Dear Thighs and Butt,
We haven't always had the best of relationships, and I'd officially like to say I'm sorry for that.
If I put on my therapist hat, I might hypothesize that the trouble started when I was 12, and some mean little boy made reference to my having "thunder thighs". I didn't know what it meant, so I asked my mother. Not knowing I was asking because I had been called out for having them, she said it was a reference to large thighs.
Great: I had big thighs. I'm sorry, thighs and butt. But I wasn't happy to discover this. Even at age 12 I knew enough to read between the lines: I must be fat.
More comments came. Some, in retrospect, were complimentary. Girls on my soccer team would say that I had "strong" legs. I did; I was alternately a fullback and a sweeper, and I was like a wall. (If you ever want me to reminisce about my glory days on the field I'd be happy to).
Someone else (I forget who, but I remember the word) referred to my budding body as "womanly". I did not want to be strong or womanly. I took these as insults. Thighs and butt, I blamed you--your presence was what made me different from the waif-like girls featured in Seventeen Magazine.
One day, when I was 13-ish, an older man inappropriately mentioned that I had "R. Crumb girl thighs". I looked up R. Crumb. If you're not familiar, R. Crumb famously draws highly sexualized women with large thighs. I was mortified. Not only by the reference to my thigh size but by the fact that the comment carried a sexual undertone. Thighs and butt, you made me sexual, and that made me uncomfortable. Once again: not a compliment. Weird, inappropriate, and another indication that I was fat.
I did not want to be knocking anyone out with my American Thighs. I wanted European thighs: Kate Moss's, to be exact.
I tried to hide you, thighs and butt. I wore long skirts. I wore tunics. I wore loose pants. But you wouldn't go away. I could feel you, thighs, rubbing against each other. I could feel you, butt, jiggling when I walked. And I hated it. I hated you, thighs and butt.
Then, suddenly, you did go away, when I got sick and couldn't keep food down. I lose weight everywhere, and your presence was diminished. All of a sudden, I got all sorts of compliments. It reinforced what I already knew was the case: I was better without you, thighs and butt.
To keep you away, I started to diet. I starved myself. Bad idea. When I couldn't take it any more, I binged on food, more food than you'd ever think a 4'11 girl could eat at once. I became bulimic. Even when you throw up, you don't dispel all the calories. Thighs and butt, you came back. With a vengeance. The comments began again, too.
A guy on the street in Brooklyn appreciatively referred to me as having a "black girl booty". Based on his look and intonation, he meant this as a good thing, but I did not take it as such.
A co-worker said that I was "thick". Boyfriends and suitors alike praised you, thighs and butt. But what did I hear? Time after time: you are fat.
Instances like this just fueled my maturing eating disorder. If I ate, I had to throw up. Thighs and butt, I knew if I didn't, I would lose control of you. Of everything.
We waged war for a long time. I stopped trying to hide you, but I still wanted to suppress you. I wore tight pants, but only when I fit into a size 4 or less. Otherwise, no.
Gradually, I was able to leave bulimia in the dust (good riddance). But unfortunately, not having a good support system in place, I dove right into the other side of the eating disorder pool: anorexia.
When I switched gears and became anorexic, you disappeared again, thighs and butt. My happiness seemingly increased the larger the gap between you became, thighs, and the smaller you were, butt. I didn't miss you one bit. My life was great.
As it turned out, for some crazy reason, other people did miss you, thighs and butt. Apparently, romantic partners actually liked you; they found you sexy. They found that you made me "not like every other girl". They thought you were interesting. They missed you when you were gone. They liked me better with you than looking like a pre-pubescent teen for some reason. I was sure they were lying. I knew they were lying. I kept on losing weight.
Even people who had never met you seemed to like you. ACDC with their American Thighs. Sir Mixx a Lott wanted me to shake you, healthy butt. Freddie Mercury wanted me to ride a bicycle and flaunt you. I did not listen for a long time. I didn't listen to anyone except for my eating disorder.
But then, finally, one day I decided to get better.
Our relationship was strained at first. Even though I wanted to get better, with every bit of you that came back, thighs and butt, I felt like I was failing. I turned to clothing with elastic waists and cut the sizes out so I didn't have to deal with numeric reminders or increasingly snug fits reminding me of your presence.
You were so patient. When I started to get better again and to gain a healthy amount of weight, you came back. Slowly and quietly.
This time, I was able to work on both my mind and my body as I got better. I started doing yoga. I started riding my bike. And you know, thighs and butt, your strength greatly improves both of these activities.
It was hard coming back to a normal weight, but seeing your role in helping me do empowering things, like ride up a steep hill or hold chair pose slightly longer and more impressively than the person next to me in yoga class helped make me happy about your return.
Now, to people who know me, this last little bit might seem ridiculous, because I am a small person, and in general, people don't think I have a big butt or thighs. But regardless of your size, seeing your body change can be a difficult thing. To an anorexic, it is a huge deal to come to a "normal" size, even if that is still fairly small in the scheme of things. And quite honestly, it isn't helpful to be dismissed by people saying "but you don't have a big butt". Because it felt like a really big thing to me to gain you back, thighs and butt.
It wasn't an overnight thing, but now, I am happy you're there. I am happy that you're in my life, that you help me climb up stairs, help me hold my ground in the world, and make me more interesting.
Thank you, thighs and butt, for all you do. I like life and myself more now that we're friends.