My whole world changed the day I noticed Tiffany D’Amore’s legs. It was a brisk afternoon in the fall of freshman year. We were changing classes, ambling in pairs down the narrow path that led from Main Building to the Library Building. We stopped on the path to chat with a group of fellow freshmen making the reverse commute. And there, against a backdrop of red maple trees, over talk about a grueling biology test and the upcoming dance at St. Peter’s, I glanced down and looked at Tiffany D’Amore’s legs. She was wearing navy blue stockings, just like half the girls around me. Our school’s uniform policy permitted stockings and knee socks, which I was sporting at the time, slouched down (a rather questionable trend, but hey, when you have to wear a uniform to school everyday, you find even the smallest ways to rebel). I looked at her legs and I was dumbfounded. They were so slender, so…….feminine! They traveled through space, from her thin thighs to her delicate ankles, gliding and tapering off, displaying lissome contours that were enhanced by her stockings. And my own legs, which up until a minute earlier I had liked just fine, suddenly seemed like thick, white slabs of shapeless marble, with grey knee socks slouched down around the ankles. They looked grotesque to me – grotesque and manly.
That day on the path kickstarted a period of “body critiquing” that lasted for……..well, I guess I’m still in it. Prior to noticing Tiffany D’Amore’s perfect legs, I never really disliked my body or even parts of it. In grammar school I may have been a little bit chubby, but I was tall and athletic and I carried my weight well. For all those years wearing shorts on the basketball court, I never worried about how my legs compared to my teammates’ legs. All I cared about was demolishing Our Lady Queen of Peace to get into the playoffs. And in the Sacred Heart School social scene, I had always been popular with boys. I even dated Eddie Walsh, the gorgeous 7th grader who transferred in from public school. Eddie Walsh! The point is I was confident. I felt okay about my looks, my body. But all of that natural confidence vanished instantly the day that Tiffany D’Amore’s legs tore a gaping hole in my worldview. Her legs looked like a model’s legs. They looked like the legs of the sexy lawyers on “Ally McBeal” or of Monica on “Friends”. She had Courtney Cox legs. Up until that day, I guess I had thought that legs like that existed on TV and in magazines but not in real life – or not in my real life! Not yet! But there they were – flawless and very real. And suddenly the future seemed looming, menacing. If a girl my age could have legs like that, legs so much nicer than my own, what other parts of me would soon fail to measure up?
In the many years since that day, my weight has gone up and down. But even when I was at my thinnest, even when I was squeezing into the tightest skinny jeans J. Crew carried, I would still look down at my calves and grimace. Short of getting some crazy resculpting plastic surgery, my legs will never look like Tiffany D’Amore’s legs. They just aren’t built that way.
I recently popped into the Gap and bought a pair of shorts on sale. I’m hoping this will be the summer that I feel confident enough to wear them out, everywhere, not just within the safe confines of my apartment. Hey, this just might be the year.