I got thighs.
The kind that will never really give me a thigh gap unless I spend weeks doing straight cardio, eating kale and apple slices and nothing else.
My Dominican mom gave me thighs, and then she gave my sister bigger thighs, and so between the two of us, there are a lot of ruined jeans, with holes where our thighs rubbed. I now buy pants that I really like with a sense of dread; they’ll only live for so long. They’re guaranteed a slow death if I buy them. And so I feel guilty that I’m taking them home, only to accidentally shred them by walking around.
I remember my grandmother applying lotion to my legs when I was in elementary school. I didn’t know that I had heat blisters from the chafing until I had taken a bath that night and said that the soap hurt me.
“Sancochaste las batatas,” she said. Your cooked your yams.
I remember being jealous of the chicken-legged girls in the locker room during high school. They didn’t jiggle. Their legs were smooth and pale and skinny, and when they stood up straight, there was a slight space, which meant that they didn’t chafe when they wore dresses or skirts during the summer.
I remember trying baby powder and body oils, but they’d only last for so long. And then I’d half-waddle home to put shorts under my dress to avoid inflaming my skin. I remember running home and plopping down on my bed. My sister asked me why I was walking bowlegged. I fanned my thighs with a book, and she silently handed me a small tube of lotion that I applied to my stinging skin.
A distant cousin calls her thighs pernils, aka the large baked pork shoulders that people eat in the Caribbean for holidays and special events. I grew up around thunder thighs and complaints about pants splitting at the seam. I’ve busted out of pants by stretching the wrong way. It’s why I rarely wear jeans anymore. I like joggers made of loose materials or jeans that aren’t jeans but actually jeggings. Tights are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
It was supposed to be pretty cute to have thighs whenever I was with other women of color. Selena and JLo were my queens. So were the curvy women on the cover of the “urban” novels that were sold on the street by Union Square. I wanted to buy one when I was around fourteen, but the vendor said:
“You’re too young, baby, come back in a few years.”
He refused to tell me what the novels were about.
I’d watch music videos from Latin America and hip-hop videos on television when my parents weren’t looking, and I’d wonder how the dancers didn’t chafe. Did they have racks of body oil and baby powders?
(This was before I read a blog post from a stripper and learned that you had to rub a scentless deodorant or antiperspirant on either leg to stop the chub rub.)
American music videos seemed to like midriffs. There were scenes in television shows and movies where actresses asked each other if their butts looked too big in a certain dress or pair of pants.
“She’s so skinny,” my mom said during one of the scenes. “Why does she want her legs to be so small?”
The friend told her that her butt and her legs weren’t big, and the other actress squealed in delight. I looked down at my legs and cringed. My body was nothing like hers.
Mainstream American magazines and movies before the mid-2000s focused on flat stomachs and boobs. I didn’t have either. I still don’t. But I got thighs. And now they’re in the music videos, and on Kardashians, and on what an old friend problematically called “Instagram thots.” A friend complimented my thighs, and I had to explain that I’m “Caribbean average” and soon to be “American average” if people keep announcing squat challenges and booty implants on social media like they would announce a new job offer or going on vacation.