I have longish thighs that carry a lot of my fat. It's just the way my body is built. I can try to blast them into shape -- and I will to some extent -- but I've come to accept that they are the way they are. They don't easily squeeze into skinny jeans, but they do give me a greater, curvier silhouette in an A-line dress. I have a burn mark, a mole and, yes, some dimples there, too.
My thighs have always been the solid indicators of when I'm gaining weight. Before it was a thing, I noticed the presence, or lack thereof, of the so-called "thigh gap." Maybe it's because I'm slightly bow-legged -- but for me, the negative space, when there is negative space, is located in the middle of my quads and weaker hamstrings. When there is no negative space, I don't like the way my thighs brush against each other when walking; it's a feeling reminiscent of chafing. That's when I know I need to make a change.
The latest brouhaha with Old Navy being accused of photoshopping "thigh gaps on their plus-sized models" left me somewhat aghast when I turned to Google, which led me to a wiki on this suggested still-enduring "epidemic" known as thigh gap. Fortunately, it promoted health and not skinniness, and touched on the individual realities of achieving this physical feature. But not all women are created equal. With age I've learned the trick, or more so the beauty, is to know your body -- its limits and its potential. After all, self-awareness is power for self-improvement. Lipo and bottom aside, attributes are more or less God-given, not woman-made.
I get it. But I'm still concerned with impressionable teens and this next generation of girls. I'm glad plus-size models like Robyn Lawley have spoken out against the trend. They are the ones who are actual role models, the women that girls can look up to, although there are still of course tumblr blogs or hashtags dedicated to the thin, the skinny and the leggy. Of course, the images and the selling power of women's bodies are everywhere. It's not only an obsession in the U.S. or a short-lived phenomenon, either. Growing up, I used to pore over "Seventeen" and "Vogue" magazines, as well as Delia's catalogs. I thought I was looking at the makeup, the clothes and the accessories, but I sure didn't notice anybody who looked like me.
I only got compliments from Korean moms if I lost weight (literal translation) -- looking "healthy" was a politely masked dig. These days I love hearing "you look happy" and "you look great." For me, there's more of a focus on the feeling and not the image I project. Don't get me wrong, I'm hoping the stretch mark oil normally reserved for pregnant ladies will work its magic. But if and when I do start expecting, I expect my thighs to expand. And it'll be awesome.
There's no telling if I would have bought more stuff if it was all draped on the bodies of average women. I do recall being slightly obsessed with the surfer look by way of the Roxy brand, which I think was a great option for growing, athletic girls. But nowadays it's more about following an individual model's brand -- and whether they like it or not, those individual models carry some responsibility for showing off the quirky, the genuine and the fit.
Remember Dove's real beauty campaign? Who knows how many more soaps they sold or didn't -- but there's power to positive messaging. The multicultural lineup of ladies baring it all sticks with me. It's the subliminal and subconscious we need to learn about and fight against.
I'm OK with photoshopping for distractions, like say, flyways, but when the brush of a digital tool renders unnatural looks, it's noticeably wrong. I understand companies need to make a profit, but promoting an overstretched truth develops confusion and insecurities. And the interesting part is that most of the time, the clothes and images being marketed and/or debated feature garments that aren't seen every day. (Who wears a bikini to work, aside from models?)
I looked at myself in the mirror as I was writing this post and lifted up what I was wearing to check it out. In my mind, I thanked the body I live in, looking back on how many times I've been harsh and judged myself. Society has ingrained a behavior to compare ourselves to each other. The harder part is trying to be our own best versions. I am my own #thighgap #thinspiration. And for that, I'll give my thighs a hug and love my body a little more today. It is the vessel that takes me through my personal developments, and also the only one I have. I can't be a mannequin, but if I could be a real life role model maybe for at least one girl temporarily? That's good enough for me.