Writing by Anonymous // Art by Romy Listo
I shift uncomfortably in my seat. It’s humid, and my thighs are pasted to each other and to the wooden chair I’m sitting on via a layer of sticky sweat. I brush a piece of hair behind my ear and ask,
‘But how do you skip breakfast? Don’t you get starving?’
‘Not really’, she answered, the beautiful slim girl I call my friend, ‘if you just ignore the hunger, eventually it passes and you just don’t feel it anymore’.
I can feel my forehead wrinkling in disbelief. My stomach gurgles agreement. I’m heading toward the heavier end of the healthy body mass index range. Glancing down, I’m struck by the thought that my legs are almost melting out of my shorts and into a fleshy mess. At this moment in time, such an idea is incomprehensible for me.
The sun is bearing down on my neck and I swear I can actually feel my skin cells warming to a darker brown. It’s summer, and I’m walking half an hour to the next suburb to drop in at my coffee spot du jour.
Sweat rolls down my face from my temples, but I revel in the humidity. It’s evidence of exercise, and in spite of the heat I’m not uncomfortable walking. My thighs no longer brush each other with each step. I could, and would, happily walk forever. It’s only one foot in front of the other after all.
Hunger isn’t strange to me anymore. It’s more like an old friend – not eating is soothing. It seems to soften my uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, leaving them without edges. The dullness makes it much easier to simply ignore them.
My previously ever-active appetite is gone. It’s a relief not to feel torn about whether to eat another piece of chocolate. I just don’t eat. At this point, I must have a thousand rules for what I do and don’t eat, all in the name of my health.
But I’m OK, I’m fine. My legs swing smoothly beside each other, not touching. One foot and then the other. It’s satisfying – for the first time in my life my body is living up to society’s standards. It is beautiful. Nothing will ever taste as good as skinny feels? This is how it’s meant to be.
I feel fat, bulky and awkward.
Well not really, fat is not a feeling. I feel sad and inadequate, about the end of a relationship and the loneliness that has grown in its place, its tendrils working and grasping around my heart.
But the feelings I have about this stage in my life are like a game of Telephone or Grapevine. At the other end of the line they’re turning out as stress at the fact that my thighs are touching, rubbing even, as I walk to work.
In six months of recovery, I have managed to put on three kilos and I’m of a healthy, and still quite low, weight, according to the usual indexes. It’s only the very beginning of summer, and maybe the chafe-inducing heat is the reason this is the first time I’ve noticed and felt this change in my figure.
I push the thought from mind and focus on my walk. I’m on the bridge now – the sky above me is a lively blue and the river, below my feet, is luminescent. The trees either side of the bank are a thousand shades of green. God, my city is beautiful. Today it seems to be in high definition, as though every leaf and branch have grown with clarity, and not just size, over the year.
Alongside the weight gain, I’m slowly relearning what a healthy body looks like. Looking around, I have started to realise that healthy women, not the prepubescent teens who surrounded when I’m developed my ideas around body image, often have thighs that touch. Not everyone, because all bodies are simply not the same, but many do.
As a girl, I was taught that touching thighs were fat and unattractive, while beautiful legs strutted down the catwalk attached to girls in the Victoria’s Secret show. I was embarrassed of my lower half and so refused to show it. I never swam without board shorts and lied about having my period to avoid swimming classes altogether; lest my limbs be on show to the boys and girls at my school.
At the age of twenty-three, I’m telling myself a new story. Now that my thighs are heavier, I don’t become sick or get infections nearly as often, I have the energy to go running, I’m less anxious and less irritable, and my work and art are better, more nuanced. This is how my body is meant to be.
It’s hard to begin to appreciate a part of my physical appearance I have been conditioned to loathe and feel ashamed of, particularly one that has become the locus of my self-esteem and expressions of my sadness. The truth is though, my thundering thighs give the me the health and energy to be limitless, to be my best self.
I feel it again, the rough touch of skin on skin, my inner-thighs sliding against each other thanks to another sweaty, humid day. It’s as though my legs are so happy to be reunited, they embrace with every step. In fact, it’s beautiful, really. I will learn, and already am beginning, to love them as much as they do each other, as they deserve.[share]