THUNDER THIGHS by KELSEY BARNES
The first time I had warped thoughts about my body, I was thirteen..
I was driving home from school with my mum and little siblings, lifting my leg up and down to the seat below me. This occurrence—watching my thigh expand as it rested on a surface I was sitting on—would be something I would do daily. My mother noticed and asked why I kept doing it, to which I said “my thighs are just so big when I sit down!” A year or so later, a boy in a high school math class would tell me over and over again that I have thunder thighs. He would not stop, relentlessly repeating it and reminding me, even after I would sheepishly look away, even after another girl told him not to say things like that, even after I was clearly uncomfortable and upset. I began not really liking my thighs at thirteen, but I started to really loathe them after his remark about my body. When I calculate it now, I’ve been upset about his unkind and uncalled for commentary for twelve years.
That commentary begins to eat at me; I hear the two words thunder thighs so often, it completely changes how I live my life. I love swimming, but I stop because I don’t want to wear a bathing suit in front of others. I enjoy the warm weather, but I don’t wear shorts because they never look like how I imagine they should on my body, on my thighs. I love feeling free and not caring about silly things, but when I’ve been getting dressed every morning for the last twelve years, I am always wondering what will make me look good rather than focusing on what will make me feel good.
People love to talk about us caring about our bodies because our bodies get us from place to place, they are vessels, they are the only thing we live in during this time on earth, but I don’t think they always need to be romanticized in such a way to make them seem more valid or more worthy of our care and love. Bodies are just as they are—all different sizes and shapes, with curves and no curves, with stretch marks and cellulite and scars and the like. They are our bodies and that alone should warrant acceptance from both ourselves and the people around us.
With this mindset, I purchased a bathing suit for the first time since I was in my early teens. It was what I wanted—all black, high-waisted, nothing over the top. I could almost already feel the warm sun and cool water on my skin. I could almost feel the freedom I felt in my pre-teens, not worrying about anything besides the sand I would inevitably be pouring out of my shoes for weeks to come and how much faster I could swim than my brothers. A week before our beach trip, I saw a quote in a major health magazine that read “The last thing you want to worry about is cellulite when you’re half-naked on the beach.” It was tempting to call off the trip after reading that, knowing in a few weeks I would be the one half-naked on the beach worrying about how I look, but I didn’t. I packed my beach bag, slipped a dress over my bathing suit, and still went. I owed it to myself (and to that bathing suit I bought a month prior).
There was no grand moment or revelation on that beach when everything changed; I still felt uncomfortable at times knowing that my body was exposed for the first time in front of so many people, but it was not the same feeling of discomfort that I felt in that math class. Sliding off my dress and feeling lake water on my bare skin for the first time in years was freeing, but not because I looked good, but because I no longer gave a damn. My body felt so foreign to me for so long because I spent so much time paying both too little and too much attention to it; covering it up, picking it apart, grasping flesh and pulling it backwards and forwards to make it look more slim. I would try to romanticize the times when it was smaller, firmer, more taut. A belly that curves inwards rather than out, a bum that is not dimpled with cellulite, and thighs that don’t expand every time I sit down. All of those things are normal, and it felt like my body and my mind were no longer on two different planets.
I know that deep down, I do love my body. I get frustrated when I compare how I look to other people because I know that we all have our own warped thoughts about how we look, that we all are just trying to love ourselves the best way we can.
Sometimes that just means buying the bathing suit, reading the toxic and warped headlines about losing weight and being thin, and jumping into the water anyways—thunder thighs and all.
Artist: Chloe Bruderer