Growing up, I lamented over the thickness of my thighs quite frequently. I didn’t like to wear shorts, certainly not short ones, because it would show my dimply cellulite.
I remember driving in the car with my cousin when I was about 12. She had just gotten her driver’s license. I looked over at her legs to see what they looked like, smooshed against the seat. They were wide, taking up most of the seat, and they touched, a lot. She was a swimmer, and had long, thick muscles throughout her body. Her thighs were no exception. The exception was that she didn’t seem the least bit concerned about how her legs looked. (And for everyone’s safety, it’s a damn good thing! But that was not in my perspective at age 12.)
This, to me, was a foreign concept. Even as a preteen, I had years of practice obsessing about how my body appeared to other people.
A few years later, I was getting ready for a school dance, and inspecting my outfit carefully. I said something about my thighs, about the fact that they touched. My mom said, “Oh honey, you’ve got those German thighs. Big and strong. Those are your Gutman genes. Nothing wrong with that.”
Immediately, I pictured my friend Jessica, a German actually born in Germany, whose thighs were basically concave. They did not touch, and never had as long as I could recall. What happened to her German thighs? And who were the Gutman’s anyways? I was a Danto and my mother a Boyd and a Levy.
What followed were years of leg lifts, lunges, and careful selection of any clothing that exposed the skin above my knees. My legs, thighs especially, were the part I hated the most about my body. It wasn’t until I started jogging that I looked at my thighs differently. In 2004, I trained in San Francisco for a half marathon, and my legs took me across many miles. They didn’t change much in size or shape, but they became strong and firm. They enabled me to celebrate my body for once, for taking me places I never imagined: through Golden Gate Park, across the Presidio, down Russian Hill, up the Great Highway past Sutro Baths, on the Lands End trail, across six miles, and then eight, and then 10. My body took me places that even my mind couldn’t.
After running came hiking- three miles into the Grand Canyon, up Mt. Diablo, through pastures, across creeks, to beautiful vistas. My thighs even grew, but I didn’t mind because they were taking me places I had never been, giving me confidence and belief in my physical self that I had never experienced.
Physical activity gave me the confidence to release my obsessions with appearance, lines, and size. It allowed me to feel strong and capable, and to embrace my body for the things it could accomplish, the heights it could reach, and the mental barriers it could overcome.
Now, those thighs, those German, Gutman, thick thighs, have helped me hold Goddess pose, and Warrior II. They have supported my weight through four days of labor, childbirth, and stair climbs. Those thighs which were once the least valuable part of my body are now my most treasured asset. Not because of how they look, but because of what they’ve helped me do for myself.