Photo of legs in clear water by Anelya Okapova on Unsplash

The day I started to hate my body.

I remember the first time I thought I might be fat. I was seven years old, playing tee ball. I always tried to be good at baseball, but I wasn’t, so I was put in right field. As the kids rarely would hit past the pitcher, right field was a lonely position, and it was played hardly in the field at all; so I stood behind the boy on first base, and studied the back of his knees. He had sinewy legs, so when he crouched into the athletic position, his ligaments were very prominent. I looked down, and noticed my legs did not look like that. They were not as skinny as his. I did not have sharply-defined muscles or a deep, concave space behind my knee like that. My kneecaps did not protrude out front, they had a round, softer shape. At that moment, I critiqued my body for the first time, and got the idea that my legs were fat.

My legs were not fat. They were then as they are today: strong, solid legs. Not lovely, long, lean frog legs like Olympic runners have. Mine are T-Rex legs, powerful and loud. I could never float because my muscular legs would drag me below the surface. Of course, if my legs were indeed fat, the floating would have been easier, but this is no place for Physics. This is Self-Loathing 101, a prerequisite for girls getting started on their coursework in womanhood.

That’s me, in pink, around the time of my discovery, flashing my T-Rex legs.

So, that was it: I had fat legs and I hated them. It would stay that way for at least 30 years, when my husband told me I had great legs and I did not believe him. It was a ridiculous thing for him to say. They were objectively stumpy, I told him. No matter how skinny I got, how much I ran, or how little I ate, my legs betrayed me.

Of course this idea didn’t come from out of left field (nor from my outpost in right field). Discussion of women’s bodies was its own pastime in my family. My grandfather was always commenting about how my mom looked in her swimsuit (“You’re getting fatter, Sam!). Someone was always on a diet. We were always cautioned about eating too many sweets. I vividly recall the Tab ads on TV, and the memorable jingle, “Tab, Tab Cola what a beautiful drink/ Tab, Tab Cola for beautiful people.” The ads featured very thin, very pretty women, parading on the beach and around town as the men were stopped in their tracks, jaws agape, staring as their jealous girlfriends poured water over their heads! As the ad closes, the frosty glass of Tab gets a nipped waist to cut an hourglass figure and the copy reinforces, “Great taste. One calorie.”

Tab Cola ad from 1982. Check out those sexy, skinny frog legs on this lady!

Tab (RIP) has always been my favorite soda. This ad summed up my religious views in 30 seconds. I aspired to be one of the “beautiful people” who would count her calories, turn heads, and make girls jealous with my paper-doll figure. But my body kept getting in the way. This was war.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store