My thighs touch. There was never a time when they didn’t. And if there was, I wasn’t aware of it, because I didn’t notice my thighs, as their own separate entity, until they were already touching. Or rather, I didn’t notice my thighs touched until I heard about how many people wished theirs didn’t.
When I was six, I had an extensive collection of Barbie dolls. While my Barbies never had the coveted Dream House or the pink convertible, they did have massive wardrobes to choose from, and I did nothing else but dress, then undress, then redress my dolls. I never looked at my dolls and envied them; I never wanted to look like them, because I had always assumed I just would, at least one day. A lot of women blame Barbie and her unrealistic proportions for their skewed view of their personal body image, and while I don’t doubt that playing with a leggy doll while at a crucial developmental stage can have the ability to psychologically fuck with you, I don’t think she was the root of my problems. Perhaps Barbie left her mark on me on a deeper, subconscious level, but I don’t think she’s the reason I heavily dislike my touching thighs.
My thighs touch because, while growing up, I was a binge eater. Binge eating is the middle child of eating disorders, the disorder that’s almost always overlooked. When you’re starving yourself or kneeling in front of toilets—you’re pitied and worried about. When you’re shoveling as much food as possible into your mouth because of some irresistible urge deep inside you— you’re called a pig and regarded as disgusting. Even now, after grappling with the disorder to keep it under control and losing a majority of the weight I’d gained, I have a skewed view of myself. A warped reality that makes it difficult for me to discern how I think I look from how I actually look.
I still get the urge to eat uncontrollably from time to time, a food-induced anxiety that keeps me thinking about that piece of pie I passed up at dinner, the anxiety that draws a mental picture of the pie and won’t erase it until I’ve eaten it—even though I didn’t want to. It’s all a mind game that I’d lose every single time I played, which was every day. Years of binge eating have left me with thighs that touch and a mind that’s convinced I’m 40 pounds heavier than I actually am.
So I don’t look like Barbie, even though I always assumed I would when I got older. I thought my stomach would shrink, my legs would thin out, and I’d grow six inches overnight. These are the things you think when you’re six and you have nothing else to worry about. Growing up in a world obsessed with outer appearances didn’t help, either. Magazines that pit women against each other in “Who Wore It Better” contests (in which the thinner person almost always won), ads for weight loss supplements that seem incapable of portraying a person larger than a size four as anything but unhappy with the way he or she looks, and lambasting celebrities on the cover of magazines for daring to wear swimsuits that reveal their cellulite were all contributing factors to my mental derailment. I saw how badly everyone around me wanted to be thin and I knew that I wasn’t; I found myself reaching into the pantry to soothe the disappointment I felt when I realized that you don’t just acquire the proportions of a doll with age.
My thighs touch. Sometimes, when it’s really hot out—too hot to wear long pants—they rub together. This creates a searing, burning, stinging sensation that travels up my body with every step I take. They chafe against each other with such force that I find holes in my favorite jeans only months after purchasing them. My touching thighs have hurt me physically and have ruined my clothes, causing me more than just emotional distress over the years.
Recently, Barbie got a makeover. Now, she looks more like an average girl, a girl who’s short, with a round stomach and touching thighs. She looks more like me. There are other new Barbies too, Barbies that are tall, or dark skinned, or petite with short legs. Barbie is infinitely more relatable now, not just to me, but to a lot of different types of people.
I’ve watched the concept of beauty evolve incredibly over the two decades of my life. When I reached the epitome of my pre-teen youth, the world was in its Paris Hilton phase: short skirts, tight tops and skinny legs. Now on the brink of full-fledged adulthood, I’ve seen Tess Holliday become the first size 22 model to land a contract with a mainstream modeling agency and Ashley Graham assume the position of Sports Illustrated's first plus-sized cover model. I watch Lena Dunham unabashedly strip down to her underwear every Sunday on an episode of HBO’s Girls. Women around me are becoming comfortable with their bodies, showing off their bodies rather than hiding the parts they find unflattering, and the trending Instagram hashtag for Visible Belly Outline has received more positive feedback than negative backlash, something that would have never happened in the early 2000s.
And yet here I am, wishing my thighs wouldn’t touch. I see the changes around me, I see the way women are embracing their bodies and I love it. I cheer for them on the sidelines, I retweet and share the articles and the photos and I actively support the Eff Your Beauty Standards hashtag. I want so badly to take part in this movement, to love myself fully and wholeheartedly, yet somehow, I can’t push myself to do it, to love my touching thighs, the curve of my stomach, the inch of fat that pinches beneath my bra strap. It’s hard to explain why I feel like this, mostly because I’m not even sure of it: I support the way beauty has changed, and I acknowledge that all bodies are beautiful. All bodies, it seems, except for mine.
My thighs touch. It is likely that they will always touch. They will continue to chafe, leaving holes in my denim pants. The will continue to wobble as I climb stairs, or run laps, or dance on a Saturday night. My thighs touch and while, that may not ever change, the way I feel about them can. In fact, I hope it does—I want nothing more than to love my touching thighs.
Elissa is a 22-year-old studying journalism in New Haven, Connecticut. Hailing from Long Island, she doesn’t correct anyone who assumes she’s from the city, just like she doesn’t correct anyone who assumes she’s a student at Yale. Besides drinking too much coffee and daydreaming about traveling the world, she spends most her time writing, reading and complaining about the weather. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @elissasanci.
Image via Tumblr/ Sara M Lyons
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Elissa Sanci is a twenty-something writer who's now a grad student studying journalism in New York because she was reluctant to start the real world. Besides drinking too much coffee and daydreaming about traveling the world, she spends most her time writing, reading and complaining about the weather. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @elissasanci.