There are days when I hate my thighs. I hate my ass. My thighs are large and lumpy. My butt is round and it makes it difficult to locate a pair of pants that actually fit over my curves and don’t gap at the waist. I tend to curse my thighs and butt and then have to remind myself that 1) I could actually exercise more and eat less pain au levain dripping in olive oil or 2) come to terms with my curves, because under the cellulite there’s muscle. Skinny, weak legs, don’t get you anywhere on the ski hill, save looking nice in a pair of Bogner stretch pants, but the looks the ski bunny gets and the ones you get through North Bowl Chute are entirely different.
One would think, after nearly 28 years of skiing, that I’d worship my legs. That I’d kiss them nightly, thankful that both haven’t broke, torn, or ripped. That I’d be proud of their strength and power. That they’ve gotten me to a podium spot in telemark racing. That they helped me skin to the top of a peak in Alaska. That, standing tall or bent kneed, my legs have carried me to the Alps, the high trails in Glacier National Park, and sliding down a slope, teasing a fellow teammate only to stand, again on those same two legs, dimples on the backs and all, and face said teammate and pledge my life to him in marriage.
You’d think, for a girl who had braces on her legs as a child, she’d be nice to her legs.
I was born with tibial torsion and when I was just learning to walk — which is when this is typically diagnosed– my parents noticed my legs were twisted. This small chapter in my childhood is not documented well; braces were screwed into my legs and my mother didn’t take one picture of me from the waist down during this painful year. I would thump across the wood floors, hollering at the top of my lungs. My mother was so terrified and so upset but knew that without the braces, my legs wouldn’t straighten. The braces were necessary and although I don’t remember this time in my early years, my mother feared that any photos of the braces could cause further duress. In my twisted and unruly childhood, my mother honestly had little to worry about when it came to photos of my small legs strapped in braces, but I was her firstborn and how could she know, after just one year of my existence, that this procedure would perhaps be the least of her concerns? I mean, I wasn’t even seventeen and willful. Oh wait, I was completely willful at one. I just didn’t know how to drive.
Imprisoned in my braces, I would lie in my crib and slam the contraption into the bars of the crib, the clang of BANG. BANG.BANG. ricocheting off the high ceilings, until I’d fall asleep from exhaustion. One night, I thrashed so fervently that I launched up and out of my crib and landed on my feet, braces righting my expulsion. Upright and in a terror, I wobbled and BANG.BANG.BANG down the hallway waking my shaken parents. Never one to be quiet as a mouse, I shrieked and cried through the rest of the night. The next morning, my parents returned to the pediatrician and asked for the braces to be removed from my legs. They told Dr. McGeath about my leap from the crib and he agreed with my parents that perhaps it was time to free the legs.
I’d like to argue, because arguing is what I do, that first year my legs were weighted down and while the bones were twisting back into correct position, my muscles were learning how to build strength and power. I don’t know if the braces or my genetic makeup are the result of my full thighs and round ass, but I’d like to believe that the night I freed myself from my crib and ultimately from the braces, that I was preparing for a lifetime of testing my legs. I’d like to think of those heavy metal braces as my first experience with weight training.
I wish I could admit that the size and shape of my body doesn’t occupy as much of my mental capacity as it really does. I do feel lucky that I have a healthy body image and a some-what healthy relationship with food (I have zero willpower, so I’m not good at saying no to seconds or eating a plate of fries) but sometimes I fret and worry about my legs. Why don’t they fit into jeans? When I start down that nasty little trail of critiquing my legs, I have to realize that underneath the fat, there really is muscle (and there will be more muscle the more I continue to squat). And that muscle got its first burst of stamina and sturdiness when I couldn’t use my legs without braces.
Skinny legs are not a part of my body makeup, and skinny legs didn’t get me out of that crib and skinny legs certainly won’t help me perfect the telemark turn.