Shifting Gears [6]

Marilyn Monroe

A Leggy Affair

As a teenager, I imbibed ideas about acceptable body shapes from the people around me. So, I believed that a girl’s legs were beautiful only if they were straight like bamboo stems from the knees to the ankles, with no protruding muscles aka yams interrupting the flow.

Well, I inherited my father’s footballer legs, so during my years at university and for years afterwards, I hid my legs underneath trousers and maxis to escape mockery. My insecurity over what I deemed a flaw was like a thing around my neck, choking self-approval out of me.

Like a child force-fed by her determined grandmother, I spent my twenties swallowing popular beauty ideals of the society where I lived. They became the yardstick for measuring myself. I felt inadequate whenever I spotted a pair of bamboo legs. I considered the owner a lucky winner of the anatomy lottery because to me, having straight legs made one outstanding, special even.

In retrospect, that was laughable because straight legs do not shield their owners from life’s troubles. It is not as though those with straight legs can flash their exclusive Bamboo Club gold membership card and Life would say, “Aww, perfect pins, move along then, no troubles for you today. Next!”

Bamboo legs conferred no special advantages that I could see.

Still, at my old gym, when someone complimented my well-defined calves, I had to stop myself from peering at my legs, with lips turned downwards and eyebrows arched, as if to ask, “Me?”

I don’t know how I finally adjusted my beliefs regarding what is acceptable or not acceptable as far as my body is concerned. I suppose that as I approached my thirties, I began to ponder the whys of life even more stubbornly. Moreover, I realized that my legs would never change their shape; in fact, they would become even more muscled due to my new-found love for exercise.

My epiphany hit me like a clap of thunder. I woke up one day and suddenly every leg-concealing piece of clothing seemed revolting. Out went the trousers and maxis, and in came the short girly dresses and skirts that I’d always looked at longingly but felt I shouldn’t wear.

Recently, the instructor at my new gym praised my toned leg muscles; he wished he could devote more time to Leg Day as he assumed I did. I stifled a cheeky chuckle and in my head I sang, baby I was born this way.

Does clarity come with age? Or is this delicious comfort I have found in my own skin, this assuredness, my way of sticking my middle finger at my overdependence on external validation? Perhaps, I now understand that my quest for courage to set my personal ideals begins with embracing the things I am powerless to change.

These days, when I walk into the gym I spend a few minutes at the mirror-panelled walls, looking at my legs and smiling. I’ve come to love my legs especially the yams, which lend character to them. Not unlike the multiple perspectives that the angled mirrors provide, I can see either flaws or two healthy limbs to walk and dance with. Gratefully, I choose the latter.

I have one life to live and only this body with which to live it. The warmth of the sun and fresh air brushing my legs is wonderful; the prospect of a Marilyn Monroe dress-flying-in-the-wind moment is even more wonderful.

© ’Nedu Ahanonu, 2015
’Nedu blogs @ Nedoux.com

 

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