Friday, June 01, 2012

C25K - Days 61 & 62 (and a little burlesque)

In other words, Week 9 Day 1!!!  I ran 30 minutes today!! 2.43 miles (walking time included)! Only 2 days of C25K left and in a week and a day I run a 5K in Central Park!!! Woo Hoo!!!

Running was easier this morning.  I feel like I'm finally at a place where I can start getting used to the distance I'm running.  This is the good part about leaving the intervals behind.  For a long time, I felt like every time I got used to where I was, it was time to add more on.  And that's still true - but adding time isn't so bad.  It doesn't change the beginning of the run, which gets easier every time.

My thoughts, as I ran today, were a little jumbled up because I had two big things on my mind - friendship and fears about my legs.  I think I'll sort it out and just tackle fear and leave my thoughts on friendship for another day.

OK, so let me just say it straight out - I don't like my legs.  Honestly, I'm not sure that there's a lot I like about my body overall right now - but I know I don't like my legs.  They are short and fat and fleshy.  From the knee down, they're not bad - nicely shaped, tapered ankle, not bad.  But from the knee up they're a mess - cellulite, loose flesh, and barely any visible muscle tone at all.

Skirts and shorts have always been a dilemma because my thighs rub together when I walk.  I have to wear leggings under skirts, and I'm kind of stuck with "Bermuda" length shorts.  So, even though I enjoy summer, it is also a bit of a nightmare when it comes to dressing myself from the waist down.

The other side of not liking my legs is that it causes me to make summer clothing choices that are not very girly, or enticing.  If I wear skirts, I usually choose long ones both for the comfort of wearing leggings under them and to hide my legs.  I am physically comfortable this way.  And I am emotionally comfortable, in that it renders me somewhat invisible.  I won't elaborate on the whole invisible thing right now, but let me just say that the desire to not be seen is a curse and a blessing.

But a few things happened in the last couple of weeks that made me face my discomfort and fear around my legs.  First of all I had a conversation with a male friend and asked him to be very honest about my attractiveness to men.  He said that I dress like one of the boys.

Now, I thought this was funny, as did many of my female friends.  My boobs are always on display.  No matter how schleppy I'm dressed, I am always wearing a good bra and a shirt that is either tight, or low-cut, or both.  I'm very comfortable with "the girls" - cute euphemism aside.  So, for someone to say that I dress like one of the boys, was funny - and yet, I kind of understood what he meant.

I don't go girly - I don't put out a girly image. There are lots of reasons for that - not the least of which is that it's physically uncomfortable.  And, in the summer - going girly, being enticing in that way, means showing leg - something I'm not comfortable with at all.

The other thing that happened was that my burlesque instructor announced that we would be doing, "stocking work" the following week, so we should come dressed in clothes that bared our legs.  What?  HUH?  No hiding in my baggy yoga pants?   Bare legs?  What?

This was the moment when I finally stopped deluding myself and understood that taking a burlesque class meant taking my clothes off!

And honestly, the thought of baring myself from the waist up was fine - but showing my ass and thighs?  Oh hell!!  I would rather show my nipples than my thighs any day!

Lastly, the weather got hot.  One day I was jogging in yoga pants and an old sweatshirt, and the next, I had on a tank top and my yoga pants were a sweat soaked mess, clinging to me and making every step an effort. But, what does someone who is afraid to show her legs wear to run in hot weather?

I think a couple of years ago, my response to these three things would have been to hide, to give up.  I would have dropped out of the class, only run on cool days, and just ignored the words of my friend.  But I am on this journey to face my fears and uncover the person who exists behind them.  So, after a couple of days of moping and feeling horrible, there was only one thing to do - bare my legs.

I started wearing a running skirt.  I wore it low on my hips so I could get a little extra length, but it still fell way above my knees.  I turned the music up louder and lost myself in it - if I just ran and listened to the music, maybe I could forget that the whole world could see my thighs jiggling along as I ran. It wasn't fun - but it wasn't horrible.  But could I face the world with my legs showing without the distraction of exercise and music?

I woke up on Wednesday and decided it was the day to find out.  I was having lunch with my parents, then meeting up with the friend who told me I dressed like one of the guys.  I bit the bullet, pulled out a short, flouncy skirt I usually wear with leggings, and put it on - without the leggings.  I even pulled out some little, strappy sandals with a low heel - and I walked out into the world.

And nothing bad happened.  I wasn't comfortable - but I wasn't humiliated either.  The skirt was a little shorter than my running skirt, but still mostly covered my thighs.  I felt kind of girly, kind of cute, very scared, a little embarrassed, and I survived it.  Apparently my legs are not hideous enough to make people run screaming down the streets.  Apparently, I can handle the little extra attention I got from men on the street by not being invisible (thankfully glances and smiles rather than comments).  Maybe my legs aren't so bad after all.

But the real test came for me at burlesque class.  Could I stand in front of a mirror and look at myself with legs exposed for an hour and a half?

Well, that was hard.  I felt awkward, awful - not at all sexy or alluring or attractive.  All the moves that seemed to flow from the other, longer-legged women in the class, looked clunky and clumsy on my short legs.  I became more nervous.  I fell off a chair.  And as I sat there on the floor, feeling like a crazy, old fool for even taking a burlesque class, something happened.

Earlier, I had asked the instructor what to do to make the moves look better on my short, fat legs.  She told me to learn to love my legs.  She said, "It's hard to unlearn stuff and see yourself differently."  I was frustrated, I wanted practical tips for how to move and she was telling me to love my legs!!!  How could I love my legs?  They're short and fat and lumpy! What's to love?

But as I sat on the floor, she came over, and gave me a hug, and helped me up.  And I looked in the mirror and tried again, and again, and again.  Some of the moves were awkward. But, somewhere in there - as I focused more on what my legs could do, than how they looked - I began to see the power in them.

Look at how I can point my toe!  Look at how I can stretch my leg out!  Look at how I can strut, and turn on my toes, and balance my body on the balls of my feet!  Look at how strong I've become.  The running is doing something.  I can do more than I could a week ago, a month ago, a couple of months ago.  And as I started thinking of all I could do, I found myself doing more. And when I strutted across the floor with my classmates and looked in the mirror, my legs didn't look so bad.

And while I can't say that I learned to love my legs,  I don't think I hate them quite so much today.

Tackling fear is hard.  But SO much of it exists completely in our heads.  My guess is that most people I passed, when I was outside in a skirt, did not notice my legs.  My fear was that people were looking at me thinking, "Doesn't she know she has NO business wearing THAT!"  But, they probably didn't see anything out of the ordinary worth making note of.  Those words were in my head - not theirs.

And that's the thing about fear - or at lest MY fears.  I project what my little hater says onto all humanity.  I think the world is filled with little haters - and in a way it is.  But most little haters are too busy hating on themselves to bother with hating me.


MamaKeepsGoing said...

This is I'm wondering if there are burlesque classes around here...

Gwenniegirl said...

I am a bit surprised at this post about being ashamed of your legs!! I too have been plagued by an uncomfortable relationship with my lower extremities ...but for exactly the opposite reason as you. Although my thighs are "not so bad", everything below the knee looks like they belong on someone else's body. I have always been a bit ashamed of my "race horse" legs - as they were once described to me. If you can envision the legs of a racehorse, although they are powerful, they are VERY skinny all the way down to the ankle. That's me!!
Since I was a child, I was always teased about the lack of muscules in my calves, not only by other children, but by my mother and brothers as well. I don't think they realized then that they were setting me up for many years of being embarassed by my legs. And then when their observations were confirmed by many "outsiders", the damage went even deeper. I once dared to wear a dress to work when I was in my 20s, and someone asked me if I had been sick! In retrospect I can laugh at the comment, but at the time, I was devastated. Such "harmless (which are meant to have the effect accomplished - hurtful)" comments from others only makes you more determined to keep the fact that you are "disfigured" under wraps!
BUT, as I have aged and matured (and other areas of my body begin to grab my attention), I realized how blessed I am to HAVE legs, no matter how skinny they may be (or seem). I have become mindful of those who have lost limbs due to illness or accidents, who would be VERY happy to have the legs that you and I are taking for granted, even having the audacity to complain about. So, with the wisdom I have acquired over time, I AM LEARNING (because I am not quite THERE yet) to embrace the ME that God has made, and be the best ME that I can be. The fact is, if all people can find "wrong" with me is the fact that I have skinny legs, I am ahead in the race! (I have even gone so far as to increase the number of dresses that I have in my wardrobe. This is MAJOR for me! I counted my dresses at the beginning of the year ...and I think I had THREE!!) The fact that I live in Texas, where the summer heat can be brutal, helped me release the urge to keep my legs covered all the time. I have convinced myself that the hotter it is outside, my legs "expand' and don't look as small! Hey ...don't judge me! Sometimes deluding oneself is helpful!! LOL
So, my dear Julie, the fact that we both have ventured out into the world, exposing our most hideous feature (according to us) and nobody ran for cover, shrieking as they headed for the hills, we can rest assured that they might not be that bad after all!
Our next hurdle is to drop the generic flavor of our style (which I have been attempting to do as of late) and embrace that we really are "girly" at heart! When we feel good about ourselves, others can't help but see THAT part of us and be blind to the things that make us FEEL "less than..."!
Keep up the good work with your exercise regime, because I am riding your coattails on this journey to a better attitude towards me! And I think it is safe for us to look in the mirror and see who we really are ...beautiful women, thick thighs/skinny calves and all!

Gwenniegirl said...

Oops ...spelled "muscles" wrong!! I knew that didn't look right! :D

Julie said...

Yes Gwen!! To everything you said. SO grateful to HAVE legs that I can learn to love. And - I've heard many Black women say that they were teased growing up for having legs that were too skinny. Personally, I can't imagine any such thing!!! Other than a few anorexic models, I've never seen anyone whose legs looked to thin to me. I would trade legs with you any day - except, well your legs would look kind of funny on my body - and vice versa. So I guess, I better just learn to love what I have.