I had the honor of attending a beautiful marriage celebration this past weekend in Minneapolis. My husband and I are deeply driving-averse, and although I am not a big fan of air travel, especially in these modern days of nickel-and-diming, fat-hating, slut-shaming, desperately grasping, unregulated air lines, we decided that one hour in an uncomfortable plane seat would be preferable to eight hours in a car. Since it was only an overnight trip, we packed light, and I wore the bra that I planned to wear under my dress.

It’s this bra, in case you are curious. It’s a GREAT bra for the large-bosomed, particularly if your sweet chariots swing low. This is not the bra for someone who prefers stylish underthings over a utilitarian brassiere, but since I am the sort of person who walks into the bra department of my local department store once a year like clockwork and says, “Do you have this utilitarian brassiere in beige? Great, I will take four. And a twelve-pack of those beige, cotton, granny pants while you’re at it,” it is the perfect bra for me. Wearing it is also similar to wearing scaffolding, and there is enough metal in this thing to make a staid, tight-laced, Victorian matron pale.

So it was no surprise to anyone except me, and only then because I just wasn’t thinking about it, when my bra set off the metal detector at O’Hare. I responded to the TSA officer’s troubleshooting questions about the contents of my pockets or the possibility of implants with a good natured, “I’m pretty sure it’s the underwire in my bra,” hoping that he would wave his wand toward my boobs (oh hush) and let me go on and get some coffee. But instead he herded me into a little glass booth where I was subjected to a desultory yet unpleasantly thorough screening from a “female screener” who paid extra special attention to my underwire area, much to my mental discomfort.*

Eventually, the TSA officer, satisfied that the underwire shaped metal located under my boobs was, in fact, an integral part of the support mechanism of my underwire bra, let me go, and I scampered off, chagrined, to get some coffee.

This being a United flight, I was a little apprehensive about Flying While Fat.** I’m not death fat, and can fit within the confines of one seat belt with room to spare. Lowering the arm rest isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it hurts my elbows more than my hips. Still, I definitely visually register as fat (and often end up sitting solo on buses and trains as a result, which as far as I am concerned is the best side affect of FA since that whole “putting half and half in my coffee” thing) and you know, just knowing that I might get the side eye from other passengers or gate agents had me a little uneasy.

I kind of hate to say it, since being furious at various airlines is one of my favorite parts of air travel, but everything went fine. Nobody pointed and called the Fat Police on me or any of the numerous other fat passengers, and nobody even really looked at me twice. Not only that, but the flight was short enough–an hour and change–that I didn’t even have time to get all squirmy and uncomfortable in the 17-inch wide seat.

The wedding celebration was delightful, with an amazing view and much exuberant dancing, for which I would like to thank the happy couple, who picked the music, The Most Enthusiastic Hotel-employed DJ Ever, and Elomi, for creating a bra that will hold my boobs in check even during “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.”***

I woke up the next morning without a hangover**** miraculously enough, but with one nagging thought: How the shit am I going to get through security in this bra without subjecting myself to another public groping? Not wearing a bra at all was out of the question; being 36 years old and having worn a bra since I was ten (aside from a Hippy Year in college when I declared bras to be untenable to my political beliefs), I would no sooner spend a significant amount of time outside without a bra than I would without pants. I hoped for a more lax attitude towards security at this smallish airport in a Midwestern city populated by eerily nice people, but as I waited in the interminable line for an excessively vigilant woman to perform the initial boarding-pass-and-ID-check, while a rogue TSA officer poked some sort of bomb or drug or liquids-in-containers-larger-than-3-ounces sniffer contraption into random bags, I knew that was folly.

Then it hit me.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “You might want to go through a different security line than me.”

“Why?” he asked, a little alarmed.

“Because I’m going to take my bra off before I go through the metal detector.”

And I did. And my husband, bless his heart, went right through the same security line behind me, which was probably for the best because if he hadn’t, I was going to plop my big old 40G right into a bin to send it through the metal detector. Out of deference for his more introverted and nonconfrontational nature, however, I stuck it in my purse instead, and walked through the metal detector metal- and support-free, without a hitch.

And so that I may serve, if not as a good example, as a horrible warning, let me impart the following wisdom:

  • If you are roughly 5’6″, 250-ish pounds, and an average US size 20, you’ll probably be okay on a United flight, even a short commuter flight on a smaller plane with 17″-wide seats.
  • If you are planning on flying any time soon and don’t already own one no-underwire bra, consider picking one up. I reservedly recommend this Cacique cotton no wire bra, which is not going to win any awards for lifting, separating, supporting, or shaping, and is also sold by a company that touts itself as a premier retailer of plus-sized undergarments yet refuses to carry anything above a DDD cup in its stores (while offering “bra fittings,” and if anybody here is over a proper DDD cup, and has been fitted by an LB sales associate who did not then attempt to stuff you into an ill-fitting, too-small bra, please tell me in the comments), but is pretty handy for Saturday mornings when you really want pancakes but are inexplicably out of baking soda and need to run out to the store or when you are planning on going through a hyper-sensitive metal detector. I’m a 40G and I think the one I have is a 42DDD, which works fine for its purposes.

*She did offer, a few times, to let me undergo a private screening, but I mostly just wanted to get it over with so I declined. I would have accepted if she wanted me to actually remove any additional clothing, and I want to remind my modest or religious readers, that you have the right to request a private screening by a TSA officer of the same gender if you are asked to remove a veil, head covering, or any other garment that you do not wish to remove publicly.

**Bought the ticket just before they announced their anti-fat policy.

***Peace to you and your family, MJ.

****Dear Colleen, Ha ha. XO, OTM