When I’m ranking my body parts in terms of their acceptability, I have always put my legs dead last. White and pasty, lumpy with cellulose, splotchy with prominent veins, scarred from multiple knee surgeries, still a bit knock-kneed in spite of working out—and that’s my legs on a good day! Years ago, when Marc and I were dating, he confessed he was a “leg man.” “Well,” I thought to myself, “lucky for you I’ve got a lot of leg to love!”
My strategy has been the same most of my life—take cover! In spite of teenage-hood in the sixties, there were no miniskirts hanging in my closet. Somehow my mother found me dresses that were at least below the knee and frequently longer. I remember when she bought me a couple pairs of gauchos, insisting that they were very cool (they weren’t.) When maxi dresses became popular, she and I were both in heaven. Then, sometime in my mid-teen years my parents acquiesced to pop culture and allowed me to wear pants to school (although never jeans.)
My legs were eye-magnets for me. If I were walking towards a building with lots of glass, I would always gaze down and try to correct my weird gate. Elevators with shiny doors? I couldn’t resist looking down to see just how bad it was. They held this irresistible, horrified fascination for me.
I was pretty young when I first started getting arthritis, and its first stop was my knees. I could put a hand on top of each knee and feel all the crackles when I bent them. Before too long, I sounded like popcorn when I climbed stairs. Arthritis pain became constant and insidious, and I didn’t fight it. Back then, I believed my brain’s narrative that it would only get worse. I had my first knee replacement when I was forty-two.
Fast forward to now. I am at a good weight, I work out and have decent muscles. But, my legs—well, they remain my legs. They are God’s first stab at keeping me humble. Yes, they are smaller, but their basic characteristics remain essentially unchanged.
However, as I think about it, that really isn’t true. They have changed in one big way: I am no longer in pain. My legs are strong, and they take me wherever I want to go—and how I love to walk these days! I love feeling those previously pitiful quad muscles engage. I think to myself, “I did that! Me, my determination and perseverance. They were pretty much broken and now they’re not, because of what I did and continue to do.
Thursday I bought a jean skirt that ends several inches north of my knees. Today, I’m wearing it, and it’s pretty darn comfortable, if slightly foreign to feel the air currents on bare flesh. Yes, I can look in the mirror and shudder a bit when my gaze goes south. But, I mostly think I need to get over it. I doubt my legs are the subject of conversations around the coffee pot. In truth, most people aren’t going to notice. After all, my legs work, they do what they’re supposed to do.
So, I accept my legs as “not lovely” body parts that do their job and help lovelier parts of me get where they’re supposed to be. My legs are two small parts of a whole human being, and overall, I think I’m pretty likeable. I think it’s best if I thin out the “leg file” I have in my brain and learn to accept me.
Of course, wise as that may be—swimsuit season is just around the corner!