when did we all become so obsessed with thigh gaps anyway?
My mum says that when she was a little girl and she was late to school (as usual), she would have to tear across the cornfield next to her house to make it to the bus. One winter, when the field was slick with ice and snow and she was running to the bus, she slipped. She wasn’t even aware of the massive scrape that ran down her thigh until she sat down on the bus and noticed the blood.
I only think of this because just recently, when I was playing soccer, I ran and was accidently (she swears it was an accident) tripped, and skid on the turf. I had a nasty raspberry down my thigh, speckled with blood and Astroturf pellets. All very pleasant, I know. But anyway, as I was sitting at the kitchen table later that night, cleaning out the wound with hydrogen peroxide and plenty of expletives, I started to really look at my thigh. Not in a glancing, contextual way, but in a separated, stand-alone view. Like, if you saw a thigh, walking down the street, what would you think? (Other than that you were losing your mind, of course.) And I realised something. Something pretty big, in a way. Thighs are actually absolutely, unequivocally, very obviously, truly, and in every way, ugly.
Yup. I’m telling you that thighs are ugly. But hear me out on this one.
When you look at a thigh, big or small, in comparison to the rest of the generally beautiful parts that make up our bodies (other than toes, maybe, because those aren’t too gorgeous, either), they are actually quite unattractive. So you can imagine my surprise when the whole “thigh gap” thing came out. Here were people saying, ‘Look! We found beautiful thighs! This is what they look like!’ So I was really quite intrigued. Then, I looked at the picture. And I kind of was just like, ‘Huh?’
These “thigh gap” thighs were really not any more beautiful than other thighs, and I was pretty sure that if I met one on the street I would not give it any more attention than the next thigh over. Yet, the “thigh gap” thighs have become America’s trending focus. Truly, the newest fashion statement has become a margin of space between two (pretty naturally unattractive) features on one’s body. So I wondered, what if the next big thing was a gap between teeth? And I realised that this would never work because this wasn’t really about space or thighs at all, really, but about being thin. Because what is a thigh gap intended to symbolise, after all? Which turns out to be America’s not-so-trending-so-much-as-all-consuming focus. Being thin, I mean. When did we become so obsessed with thinness? When did we become so attached to the idea of being thin that we broke our ties with happy, with healthy, with imperfect? Because what is life anyway, if not imperfect?
Somehow, girls have become more concerned with the state of their thighs than the state of the world. What happened? Was the state of the world too painful, too dangerous, too crazy to want to think about it?
So instead, we look at our thighs. And we think that somehow, a half-inch between our thighs will make us a worthier person. We want to be perfect, and we have decided that a thigh gap is the gateway to perfection. That Perfect is a paradise we are locked out of; a place just over the next thigh gap and down the road. But you know what I think of perfect? I think it’s boring. I think it’s stupid. In every massively important and clichéd way, you do not need to be perfect. In fact, imperfection is the best, greatest, most human thing around. And what is so crazy here is that having thighs that touch isn’t even an imperfection. It’s just one of the versions of normal that exists. And, at the end of the day, thighs are pretty ugly no matter what you do. (I mean really, right?)
So maybe next time when you look down at your thighs and tell yourself something horrible about how you are disgusting/fat/ugly/fill in the blank, I want you to really think about what you are saying. Think about how your thighs are doing a really nice thing by holding you up and all, and how they really don’t deserve to be insulted. And how you really don’t deserve to be insulted because, and I really mean this, you are great. Yes. You are. And an unnatural thigh gap is not going to change anything. Because once you get yourself a brand new, shiny thigh gap, you’ll find something else to hate. A thigh gap is not the answer. Loving yourself, and accepting the fact that, yeah, you are fucking amazing and deserve everything you can possibly imagine, thigh gap or no thigh gap, is what’s going to “fix” things. So maybe next time, when the whole trend train comes around, we can make loving ourselves the next focus. Because more than anything, that is what we need.
Alexis Gordon is 16 years old and lives in Southern California. She spends much of her free time writing, practicing yoga, and playing soccer, and has unfortunately inherited her mother’s lateness. She is a Scorpio and still convinced she will one day wake up with magical powers like those of Matilda (think Roald Dahl). Alexis has also recently had work published in Cuckoo Quarterly.