My Beautiful Legs

I set up The Ladygarden Project with the intention of celebrating women and their sexuality. The more I explore women’s sexuality, the more I explore myself. Along with my blog at Sexy at Any Size, I’m exploring what it means to be a woman, living in our Western culture in the 21st century, dealing with all the shit that women have to deal with in order to feel okay about ourselves and sex.

This week there has been a lot of furore in the media about a woman who said other women didn’t like her because of her beauty. It got me thinking about this relative value we call “beauty”, how a woman’s worth is measured, and what it means to buck the trend. What does it mean to own your body and to own your sexuality regardless of what the ‘media’ and ‘society’ tell us is acceptable and desirable for a women?

Here’s my story:

When I was eight years old my mother took me to see the doctor. “It’s her knees,” she explained, “they just seem too big.”

The doctor examined me and reassured my mother that there was nothing wrong with my knees. They were simply “big”.

In fact, my knees were in proportion to the rest of my legs. “Tree trunks,” my family called them, not in an unkind way; merely stating the obvious.

My legs were big and solid. My thighs rubbed together. My feet couldn’t stand side-by-side because my knees got in the way. When told in gym class to stand “feet together”, I could never comply.

As a child I wore long socks. But the elastic from the socks cut into my flesh below the knee: the socks were too tight; my legs were too big.

As a teenager I switched to ankle socks. Even in the middle of the coldest winter, feeling the freezing wind and sleet on my bare legs was still preferable to enduring the day-long bite of the sock elastic.

Once I left school and my days of uniform wearing were behind me, I switched to trousers. In the hottest of summers I would roll up my trousers ever so slightly. I could only dream of wearing shorts.

Lovers came and went. “You have a gorgeous arse.” “Your neck is so sexy.” “I love your breasts.” References to my legs were conspicuous by their absence. My legs were a useful part of my body but never a celebrated part, never an admired part, and absolutely never an adored part.

In my early 30s I went to see a woman for a massage. She also did “body journey” work: encouraging her clients to share what came up for them during the massage to explore how the body holds and is affected by emotions.

On arrival I sat with her on a sofa while she asked the usual questions about health and injuries. I told her that my left knee had been sore for a while. She reached out to touch my knee and said simply: “Your beautiful legs.”

This was the first and only time another person has told me my legs are beautiful.

But something shifted inside me that day. “My beautiful legs,” I recited over and over, “my beautiful legs.”

I wore shorts.

I wore dresses that stopped at the knee.

My legs hadn’t changed. But my attitude towards them had. My legs would never look like the legs of models or even my friends, but that was okay because I had finally been given permission to believe my legs were beautiful. Not conventionally beautiful. Not even beautiful by my own liberal, feminist standards. But beautiful simply because they are MY legs. How could I continue to hate a part of me whose only ‘flaw’ was their appearance? Would I fail to love a child of mine if I deemed him or her ugly? Would I cease to love my partner if they were disfigured by injury or illness?

Today I went for a massage and, as the therapist rubbed oil around my knees I felt a bubble of emotion in my chest. She bent my leg at the knee, perched on the edge of the massage table, and cradled my leg as she rubbed oil around my thigh. She held me so carefully and lavished kindness on my legs. In that moment, her devotion reminded me that my legs are beautiful.

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2 Comments

  1. Nicola Wilson

     /  June 9, 2012

    You know how sometimes you read a blog post or article and it stays with you for a while? This is one of those for me. Beautiful, just like your legs 🙂 xxx

    Reply

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