I don’t like wearing pants, in part because saying I don’t like pants is bound to get a few laughs and retweets (because ugh, pants, right?), and in part because if I told someone I would be pleased as punch to hightail it to Burning Man for a few days of getting dusty and dirty and to run around without pants in the desert with a couple thousand complete strangers, they’d believe it easily. Because I would. I am that kind of person. The rush of forcing yourself to have no inhibitions is fun. And pants are not fun. I don’t like pants as a concept, a theory, or an article of clothing. I would much rather prefer to call dresses “notpants,” because that is decidedly what they are.
But — and I worry more than I am proud to admit that this is the real reason I hate pants — I also don’t like my thighs.
And so, on a day when I am wearing notpants, or when I’m pointing my phone lens downward to Instagram my shoes, or when I head to the restroom or make a particularly unladylike stride across a room, I’ll notice my thighs and all their expansiveness. I don’t like that expanse. Growing up in an age when I was told to try to keep my limbs to waif-like whispers, slips of skin and bones, never too large, never touching, it was hard to come to grips with the fact that a size 2 is something I will never be. I have muscles. I have a butt. I regularly run distances longer than is probably sane, and my thighs help me power through carrying multiple grocery bags up the battered old flights of my walk-up apartment building. My thighs take up a sizable portion of my life. It is easy, then, to take things out on them, because they are often one of the first things I see, and therefore Citizen Number 1. “If only they were at least more muscular,” I think, pinching at what is mostly muscle but my brain is tired from years of fighting an endless battle against my body and all the places where society seems to find it in excess, and I find myself contemplating looking up liposuction.
And I know, I know, I am not supposed to even indulge these thoughts, these clandestine admissions that I am still, after all these years, unhappy with my body, because after all, my body can do so many wonderful things. My body is more than the food it eats, more than the calories it stores, more than the way my thighs are what some people would call “thick” (at which I would bristle and wonder if that is just somebody calling me fat, because thickness was and is a virtue in the culture I half-belong and of which I was only ever on the fringes, and so to laud it as an attribute is something I do not quite understand and have never quite been able to reconcile.)
I know what my body does. We all know to be thankful and kind to our bodies. But, that’s the point isn’t it? The point that makes it harder when we find ourselves staring directly in the mirror at the part of our bodies that we loathe. That we are loathing, while knowing not to, while having better judgment than to hate the bodies that are giving us life. We all know that our best qualities are more than how we look, more than the size on the label of our jeans, more than how we photograph in pictures and how much space our bodies takes up at any one point in time. But still, it is easy to regress, to take frustration out on our bodies. After all, it is there. And if my body is not mine to use — and this is where there is a fine line between use and abuse — then what is it there for?
Because, you see, my frustration with my thighs is usually only ever 10% true Thigh-Related Frustrations, 90% Other. If I’ve been particularly busy at work, if I go through 14 hour days and cannot get to the gym to boost my endorphin levels just that much, I stress easily. (Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t Google “new york+liposuction+thigh gap.”) Or it’s because I ate one and a half crullers for dinner instead of broccoli and tofu, and I’m still reminding myself not to self-flagellate for something as innocuous as a fucking pastry because after all, calories do not make beelines to body parts the way we like to think they do. (Nobody ever died by donut anyway, as far as I know.) Or it’s because someone hasn’t texted me in a few days, and so I feel unwanted, unworthy, unpretty, like maybe if I were thinner and leaner and his clothes that I’d borrowed in the morning hung more loosely on my frame, I’d be cuter, prettier, more desirable. (If anyone sees your naked body and finds you unworthy, they’re the ones who don’t deserve to see it, not the other way around, by the way.)
It’s easy to turn something into a Thigh-Related Frustration because that is how I’ve coped for years. We crave logic. We like to think that everything has a correlation, a cause and effect, a reason, a why. And if we can source every one of our issues back to one root, it seems easier to remedy a situation. Take care of the source and your problems are gone. Remove the whole cancer, and you hope you’re in the clear. You can only ever hope, and so you cling to that almost-promise.
We find other ways to cope. More logical ways to cope. Healthier ones, more useful ones. We power through our email inboxes; we call a friend who just gets it; we turn off our phones and check out mentally for the weekend, trying to recoup. We are kinder to ourselves, and the problems often resolve themselves. After all, being hard on ourselves only makes our lives harder. It’s a cycle. And though we know to be kinder to ourselves, rarely do we actually do it. But the only way to get better at that is to practice, and to make a conscious effort and really try to be kinder. After all, with practice comes habit.
I still find myself sometimes, staring wistfully, almost rudely, at another woman’s thighs. They’re usually thin ones, usually clad in something cute and trendy, and she’s usually on her way to something Important and Fabulous and Chic. They almost always look like expensive thighs, ones that take money and time and effort to maintain, and yet she makes it look effortless. It’s never her thighs I want, really. It’s her life.
But then again, her life is probably rife with her own concerns, and I don’t want those, either. She probably has her own reasonings as to why that guy didn’t call and the anxiety that is being spawned from her family vacation. And my life isn’t all that bad. Nor are my thighs. After all, they can do so much — running and jumping and curling up in the corner of the couch and sprawling out in my bed because I like to sleep diagonally and they come with a ready-made tan.
And yes, they touch.
But that’s okay. Some thighs touch. Some thighs don’t. Sometimes life is stressful. Sometimes it’s not. But your thighs are only ever along for the ride. They don’t need you to take your frustrations out on them.