Dear 12-Year-Old Me,
I’d ask how you are, but I’m pretty sure I already know the answer.
It’s been about six months since you got your first period, two years or so since you started wearing a bra. I know puberty can feel all kinds of awkward, and it is an uncomfortable topic (mainly because of the comments your budding breasts and widening hips spur from people), but your body is changing. And as much as you want to look like Cindy Crawford or Elle MacPherson or Kate Moss, you don’t. You look like you.
And I know that, right now, that sorta hurts. Which sucks, considering you can’t really change the life vessel you were given, right? I mean, you can, but that shit is expensive (sorry, yes, much to Mom’s chagrin, you still very much swear a lot).
But please listen to me, Amy: I promise looking in the mirror won’t make you cringe forever.
And if you really think about it, you sorta knew that since it didn’t always hurt, right?
I can remember that first moment of feeling uncomfortable in our skin like it was yesterday; we were inspired to dislike our body as early as fourth grade. We were on a play date with a friend, and an isolated moment in her room caught us both mid-costume play in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror. We were standing side-by-side, comparing stature. Your friend (we’ll call her ‘L’) was much taller. She was also leaner, but you didn’t really notice that until L pointed out that her mama ‘always told [her] people without thigh gaps were fat.’
Thigh gaps were a foreign concept until then; you had been raised with the perspective that you come from stock with thick, sturdy runners’ legs. In fact, their strength originally made you proud. The idea that everyone should have super skinny stems was unheard of to you, even in the early 1990s (maybe Mom’s approach to relatively limited media was a good one?).
Still, her comment lodged in your brain and settled itself there, as harmful dialogue often does so easily.
And then came the playground taunt from a girl in your class, “Gosh, I’m so glad I don’t have boobs. They’re all fat.”
I remember pulling on our baby tee to stretch it out, that way our breasts and bra lines wouldn’t show. Never mind that I had no control over the way my body developed into curves instead of remaining stick-straight like our other fourth grade classmates.
Of course, as the years go on and your body continues to change in ways most of your peers have yet to experience, you receive infinitely more comments about your looks and shape. And I’m so, so sorry I didn’t protect you from their bigotry. Because these body-shameful perspectives were damaging. I am still working to shake them in adulthood. But more importantly, I forgive you for allowing someone else’s petty gauge of your appendages to dictate so much of your happiness and mental health.
Especially because there’s something magical about the way our thighs are strong and built for work, yet soft enough to act as a comfortable pillow for your children. You once hated the stretch marks that web their way down our hips and legs; our sixth grade P.E. uniform was pure torture. But now we embrace them, and they don’t stop us one bit from wearing short shorts; “Short Shorts” could be our middle name. In fact, someone once told you that they’re actually drawn to and love all of these fine lines you once classified as “fat.”
Still, we also now understand our body was not put on this planet for consumption by any other human. And beauty sure as hell isn’t in the eye of the beholder. Our body is spectacular independent of anyone’s outside assessment. Two children who are more than you could have ever dreamed of came from your womb.
So, who cares if our thighs create a little friction when we’re walking for a while? Or our stomach folds over our belt when we sit down? We weren’t reared to care about these traits in other people, why hyper-criticize our own body in this way? Sh*t, it’s the only one we get.
Love (thick thighs and all),
An older, slightly wiser You