“Darling, the legs aren’t so beautiful, I just know what to do with them.” Marlene Dietrich
I love my ankles, calves and shins. I include shins because of the three, my shins have taken the biggest beating and survived to tell great stories.
There are two body parts I know my father was very particular about on a woman. Oh, come on, it’s my dad! They were thin, delicate ankles and a long, graceful neck. In short, he would have been very happy with a swan. I never really understood the ankle thing, I mean, they’re pretty utilitarian, a juncture between the miraculous feet and, well, everything else. But then I met a woman who referred to hers as cankles. This would be the clever term for thick ankles denoting that her very calves have melted into her ankles.
To me, she looked like she had ankles. In her view, she had suffered through high school and college, hiding her ankles beneath long pants and socks. She had lost weight to the point of starvation, yet her cankles mocked her, diminishing nary a centimeter. Finally one day she realized she had the exact same legs as her mother and her two older sisters. They were all married, all happy and seemed to be oblivious to their plight. She realized that ankles were ankles and from that day forward she dressed like everyone else, shamelessly parading around in shorts and sandals, unafraid and unapologetic. Her confidence in her perceived flawed body part spilled into other areas of her life and she became the CEO of a large corporation, married a wonderful man and had three gorgeous children.
Gives me hope for my relationship with my thighs.
My own ankles have served me well. Scarred and bruised, they have never cracked under pressure. Never broken, never sprained. They have been twisted without damage while learning new dance steps, they have been stretched under me while attempting new yoga postures, and they have kicked many a soccer ball downfield, and they have always remained steadfastly true and stayed right where they were meant to be.
As a competitive swimmer for a minute and a half, a track star for 20 seconds and a dancer for a few years, my calves developed quite lovely on their own. Not too big, not too thin, just right. Then one day, I moved away from the city to live in a faraway land called Florida, without a car. In this magical land nothing was close to anything else and walking would take days and melting was a possibility. Public transportation had not yet been invented where I was living so, instead, I procured a bicycle and set about to get around on two wheels. The byproduct of this was massive calfage. Bodacious bricks. They were quite a sight to behold and once I recognized them as my own, I was a little proud. Today they are much softer and a lot less dangerous.
My shins on the other hand have seen some combat. As a soccer player for the better part of my childhood, shin guards could only do so much to prevent bruises and lumps and bumps. They took a beating. Being active outside of soccer left my shins defenseless as I ran around, climbed trees and overall had a blatant disregard for safety. On one particular occasion I wanted to share my gift of grace with a friend by showing her how adept I was at doing a walk-over in my living room. You know, gymnastics.
The handstand was flawless, straight up in the air, then as I began to narrate the walk over part something went terribly wrong. Instead of languidly placing my feet over onto the floor into a spectacular backbend, I crash landed into the coffee table. My entire shin scraped down the edge of the table removing most of the skin from the bone. But we were 15 so we laughed and laughed as I held my shin and secretly cried inside. It took many long minutes for it to even bleed. It was that deep. To this day I proudly wear not only the scar, but also the dent to my shin bone that resulted from my over-inflated sense of confidence.
All in all the lower half of my legs are keepers; they’ve been involved in all the hijinks and travel my feet have instigated. Every now and then one of my calves will cramp just to let me know it’s still there and maybe needs a little attention. So I take it to a yoga class and stretch it or to the gym or most recently I took both of them up, then down over 200 steps in a lighthouse. They were very chatty about that the next day.
Body parts speak but we’re usually too busy crafting stories with our mind about other more pressing matters such as hairstyles and deadlines. More importantly we are speaking to our body parts all the time; usually unconsciously and mostly negatively. Or we ignore them all together. Every day as you rush through your morning or bedtime routine, stop and take a little extra time to massage oil or lotion into all your parts, cooing and sharing sweet nothings with them. Each time you catch yourself berating your thighs or upper arms consider instead how valuable they are to your very existence. They’ll love your for it and they’ll respond in kind.
I have a great affinity for my calves and shins as they are the only part of my leg that usually sees daylight. My thighs often misbehave so I seldom let them out, but from the tops of my calves to the tips of my toes all is copasetic.