When I was a little girl, my mother would make a futile attempt to take a short afternoon nap on weekdays. Always bored and often lonely, I would notice that she was no longer in the kitchen rolling out a pie crust or in the backyard bent over the grass with her dandelion weeder in hand, and I would head to her bedroom and push the door open, slowly.

“I’m trying to have a rest,” she would say.
“But, I’m bored,” I would respond.
Every so often I would say that I was hungry, instead, and she would answer “have an orange,” even when there were no oranges in the kitchen.
She would do her best to deflect my advances, but it never worked. I would crawl up on the bed and lie down across from her. This, too, was boring after a minute or two and so I would study her khaki shorts with the elastic waistband and her yellow, sleeveless golf shirt that was failing, in spots, to cover the heavy-duty Maidenform underwire bras that she wore.
I would run my hands up and down her calves, which were usually covered with an 1/8th of an inch of stubble and a few spidery veins.
“Can you stop that?,” she would ask.
“But they feel so prickly,” I would say.
My legs will never look like this, I would think. My legs looked more like my fathers with their exceptionally large thigh muscles that during tennis season in high school would get so large and tan that they would look like a second set of knee caps poking out above the originals. I had more freckles. And I always shaved, of course. And I always would shave.
I would never have long, mischievous hairs show up on the back of my thighs that would be impossible to see with my middle-aged eyes in the shower. I would never wear underwear that was too big and reached to my belly button because it was comfortable. My inner thighs would never have brown, brambly pubic hair that was impossible to control. My legs would never grow tired and floppy. That is what my 9-year-old self said.
But last night as I looked at my legs, sticking out from beneath my over-sized Jockey underwear that reached to my bellybutton (they are really comfortable!) as I lay on the bed, I realized that I had become her. My legs were her legs, and I would only have a minute to take this all in because my 4-year-old was yelling from upstairs that she needed to be tucked in, and the dog needed to be let out to pee, and the coffee needed to be prepped and the sandwiches needed to be made for the next workday. My legs were prickly, pale and starting to show signs of little spidery capillaries. I could see the blue river of veins beneath the surface of my skin, and I knew that it was just a matter of time before those would bulge out and make their way to the islands of unruly hair.
How my legs look no longer matters all that much to me. If my daughter wanted to run her hands up and down them, telling me that my legs felt so prickly, I would just nod in agreement and ask her to leave me alone for a few minutes.
I don’t bake pies, and we don’t have any dandelions, but I need afternoon naps and a shower, so I can shave.

Sarah writes with sarcasm about science, gender, feminism and fertility issues on her blog sarahanngilbert.com. She is writing a memoir about her experience becoming a parent. Sarah lives in Denver with her wife, two girls and an ungrateful dog. If she had more free time, she would spend it lobbying the state government to make down vests and flip-flops the official uniform of Colorado. You can talk to her on Twitter @sarahanngilbert.

1 Comment

  1. I love this, Sarah. It’s funny how we catch glimpses of our mother’s in ourselves: whether that be physically or personality wise as an adult- or both.

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