“I developed very early. It was interesting because it was celebrated. I was ten or eleven, and it was a weekend — we were all at home on the Lower East Side — that’s where I was born and raised. We were relaxing, kind of early in the morning. And I went to pee, you know. My mother and my grandmother had obviously spoken to me about getting my period and going through puberty, but you don’t really know until you’re in the moment. I sat there thinking, ‘OK, this is it. I’m a woman now.’ I came out and told my grandmother quietly, and everyone started applauding. ‘You’re a woman!’ I’m like, ‘OK I am a woman…. Hoorah…’ [Laughs]
My boobs were big. It was hard not to notice them. I was tall, skinny, and I have these big, ginormous tits. You’re like, ‘whoa, OK. That girl over there doesn’t have tits, that girl over there has normal tits — who am I? And why are all the boys staring at me?’ At this point in my life now, I’m like ‘woo I got big tits!’ But when you’re a kid, you don’t know what’s going on. I used to wear really big tops because I didn’t want the boys to look at me. They were idiots, silly boys. I can’t blame them, they were all so young. But it was the process of growing — you don’t understand, they don’t understand. But it transitions, because then when you go to high school you’re like, ‘I have boobs, this is great.’ I think I just became much more comfortable with myself. You get to a certain point where you see other people being OK with themselves, and you think ‘if she’s OK, I’m OK.’
When I was nineteen I was dating this guy and his sister worked in this lingerie store called La Petite Coquette. A tiny Mom & Pop shop that opened in the 1980s — it’s still there. We were all at a party together, and the manager of her store was there, and for some reason, she kind of fell in love with me. She was like, ‘you need to work for us.’ So the next week I went in and spoke to her, and she said, ‘I want to hire you.’ I didn’t know how to do any of it, I had no work ethic! I didn’t have a resume. She said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll teach you everything.’ She was very patient, but also very stern — she taught me so much. She was like a second mom to me the way she guided me, helped me to be where I am today. It was a big experience. I was there for a good solid six or more years.
It was hard at times. I learned so much about myself, and about how horrible society can be to us women. Working there I began to see how we as women — I’m a fucking crybaby — that we are kind of tortured sometimes. Because we’re ‘fat,’ or big busted. It’s so sad. I felt it every day in that job. Women would come in so depressed, so down on themselves. It was usually because of something like, ‘my boyfriend said I look fat today.’ ‘My friend told me I shouldn’t wear this outfit because my tits look too big.’ Or, ‘someone said my ass doesn’t look good in that.’ I’m like, ‘But oh my god, you’re so beautiful.’ I gained strength from that because it helped me be OK with however I looked. As a Latina, I’m not blond and blue eyed or whatever society has told us is OK. But why do we have to be a certain way for society? As the years went by I said to myself, ‘Don’t do that to yourself, girl. Just try to be OK with whatever it is.’ Because these women would come in, and I’d think, ‘I see you, and I see beauty. I see whoever you are, and you’re perfect — whatever that means.’ It is what it is.
After six years, I took a break. I’d gone to school, I’d been at my job for a while, and I decided to babysit for a while, which is completely off our topic. [Laughs] I did that for about three years, which I really enjoyed. It was very freeing. I enjoyed that part of my life. But I missed having the connection with women. So I was like, ‘let me see what’s going on in the boob world.’ I applied for a few jobs and got a position with Journelle. I grew; I had a few job titles there. I was there for four years.
Now, I’m at CUUP and you know, on this side, it’s a little more emotional. In a good way. For me at this point, it’s not just selling a bra or telling someone they’re a 34E. It feels like more of an experience — let’s talk about it. Let’s make time to talk about it. I think CUUP represents that very well. I’m in love with what I do because I get to feel that CUUP is not only selling bras, CUUP is trying to talk to us women on a different level, to listen, and to understand and help. And even if someone doesn’t want to wear a bra, or doesn’t feel great, it’s about just talking about it so that you feel OK. That’s why I love being here — our customers talk about it, we women talk about it in the office, and it’s such a beautiful thing to be able to sit and just chat about things without feeling strange or feeling like we can’t. Because we can. And we’re going to do it. Since we are more aware now, taking pride in who we are as women, I think we [as women in society] have transitioned a bit. We’ve grown, I feel. It’s beautiful to see that women are taking control. We’re here, we’re ready to wear bras and feel great about it.
Throughout my career, I’ve seen many women come in because their husband, their boyfriend cheated on them, or they’re going through something. When we go through breakups, when we go through a major thing in our lives, that’s the point where we’re like, ‘it’s MY time now! I will buy all the sexy bras and I will wear that and I will feel amazing!’ and I’m like, Hmmm. You should do that now — before anything crazy happens to you. At the end of the day it’s funny, like I said, because we wait. You know? We put ourselves last, especially with our undergarments. On the outside we’re so put together, and then our undies are ripping and not fitting and uncomfortable. I’m like ‘tsk tsk tsk.’ We have to take care of ourselves from the inside out. I like saying that. It’s important.
It’s been a crazy year for me. About four months ago, I start feeling uncomfortable. My stomach starts hurting, I feel some side pain, and I’m like ‘Oh it’s just gas, I’ll be OK.’ Drink some seltzer, some tea. A couple days went by and I was still uncomfortable. I felt suffocated — I couldn’t drink too much liquid, I couldn’t really eat my food right. I came to work one morning and was really not feeling like my normal self. I’m sitting here in the office and I had my yogurt, as always, and I couldn’t eat it. Like, huh — this doesn’t want to go down the hatchet. Let me just drink some water. Huh, this water doesn’t want to settle in my stomach. Around 1:00PM I look up at Steph [CUUP’s Art Director] and I say, I think I’m going to the doctor. So I go.
I’m there for a long time. ,The doctor comes back after around three hours of tests, and he says, ‘you have pancreatitis.’ I’m like, ‘excuse me? First of all, what is that.’ [Laughs] ‘Second of all, should I be scared?’ And they start questioning me about whether I’m an alcoholic, if I excessively drink or have had issues with my diet, but I don’t really drink much, and I’m a pretty normal healthy person. Yet here I was with these results. It only got worse from there. I had pancreatitis necrosis — which meant that the tip of my pancreas was rotten. So, then it was basically two and a half months of torture. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t drink water half the time. I couldn’t sleep. I threw up constantly. It was a struggle. I couldn’t even use the bathroom, and if I did, it was very bad. I was very emotional and it was hard to leave my house. It was hard to be happy. It was hard to do anything. I didn’t have energy — all I wanted to do was cry, in my bed, with nobody talking to me. I didn’t know how this happened. I thought I had like, cancer. They check you for everything, they scare the hell out of you. It’s like, ‘am I dying?’ You go through these thoughts. During that process I realized, ‘OK It’s time to take care of Tania. I’ve been taking care of other people, and I have to take care of myself.’ But I was terrified — I thought I was never going to eat again, that I was never going to be normal. It was a very hard time in my life. I’m still going through it, but I’m a lot better now. I’m happy to say things have improved. My life has changed for the better. You take things as they come. This is why we have to just be OK with who we are. We don’t know what’s going to happen. I went through the phase of just being angry, I don’t know who with. But I learned how to be patient with myself and my surroundings. You learn how to let go.
Now, eating my yogurt makes me happy. The simplest things. Ice cream makes me happy. [Laughs] I cried the first time I was able to eat ice cream. I cried the first time I was able to eat a regular meal — nowadays I’m crying at the drop of a dime, to be honest. I’m just grateful when the air blows nicely. But it was good and bad. I don’t know why things happen in life, and you’re like, ‘Alright, this is happening now.’ Let’s pick ourselves up and continue.”