It was Monday night and it was hot. Really hot. As I rummaged through my closet getting ready for dance class, none of my regular outfits seemed appropriate. My linen pants were too heavy. My flowing ones would keep the heat in. The exercise ones would stick to my legs. Just touching the material made me grimace. I knew that it wasn’t going to get cooler as the night progressed. Body heat contained in our class would only push the temperature up, even if the outside temperature dropped a degree or two during the evening.
So I did something I haven’t done in perhaps 10 or 20 years—I wore a skirt that showed my knees and a half of my thighs. Gasp! I know it sounds silly, even as I tap out the tale here, but fear or shyness or some other ridiculous emotion has prevented me from displaying my legs (and wearing the right clothes on hot days). Whenever I have worn a short skirt, boots were a constant companion. Or tights. Or both. Sure, I’ve worn a bathing suit (water is just as good as a sarong), but not without the accompanying anxiety-driven perspiration as I moved to and from my towel.
I suspect all of us have that thing we don’t like about ourselves. Some people use cover up to hide their complexion, a hat to cover thinning hair, or avoid sandals to hide toes. We wear baggy clothes to hide our shape, and heels to give the impression that we’re taller. The list goes on… But for me, it’s been my legs. For years, I’ve worn long skirts, and pants, or capris. I could outline the boring details of what specifically I don’t like about my legs, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s in my head. I can intellectually say it’s ridiculous, but my emotions have won this battle over and over again.
But on that particular night, I wore the short skirt. As I walked toward the building, I’d wished I’d brought a safety pair of pants in my bag just in case I chickened out. Once inside, I felt as if I wore a gigantic sign above my head pointing to my legs and their flaws. I held my breath as I removed my shoes and self-consciously moved between other bodies as I waited for the music to lead me away from my critical thoughts.
It worked. The music grabbed me and I forgot to care that my bare legs were visible. The pink fabric swished across my skin as I moved. It made waves as I spun. It floated as I leaped. I was alive in a new way. Maybe I’m ready to outgrow caring what other people think—perhaps that’s one of the benefits of approaching 40.