Demitasse #14


Demitasse:  a sip of the Compendium

Special BeastWatch! edition


Demitasse is a free sip of the sardonic social commentary and reports of real

life weird that fill the Ladies' Fetish & Taboo Society Compendium of Urban

Anthropology (the Compendium).


(c) copyright Kathy Biehl 2000



I: Moon Over....Oh, Never Mind.

Last week an eminently respectable-looking business man (whom we'll call Our Pal) was prevented from reaching a flight home in time to claim his reserved seat and ended up being sandwiched between a chatty woman (at the window) and an easy-going college-aged guy (on the aisle). After enduring some 45 minutes of uninvited and unwelcome prattle, he decided to cut off the conversation by firing up his laptop computer, putting on earphones and playing a newly purchased DVD of the first season of the HBO show "Sex and the City." The title visibly disturbed the woman. As the show progressed, she pulled out a Bible and started reading it out loud. Meanwhile, the other neighbor's eyes were glued to the screen. To enhance the young man's enjoyment, Our Pal flipped on the subtitles. When a particularly graphic bedroom scene danced across the screen, his other neighbor wrapped herself in a blanket, snapped on a sleeping mask and went to sleep against the side of the plane for the rest of the flight.


II: Ah, Dallas.

Sign staked into the ground outside the student center at Southern Methodist University, May 5,2000:  "Do you like to shop at Neiman Marcus? Come here Stanley Marcus speak at Honors Day Convocation."

I mentioned this sighting a few hours later to a fellow SMU alum.  "You want to *hope* things change," he sighed, shaking his head. Then he told me that, just before meeting me, he'd heard someone singing "Rock of Ages" in the shower at the gym.


III: An Unexpected Fit

The New Yorker said the bra fitter there was one of the best, so I trekked to Orchard Street Corset on the Lower East Side. Most of the other stores on the street spill their wares onto the sidewalk, but not this one. When I opened the ancient door, I got a flash of the  strange old shop run by the woman with barley sugar fingers, in one of the Mary Poppins books. The side walls were lined, floor to ceiling, with shelves broken into short, wide compartments. Each of them held a stack of wide, short boxes, most of which had lids askew and most of which looked decades old. A long, age-worn counter stood in front of the wall to my left. Behind me, on a chair by the door, a TV set was on, facing the counter.

The magazine's description gave me the image of a no-nonsense woman of advanced years, but the only person I saw in the shot-gun store was a tall, bearded, mouth-breathing man with frizzy red hair spilling out from under a yarmulke, an enormous gut (in an even more ample white dress shirt) spilling over black dress trousers, and a small black vest that was a good foot away from ever being fastened.

"Is your bra fitter in?" I asked.

"Yes," he answered. He looked at me. I looked around.

"What size you need?" he asked. I blurted a guess. "No," he said definitively, shaking his head. "Put down your purse." He lumbered towards me and put his palms below my clavicles and across my ribs, front and back, in rapid, practiced movements. He announced a figure two sizes smaller and began rummaging through boxes on the shelves.

"Come here," he said and led me past the counter. He handed me a bra and pulled a curtain between us. "Try this," he said. "You got it hooked yet?" he asked before I was halfway to that stage in the process. When I said it was okay, he pulled back the curtain, took a look and frowned. "Try this," he said, " handing me another, then pulling the curtain. While I was attempting to make the switch, a hand with another few offerings poked around the curtain.

As I tried on the bras, I became aware that a young black woman was checking stock and making notations on a clipboard behind me, in the back of the store. She acted as if I were invisible, so I paid her no further mind. Another woman soon joined me from the front, a slender, nicely made up young woman wearing a black trench coat and an auburn pageboy wig. Without introducing herself or explaining, she took over, rejecting bras, calling out instructions to the man behind the curtain and handing me new ones to try. From their appearances, these were not two people that would have occupied the same intersection of any Venn diagram that I could think of.

I heard the shop door open. "Do you have a Merry Widow in a 32A?" a male voice asked. "Strapless only," said the shopkeeper.  The customer left. The shopkeeper poked his head around the curtain and handed me a white bra. "Try this," he urged. "It's cotton. For summer." He went away. The door opened and closed again. "Is it black?" the same male voice asked. "No. White," the shopkeeper answered. The door opened and closed. I gathered my choices (a good size smaller than his estimate!), arranged my clothes and headed for the counter.

The man gave me a look suggesting that buying four bras was shockingly extravagant behavior. The woman in the trench coat simply smiled. While she was tallying my purchases, a man in a suit walked in. "You do have a Merry Widow in a 32A?" he asked. It was the same voice. "Strapless only," answered the man. "Can I see it?" the other customer asked. While the shopkeeper dug it out, he told the man about how they were updating their web site. I signed the charge slip and returned to the outside world. It still looked the same, so I headed back home.


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