For as long as I can remember, I have hated you. I remember seeing the way your thighs puffed out when I sat down on a chair while wearing shorts (as I often did in the South Florida heat as a child) and wondering why you had to do that. I thought people would think I was fat if they saw, so I used to slightly hover my thighs off the chair when I was around other people to make you look smaller. I still do that. When I was in first grade, I noticed that unlike Melissa, the red-headed girl in my class, who had long, stick-straight legs, you were short and triangular – thinner at the bottom and wider at the top. I went home and bemoaned to my mom that I wanted to have “straight” legs, and, to this day, I remember her exact response. “Oh no!” she said. “Legs with shape to them are much nicer.” “But I don’t WANT shape!” I cried. “I want them to be straight!”
You have been the fixation of the majority of my body-related ire. When I discovered the word “cankle” in third grade, I immediately realized that I have them. That is, there is no discernible difference between where my calves end and my ankle begins. There is no indentation or any indication of an ankle – certainly not the slim, dainty ankles my mother has – it’s just calf to heel. Whenever I tell people this, they inevitably say “You’re not fat! Only fat people have cankles!” As soon as I show them mine, they marvel at this physiological impossibility but realize that I do, in fact, have cankles.
And speaking of calf muscles, why don’t you have any? Despite carrying me through 50 marathons, on countless long, hilly bike rides, and through more barre classes than I can count, you have never, not once, had even the slightest hint of muscle definition. Compare that with my arms which, no matter whether I work out or not, always have a well-defined shoulder and obvious bicep, and my abs, which actually do exist and are usually pretty noticeable, depending on my level of wine consumption. But not you, legs. Not you.
There’s the fact that you’ve been covered (and I do mean covered) in cellulite since I was 9 (long before I had boobs, thanks) and never let up no matter how much I work out or how little I eat. You had cellulite when I was being treated for anorexia, for heaven’s sake. “Sorry,” my mom said. “It runs in the family.”
I could go on about your large pores and noticeable, dark hair follicles (which makes no sense because your hair is blonde). I could mention the dark veins that run like a spider-web down the backs of you. I could point out that my physical therapist once said I couldn’t be a runner because you were too big and didn’t look like the legs of a runner. I could casually throw in a note about how disproportionately short you are despite the fact that I’m taller than average. I could wax nostalgic about all the people who have innocently pointed out that I could crack nuts with my thighs, capitalizing on an excellent double entendre.
Instead, I think it is time that you and I made peace once and for all. See, while AJ and I were climbing up Roys Peak in New Zealand, you carried me so effortlessly that I barely felt a burn. While people around me were huffing and puffing, rubbing their thighs or calves, and bemoaning not being able to move the next day, I just kept going. I felt strong, powerful, and capable because of you. I could feel all of my muscles working as we climbed towards the summit – you know, all those muscles that I can’t see when I look at you. You never got tired. You never needed a break. And when I looked down at you, for once, I didn’t see the oversized monstrosities that I’ve always imagined you to be. As the week wore on and more mountains were summited (sometimes with an early morning run thrown in, just for fun) and long hikes completed, you never wavered and never faltered. You carried me, just like you have for the past 31 years.
So, legs, I’m sorry for always focusing on your flaws and never on your strengths. I’m sorry for always wishing you were something you were not instead of being grateful for the things that you are. I’m sorry for comparing you to everyone else instead of just what you could do the before. It isn’t fair to you and it isn’t fair to me, so I’ll try and stop, ok? Just keep carrying me up those mountains.