My family is obsessive, no doubt about it. When we find something that works, we evangelize it with a missionary zeal, converting as many as possible to our new love. Skin cremes, irons, mobile phones, brake pads, development environments, fusible glass, gardening tools–you name it, we’ve probably put one on a pedestal.

So I wasn’t really surprised when my sister announced a new love, European custom-fitted bras. She’d found a special lingerie store near her Virginia home and after two pampered hours emerged with a brand new figure.

“You won’t believe the difference,” she raved, “the straps don’t fall off, it doesn’t ride up in the back, and people keep asking if I’ve lost weight. It took some time getting used to seeing everything up in my face, but you’ve really got to try this. I look ten times better and it feels like I don’t have ANYthing on.”

Now, my own disappointment with brassieres started at age 12 about an hour after I climbed into my first bra. About then the novelty of wearing grown-up underwear wore off and I happily removed it, slipping unfettered back into my t-shirt. My mother frowned and told me to go put the bra back on, and that I’d be wearing one for most of my waking hours.

I was aghast. “You mean I’m going to have to wear this thing for the rest of my life?” She nodded, and from that moment on I despised the nasty little double-barreled incarcerators. Over the years I’ve tried cheap bras and expensive bras, underwires and overwires, front clasps and back snaps, lycra and cotton and silk. The only thing they’ve had in common is that I’ve loathed every one of them.

My hatred peaked during a period of seeming quiescence on the mammary front; I’d found an underwire bra that looked good, was relatively comfortable and cost a bomb but went on sale frequently. When I was asked to a black tie reception to interview several prominent CEOs for my publication, I wore it without a qualm.

They seated us in a private room at the reception, the waiters served drinks all round and we started. It was my first big roundtable session and–even though these were some of the wiliest characters in the industry, well known for driving unwary reporters to tears–we were all having fun and I was getting some great quotes.

Midway through, I felt a sharp stabbing in my ribcage. I shifted–another stab. Under the table, I tugged on my bra and the stabbing stopped. But then there was a small “sproooingg,” something poked me just below the collarbone, and my guests went silent, eyes wide. I glanced down and discovered a steel semi-circle emerging from between my breasts, curving out and around toward my throat.

It was the bra’s left underwire, giving the appearance that I’d been impaled on a hook. I tried to continue the interview while surreptitiously pushing the underwire back under my dress. That didn’t work. Finally I excused myself, headed for the ladies room, and ripped the damn thing out. When I returned, no one said a word but clearly, we’d lost momentum; the best I could get were raised eyebrows and mumbled responses. I wrapped it up, went home and dumped the bra in the trash.

Since then, brassieres have been something of a sore point with me. I dislike the treacherous little slingshots and they certainly return the favor.

So when Becky told me that her life (or at least her decolletage) had been transformed by a brassiere, I was suspicious. On the other hand, I’ve so far been the happy recipient of Becky’s advice on mobile phones, skin creme and probably a dozen other finds. If she’d solved the bra problem I was all for it. On her advice, I set out to find a local version of her mammarian miracle.

Did it work? That’s in Bra Beating.