Tag Archives: body appreciation

My Thighs are Applauding (Shamu, Chub Rub, and our Secret Bodily Shames)

“When I said cute dress, I didn’t think you’d wear leggings underneath,” he said, resting his hand on my knee as we sat having drinks by the fire at a rooftop bar. Given I didn’t know quite how fancy the date was, I had asked if I should go with a cute dress or jeans. He’d suggested the dress, and realizing that if we walked anywhere my thighs would be rubbed raw, I stuck a pair of leggings on underneath. I feigned some excuse about how it was cold, but in actuality, I was trying not to blush that they were necessary to keep my curvy self rash-free.

I wasn’t bothered by his personal preference that I didn’t have them on (while I do take suggestions on occasion, no one gets to say what I wear but me), but the fact that I too would have preferred otherwise and couldn’t figure out how to make that happen.

it burnsThis chafing issue has plagued me for much of my life. I vividly remember getting splashed at the whale show at Sea World. My parents shepherded one drenched and exhausted little girl to the car. Yet as I walked back to the entrance, my legs burned. They felt like they were on fire, my soaked jean shorts suddenly grating my chubby thighs. I found myself hobbling, legs splayed, walking with a weird figure 8 motion as I tried to keep my legs apart, tugging my new black and rainbow t-shirt with a panda on it as far down as possible in a vain attempt to stop the pain.

That was the beginning.

take off pansIn the fifteen years since then, I’ve nearly stopped wearing dresses, skirts, and shorts, and on the rare occasion I don one of these non-pants articles, I typically only do so with a protective layer of leggings underneath.

I hated the rubbing feeling, the red rash on my inner thighs, spoiling my walks places, making even a short errand uncomfortable. And the sound! That slight smack-pull-smack-pull as my thighs rubbed against each other made me cringe. I was convinced everyone could hear my chatty thighs which inevitably screamed “LISTEN TO HER FAT THIGHS. SHE’S SO FAT THEY’RE CLAPPING THAT SHE CAN EVEN WALK.”

These days, the sound doesn’t bother me (they’re applauding my awesomeness!), but the burning that accompanies the sound does. It’s hard to have a night out dancing with your friends or strolling around town when you’re walking like you’re sheltering a herd of puppies beneath your thighs.

And then, low and behold, I saw that episode of The Office in which Andy contends with nipple chafing as he runs. WHAT. Chafing happened to people! Or at least, to Andy “Nard Dog” Bernard. I felt less alone, at least in that “oh, well, if it can happen to someone on tv, maybe I’m not being individually punished by the chub gods with my freaky thighs” kind of way.

I heard a rumor deodorant would help, but it was a shortlived solution, and there’s only so many times a day a girl can sneak off to apply antiperspirant to her thighs without beginning to loathe the smell of cucumber Dove.

oh my godA few years, many thigh-hole riddled pairs of leggings, and way too many sticks of deodorant later, I happened upon an article on chub rub. And not just any article-an article with actual preventative measures and garments! It was a revelation unto me!

And by “a few years later,” I mean last week.

So I’ve ordered a few different products! I used one today, wearing that same dress I’d worn with leggings on my date. It wasn’t the best choice given the nearly freezing weather when I got in the car, but I spent all day thrilled that I could walk around in a dress comfortably AND see my knees at the same time. Hello knees! You are beautiful, you dimply lumpy bumpy bendy things!

So what’s the moral of this? It’s simple. I felt so alone about something so normal. Something that was in the realm of my control, and I didn’t even know it. Why the hell don’t we talk about these things? Why did it take me 25 years and American sitcoms and the internet to realize my thighs weren’t outliers but were perfectly a-ok, and simply victims of friction? We all have bodies. We don’t have to be alone in the struggles bodies inevitably bring.

I’m challenging myself to talk more openly with people about the challenges of embodiment. Oily hair, sweaty thighs, that weird chin hair that sneaks up on you every few months…brace yourselves my friends. I want to know your tips and secrets!  I want to share your mucus-y, rashy, painful woes!

After all, as the newly half-score old great piece of cinema that is Highschool Musical reminds us, “we’re all in this together.”

Draw Me Like One of Your French Girls (art, self esteem, and taking it all off)

Fly Art combines hip hop lyrics with art history, resulting in ultimate flawlessness.
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus meets Beyonce (Fly Art combines contemporary lyrics with art history, resulting in ultimate flawlessness.) The day I see this painting with my face I’m going to cry with joy.

I used to walk along the halls of the Philadelphia Museum of Art soaking up self esteem from the curvy bathers of Renoir, the tender and thick thighs of Botticelli, and the voluptuous lines of Rubens’ ladies. Gazing at these images, I found a reverence for bodies like mine. In these bodies’ lumps and bumps the artists found something worth not only honoring through the creative process but also preserving for years to come on canvas. Fat was not the antithesis of beauty; it was a part of the beauty.

Each time I undress for a shower or bath, I try to take a minute to look at and really appreciate myself. Some days it’s harder than others. Embarrassing as it is to say, I pretend I am art. Sometimes I’ll be Venus on the half shell, or one of Renoir’s bathers. For an instant, the countertops and jars of lotions and creams disappear, and there I am in the canvas of my mind’s eye in all my curvaceous glory, surrounded by a lush landscape.

But imagining is one thing; to act is another.

A friend of mine recently asked me to pose nude for her. At first I was confused that she wanted to paint me. Why me? I’m just…so not perfect. Why spend the time to paint someone so flawed, who could really only achieve that magical standard in her mind’s eye?

Tina french girls
Pop culture inspired artist Aaron Morales puts this gem on t-shirts. Yes, please.

As a word of advice, she told me “This sounds silly, but think ‘Draw me like one of your French girls.’” As I stretched on her couch, my head resting on my arms, I was self-conscious, constantly noticing the swell of my tummy, the folds of my chubbiness, the stretch marks that tiger stripe my hips, and wow, my nipples are weird looking. Slowly but surely I became more comfortable as I watched her measure my thighs with her charcoal and gauge the rosiness of my breasts. After a while, it stopped feeling weird and started feeling comfortable. When I began to recognize that sense of comfort, I found a new sense of liberation.

The first time she showed me a painting of myself, I was shocked. Where I saw imperfection, she found grace, comfort, plushness.

I was beautiful for the human body’s sake, not for sake of sexuality or of being objectified. It didn’t matter what anyone thought of my body or whether they considered it sexy. All that mattered was that I existed in curves and swells, in tangled curls of too long brown hair, in pointed toes, in a sloped neck.

Renoir's The Large Bathers
Renoir’s The Large Bathers from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

In that moment, I got to stop pretending to be art. I was art. Everything shifted. My own body became infinitely more precious to me. Other people’s bodies became more precious to me, more beloved for their individual quirks and characteristics, for their myriad shades of color, for their thousand perfect details.

So, if you have a minute to spare today, just stand before your mirror and remember that your body is complex and amazing. Try your best to ignore any habitual criticism of yourself and silence those unkind voices attempting to compare you to others. Just be, and be beautiful. Let yourself be art for art’s sake.

And for your own sake as well.