to the mystery of love, to the surprising hugeness of your own heart, to messes, to the unknown.

It’s also made of lullabies, and that’s what I’m going to sing you for now.

Where’s Waldo?

Waldo-image_approved

Look, I’m going to tell you a story about tampons, all right?

I got my period today — hooray! And I mean that genuinely. I have always been glad to see my period. Back in my youth because it meant I wasn’t pregnant, and more recently because it means I am not in menopause. Circle of life!

And so it was with the satisfaction of a job well done right on schedule yet again that I went to the office drawer where I keep my tampons only to find that I had failed to restock last month. Not a tampon to be found. Luckily, I work with many women, and when I inquired about borrowing a tampon I was directed to the drawer of a lovely young woman who we’ll call L, who is tall and slim and possessed of a flowing mane of brunette hair so pretty it makes me want to learn how to do french braids, a skill I never mastered despite 7 years of day camp and three at sleep-away camp.

Her tampons were tiny and adorable, each packaged in its own pink envelope. They were the collapsible sort, where you have to pull the plunger out to deliver the tampon to its destination. I did so, and went about my business.

A few hours later I needed to use the bathroom, so I borrowed another tampon from L. And here is where our story takes a turn for the mysterious. I could not find the current tampon. Could not find it. And I looked. Trust me, I looked. Finally I decided to just insert another, to see if I could find the missing tampon with a new tampon. I think I was hoping they’d act like magnets, and the new one would pull the old one out? I don’t know, you guys, I panicked. I prepped the new tampon by pulling out the plunger and tried to insert it, but now this one wouldn’t go in. It’s not that there was anything blocking the way, it was more that I couldn’t seem to get my lady bits to grasp and hold the tampon in place.

‘What kind of crazy-ass skinny girl tampons are these???’ I wondered. ‘Have I reached the stage of life where my vagina is rejecting the cheekily packaged tampons of the youth market? Or worse, is the tampon rejecting me??? Does this have something to do with my not watching Broad City? Does the tampon know I have no idea who Jason Derulo or 2 Chainz are and I only know that one Lorde song and I think I’m pronouncing Lorde wrong? Has the tampon guessed that I truly want a pair of clogs, that my running playlist is filled with hits from the 90s, that sleep has become my new favorite thing? Stop judging me tampon!’

I was rescued by my friend P, who hooked me up with an old school Tampax Super, the kind with the pokey cardboard applicator. And it turns out the cute tampon hadn’t found me lacking, I just hadn’t pulled the plunger all the way out — it’s supposed to click into place before you use it. The tampon hadn’t rejected me. We just had a miscommunication. As for the lost one, it had never been there in the first place. Due to plunger failure, I’d been tampon-less all along.

I imagine there’s a deeper meaning here (heh), about aging and self-acceptance and the passage of time. Or maybe technology. But mostly, I thought this whole thing was funny as hell, and I am once again sort of surprised and amused to realize that I am old as fuck…for the club, not the Earth.

 

 

 

Confessions of A Bra Snob

I’m what you’d call well-endowed. Or, if I happen to be walking by and you are drunk or wearing a construction hat, you might call me a brick…house (which, well into motherhood, is A-OK with me, and thank you, sir!)

Dealing with my boobs has been an occupation of mine since they first arrived on the scene — demanding an underwire bra — when I was 12.  Hoisting them up, keeping them under wraps, fitting them into shirts without the dreaded button gap. Back when I was an aspiring actress/singer/dancer, I used to bind myself with an Ace bandage, trying to effect a more aerodynamic silhouette. It was a huge no go, as the Ace bandage was no match for my mighty ta-tas, and I would be popping out all over in no time.

I’ve been contemplating breast reduction surgery since my 20s, but I am terrified of general anesthesia. (What if I’m paralyzed but can FEEL EVERYTHING? This could happen, as evidenced by TV.) Instead, I pursue the perfect bra. The Holy Grail of bras. One bra to rule them all. This Avalon bra is supportive, comfortable, cool, and attractive enough that, if a strap should happen to slip out, it doesn’t look like I’m wearing a scoliosis brace. Ideally, it will make me look like a delightful flirty C-cup, like I don’t even need a bra, but choose to wear one just so my perky perfection isn’t too distracting to others.

Assisting me in this quest for the past 6 years is Intimacy, a very posh bra specialty shop on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I first visited them in the summer of 2005, when I was approximately 14 months pregnant during a heat wave. The rack situation had reached unreasonable, watermelon-like proportions (I was a brick…condo complex), and I was chafed, miserable, sweaty and unable to see my feet. The kind ladies of Intimacy got me outfitted in a bra that could double as a baby carrier after the birth, and sent me on my way with instructions to return after the baby came, to get fitted for nursing bras. And return I have, every six months, upping the ante every time in my ongoing quest for the magic bra of transformation. Last time I was there, I spent $200 each on three French bras. They are very pretty, and do many things well, but still — the poke of the underwire, the squeeze of the band.

I despaired. And then there was a miracle.

Like many miracles, it involved the dark, small hours of the night and perhaps a touch too much Maker’s Mark.

Late one night, when Jon and Emmy were sleeping peacefully and I was channel-surfing looking for anything with Russell Crowe in it, I got sucked into an infomercial for the Genie Bra.

Now look, not only am I a very experienced bra shopper, I’m also in advertising, and my mother was an account executive at a private label lingerie company for most of her career. I know bras, I know persuasion, and I know that no good can come from middle-of-the-night drunk ordering.

But these women, they looked so happy. So supported. So cool and comfortable.

I went into some kind of fugue state and ordered SIX OF THEM. For $59.99 (plus P+H).

The next morning I confessed my folly to Jonathan, who laughed heartily and asked if the TV had talked fancy to me. I hung my head, but inside, I dared to dream.

They arrived in about a week. I steeled myself against disappointment, ripped open the package, and pulled one down over my head (they’re styled sort of like a sports bra). There was some adjusting, some pulling and tugging, and then . . . nirvana. I don’t look like a C-cup, of course, and they don’t provide the lift and heft of the $200 French numbers, but they are as promised: light and airy, supportive and comfortable, no digging or chafing.

Jon says they “look like Saturday.” Since they feel easy as Sunday morning, I’m taking that as a compliment.