I am forty-one years old. That happened this summer.
I am solid in my emotional convictions about birthdays (love them) but also odd numbers (hate them),
but forty-one seems to be here for a while longer, and we are becoming friends.
Since I am the age that I am, I feel old enough to finally say this: I’ve never liked my legs.
I wanted them to be thinner, to look cute in a skirt or at least in shorts. I wanted cheerleader legs. I got tree trunks.
Everything is thick. Like, “roomy calves” in the boots section of the shoe store.
Someone once told me I was “thicker than a bowl of oatmeal,” and it took me a few minutes of research to learn that this was a compliment. At which point Peter wanted to know who in the actual hell was making such comments about his wife’s lines and curves.
A fair question, since I raised my own question at the dinner table and prompted a visit to Urban Dictionary and some lengthy diatribes in reply. The men in my life were all eyebrows.
My P. E. teacher told one of the prettiest girls in my class that he had “seen better legs on a table.” It strikes me now as obviously and wildly inappropriate, but at the time I found it most of all puzzling, since she was so cute in her coveted pleated cheerleading skirt. That’s exactly how I learned that some men like curves: because our P. E. teacher thought her legs were too skinny.
(Again, wildly inappropriate that I would learn that from a male P. E. teacher.)
Anyway, I didn’t like my legs. Never have.
Until I turned forty-one.
Peter gave me a bike for my birthday (after we came to the collective decision that we are not made for tandem riding), and I have ridden it every weather-friendly day since he gave it to me. (And through a couple of rain showers.)
Here’s what I learned: I don’t get tired. I can ride and ride and ride, for hours and miles looped together, and my legs do not get tired. I have not yet worn myself out.
Sometimes the body you get comes with strength you didn’t know you’d need.
Sometimes it comes in the beat of your heart, in the song in your spirit, in the strength in your core.
And you can hate it if you want, and you can wish it were different,
Or you can learn to love what you have,
To ride on the wind of your own strengths.
Without these strong legs, I wouldn’t get to enjoy the hills and valleys of the back country,
the way the air changes when I pedal through the pine grove or past the fast food chains,
the glorious breeze around Lake Dillon,
and the occasional opportunity to pass Peter on the left.
Indeed, I got tree trunks. Strong like an oak tree.
~ ~ ~
p. s. Just for fun, I’m tossing this in here. We like to call this piece: We Aren’t Made for Tandem.