Once when I was around nine or 10, I looked in the mirror and noticed that I’d suddenly grown a fairly impressive pair of what can only be described as massive, “child-bearing” hips.
This was sad for several reasons, not counting the fact that the term “child-bearing hips” makes me vaguely uncomfortable. First, I’ve never harbored anything close to a desire to have the kind of kids that would come out of me, so child-bearing hips are useless to me.
Second, this gave me an oddly proportioned body shape that was less Kim Kardashian, more Great Auntie. I was a 10-year-old built like a handsome and gracefully aging older woman.
My mom would reassure me that I wasn’t fat, but that I was “substantial.” I just had big bones, she’d tell me, and everyone’s butt claps a little when they run. This is my truth to this day.
I was walking alone on my way to meet a friend. Someone had given her comp tickets to a play, so I headed toward the metro stop where I’d meet her. It’s important to note here that at that particular moment, I thought I was the HOTTEST shit. I had some kind of leggings-centric outfit on and I truly felt that I was a prime piece of real estate.
I tend to think I’m more attractive than I actually am, but I think it would be accurate to point out that I looked exceptionally good and if I met me at a bar I’d make out with me in the bathroom.
I pushed the button at the crosswalk and was waiting for the light to change when I noticed a guy crossing toward the corner. He continued toward me, and I looked down at my phone as he passed because social anxiety wanted me to look down at my phone. As he walked by me, I heard him say “thunder thighs,” while I continued staring intently at my phone.
He spoke with a bizarre, cartoony game show announcer voice, and put the same enthusiasm into “Thunder Thighs!” as someone might if they were saying “The Amazing Spider Man!” or “Ta da!”
I looked up from my phone and realized I was sweating. The thunder thighs he was referring to had to be mine because I was the only person at the corner waiting to cross. The guy was standing there on the opposite corner, waiting for his light to change. I didn’t have anything to say besides mumbling “ugly stupid head” under my breath when the light changed and I crossed the street.
I wasn’t hurt as much as I might have been if this person would have calmly informed me in passing that I’m an utter disappointment to everyone I care about.
I would probably wonder how it is they acquired that information because no one can really know that, and being called thunder thighs isn’t as bad, but it hurt enough that my thunder thighs and I cried silently through Buried Child for reasons unrelated to the drama of a dysfunctional family shattered by the rural economic downturn of the 1970s and the disintegration of the American dream.
A few months later, it happened again when another stranger I passed on the street called me “thunder thighs,” only this time they were accompanied by a group of bros who laughed as they walked away and probably bonded over their shared disgust that my thundering thighs had offended them to the very core, so much so that they felt the need to let me know that they’ve been looking, and they did not like.
I wish I'd had some kind of empowered response that would totally make these people pee their pants and run away, but I didn’t because I was embarrassed and terrified and kind of disappointed at the lack of creativity I’ve been seeing here. If someone’s going to harass me and take time out of their day to tell me I didn’t give them a boner, they might as well put some thought into it. At least call me a harlot or a churlish tart or something.
I don’t know why a stranger would want me to know that my thunder thighs do not, in fact, give them a boner. These people could have called me “cankles,” “muffin top,” “man hands,” or what have you, and their reasons for doing it still wouldn’t have anything to do with whether or not I actually have thunder thighs or that I was wearing leggings as pants. I could turn a T-shirt upside down and stick my legs through the sleeves, and call those my pants; it still wouldn’t have mattered.
I’ve concluded that my thundering thighs were perceived as threatening and caused so many exploding synapses to the fine gentlemen I passed, that in that moment I caused them to question everything they knew to be real and fell into a spiral of disillusionment with life as they know it after that. At least, this is the story I tell myself as I fall asleep at night, holding it close to my little misandrist heart.