Me and my legs. It’s complicated.
Like a lot of women, I have been waging a rather futile war against a body part of mine for decades now. Ever since I was in my teens, I’ve been self-conscious about my legs. They’re short, thick and being that I have very fair skin, that is jokingly referred to by friends, family and even medical professionals as being see-through, they’re splattered with visible spider/varicose veins in fairly prominent places.
All this has meant that I’ve gone to great lengths to always keep my thighs covered. Somewhere along the way – and I’d hazard a guess it began as a teenager in the 90s when Kate Moss and heroin chic reigned supreme – I ingested a message that my thighs were not rail thin and blemish free, therefore they should never see the light of day. It’s sad and depressing to look back on, but nonetheless true.
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And despite what people may or may not see when they look at my legs, no amount of reassurance from well-meaning loved ones has been able to make me feel differently about them over the years.
Primarily, because that’s not how insecurities work. Insecurity, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "a state or feeling of anxiety, fear, or self-doubt." And we all know that where anxiety goes, rational thinking does not flow.
In terms of my wardrobe choices, my body image insecurities have translated to some very strict self-imposed rules that I’ve followed religiously since my early twenties.
Above the knee dresses? Only if they’re paired with opaque black tights.
Mini skirts? Not in a million years.
Short shorts? Never even heard of them.
I’m all about the midi skirt or the maxi dress and for the most part it served me fine. They’re comfortable, flattering, and most importantly keep my thighs sufficiently covered at all times. But sometimes on some 30-plus degree days, I’d have a fleeting thought: It’s so hot. It’d be nice to just throw on a pair of shorts.
"But you can’t," the old loop would begin. "Your thighs, your veins. People might see them!!!"
And so, another summer would pass sans shorts and that would just be that.
However, a few years after having my third and final child and nudging towards my forties, I started looking into treatment options for my veins. (I’d been told by a doctor prior to having kids that I’d be best to wait till I was finished having children before I commenced any treatment. The doctor said this was because of the tendency for veins to increase during and post pregnancy, which was certainly the case for me.)
Encouraged by the body positivity movement and somewhat emboldened by nearing my forties, I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could come to accept the shape of my legs if I could just get rid of the veins.
I began to harbour a vain vein dream that perhaps my fortieth summer might just be the one where I finally start wearing shorts again. Not with confidence exactly but with less self-consciousness, perhaps.
And so about two years ago I began sclerotherapy, which is a form of treatment that involves injecting a solution (generally concentrated saline) into the vein that causes it to shrink and disappear over time. It’s painful and it’s expensive and for me, it didn’t really work. While it was quite effective at treating some of the larger varicose veins, it wasn’t so successful when it came to the spider veins.
From the outset, I’d been told that for every 100 patients my doctor sees per year there’ll be around one or two that the treatment won’t fully work for, and unfortunately, I just happened to fall into those small stats. After several rounds of treatment and seeing my fortieth birthday and another summer come and go, my doctor broke the news to me that there was nothing more she could do.
"Well," I said visibly disappointed, "I guess there’s only one thing left for it now."
"What’s that?" she asked curiously, after telling me – not for the first time – that laser most likely also wouldn’t work.
"Radical self-acceptance," I replied.
Listen to Fill My Cup. On this episode, Deni Todorovič shares how they learnt (and are learning) to love their body. Post continues after audio.
She let out a little laugh and I let out a long sigh because, ugh, wasn’t that the exact thing I was trying to avoid here? I would literally rather pay someone to stick needles in my legs than accept them as they are and coming to this realisation has been as confronting as it has been liberating.
So this summer, at 41, I decided to throw away my outdated wardrobe rule book, and I just started wearing shorts again. Mostly the wide leg variety and at first only to the beach, but as the summer progressed so did my inclination for wearing shorts again.
After all the years of exile, I’d forgotten how much of a reliable, versatile wardrobe staple they can be. A pair of denim shorts goes with almost anything and you never have to worry about them billowing around in the breeze. Most importantly though, shorts are so much cooler in warmer weather, especially when exercising. On a side note, I’m still just as shocked as anyone to know that I now own a lilac pair of bike shorts. Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhat?
While getting my legs out again has definitely felt scary and uncomfortable at times for the most part it’s been largely inconsequential. I don’t know what I was expecting but nobody has arrested me on a public order offence to date. Firstly, because literally nobody cares if I wear shorts or not, and secondly because exposing my imperfections is not a crime, despite what my anxious brain and beauty obsessed culture may try to tell me.
And though I can’t say I’ll be rushing out to buy a pair of Daisy Dukes or giving up on my fake tan just yet, I can say that re-writing your own wardrobe rules is always a good idea. And if you can come to this conclusion without sticking needles in your legs, all the better for you, and your legs.
Emily McGrorey is a full-time reader, part-time procrastinator, freelance writer, casual Pilates student, and aspiring author. You can follow her on Instagram here.
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