I know a lot of folks equate cellulite with getting older, but a lot of us life-long chubby ladies know that cellulite doesn’t just show up magically when your age changes. In fact, my very first memory of even knowing anything about cellulite was in 8th grade. It was right after school started—in August—the hottest time here in Indiana, and I wore a pair of shorts to school. I remember sitting down at a desk in some classroom and another student made some typical pre-teen comment about how gross my thighs looked. I’d always been a big, tall girl (I think I was probably taller than my Kindergarten teacher—during Kindergarten), so bullying about being fat was nothing new to me—and I’d learned to just brush it off mostly—but this particular comment was new and shook me to my core. I knew my thighs were big and thick as tree trunks, but I had no idea that they were all dimply and un-smooth.
That day, I stopped wearing shorts.
I didn’t wear shorts all through high school. Not when we went to an amusement park for a class trip and it was 95°. Not when I was at band camp (yes, band camp, color guard, represent!) and outside marching for eight hours at a time in August heat and humidity. I didn’t wear shorts in college. Not when I had a summer drawing class that required me to sit outside in the sun for three hours sketching wildlife. Not when I went to the Indy 500 and it was nearly 100° and I was sitting in the sun. I didn’t wear shorts after college when I went to visit my then boyfriend/now husband for a week and he had no A/C in his house in July.
Whenever someone would ask why I was wearing pants or capris or a skirt (not a short one, obviously) and not something a little bit shorter and a little bit cooler, I’d tell them that I just “wasn’t a short person” or that I was “more modest than that”. Neither of those were true. The truth is, I just didn’t want anyone to see my dimpled thighs. Of course I wanted to wear the cute little shorts that all my friends were wearing. Of course I wanted to wear something cooler during the oppressive Midwest summer. I just didn’t feel like I could wear shorts. Not only did I feel like I needed to hide my insecurity (quite literally, with fabric), but I also felt like I “owed” it to society to cover up a part of my body that was less-than-perfect. It was the whole “nobody wants to see that” mentality.
It wasn’t until I hit 25 that something occurred to me—maybe cellulite isn’t really that big of a deal. And even bigger than that, maybe if other people have issues with my body, it’s just that—their issues. I’d been carrying around the baggage of some stupid middle school comment a bit too long and it was time to reformulate my mindset about my body and my legs. I started thinking of all the great qualities my legs have. I’m tall and have long, strong, muscular legs. My legs let me run (most of) a half marathon. My legs carried me 40 miles through the streets of Chicago for breast cancer research. Every morning, my legs wake up with me and get me out of bed (although, admittedly, they are a little stiffer in the mornings than they were a few years ago). Maybe I don’t love my cellulite individually (I don’t). But my cellulite is a part of these amazing legs of mine, and those legs are part of this incredible body I have. And because of that, I learned to be okay with my cellulite. And because I’m okay with it, I learned that everyone else would have to be okay with it, too.
Once I made that shift in how I thought about my legs, the shorts started coming back. It was no longer about hiding something I wasn’t comfortable with (what I considered a “flaw”) but now it was about wearing what I wanted to wear and showing off a part of my body that had given me so much.
The wardrobe change was a gradual process. I bought one pair of shorts (short ones!) and would wear them every now and again. And then another pair. And then some shorter skirts and some shorter dresses. The confidence snowballed, because I finally felt like I was wearing the clothes that I’d been wanting to wear since I was 13. I didn’t have to skip huge sections of clothes in the summer racks just because I couldn’t show my legs. A whole world of beautiful things were opened up to me. I felt more like me because I was wearing the clothes that I wanted to. Ignoring society norms of what was a “good” and a “bad” body turned out to be incredibly empowering. And empowerment=confidence in my world.
Now, I pretty much live all summer in short shorts and short dresses. Sure, my cellulite shows. Heck, I’m even sure that as I’ve gotten older, it’s getting worse (although, I don’t know, because have you ever tried looking at the back of your legs?). And I know that there are certain things a woman isn’t supposed to wear once she turns 30 (I’m almost sure the pigtails and short shorts I have on while I’m typing this are no-nos in some book of how ladies should dress in their 30s). But I feel awesome.
I’m okay with people seeing that my legs are cottage cheese-like. I’m okay with people whispering under their breath about how some people just shouldn’t wear certain clothes. You know why? Because it’s not about those people. It’s about me. It’s about me wanting to wear the clothes I want to wear and finding a way to be okay with my not-at-all runway-caliber body. I’m sorry if a quick glimpse of my dimpled thighs is offensive to you, but that’s obviously your issue, not mine. And when I accept that I have no control over the issues of others and stop internalizing their commentary, I can clear away the mud and see how I really think and feel. And without the influence of some brat in middle school or some magazine or some TV show telling me I shouldn’t wear what I want to wear, I know that I love wearing shorts. And I’m going to keep on keepin’ on as long as it makes me feel good (and as long as Indiana summers have 90°/90% humidity days).
My next clothing peak to climb: the two-piece swimsuit. I’ve never worn one as an adult (in fact, I think the last time I wore one, I was probably three). And I want to. I’ve been waiting. Waiting until I lose some weight. Waiting until my body is more toned. Waiting until I’m ready to strut down the beach in something skimpy. But, for me, I’m learning that body confidence doesn’t come from my physical body. It doesn’t come from how I look in the mirror or how I look in clothes or how much the scale says I weigh. Body confidence comes when I decide to be happy in the body that I have. And nothing says “happy body” to me than lounging on a beach somewhere in a beautiful bikini. Chubby belly and all.
Is there any kind of clothes out there than you want to wear but don’t because of your body? What’s holding you back?