Yesterday: I sat in a long meeting. Never successful at sitting still. Too much caffeine and natural-born fidgetiness. I crossed and uncrossed my legs a dozen times, perching first on one hip, and then on the other, slowly twisting this part and that, trying to unstick stuck parts. It was a big meeting among friends. I could get away with it.
Switch scenes: This morning, the alarm went off much, much too early, but the same time as any other morning. We were already awake. Dear hubby and I each made our list of all the things that went wrong in the night. Bad dreams, night sweats, dog problems, headaches, stiff muscles. The litany of the middle aging. As he got up to make the coffee, I realized I was lying there, knees up, with one leg crossed over the other, and then the calves crossed back again. Double-crossed legs. When could I ever do that?
Childhood: The day you begin crossing your legs while sitting is something your parents notice. They think it’s a hoot. You look like a little adult.
Adulthood: The day you are no longer able to cross your legs is something you note all by yourself. It’s a sad day. Whether pregnancy or weight or injury or illness brings it on, it’s a sad day. You want to participate in the adultness of that particular posture. But you can’t. It may seem like a small thing on the scale of possible disabilities, but still, it is a loss of ability that rankles. Ask 100 truly overweight people what they look forward to most about losing weight, and you’ll hear this a lot, “I just want to be able to cross my legs again.”
I did not give up the ability easily, pretended to be able to cross my legs when I couldn’t. One method was to pantomime finger-pressing the crease of my pants while using my pant leg to sling one leg into position over the other.
Another technique was to prop the crossed leg in place by wedging the foot against a table leg. This put a great deal of pressure on my knee, by the way. I don’t recommend it.
Or I shifted my weight onto the lower hip to keep the upper leg in place.
But I stopped trying to kid myself when my crossed leg pretty much stuck straight out, perpendicular to the floor and I couldn’t maintain it without giving myself a groin pull.
When I stopped crossing my legs, I fixated on people who could. Studied starlets and diplomats on talk shows, performing their public duties. The ones who can cross their legs appear to be much more confident than the ones who can’t. Leg crossing may be bad for you (contributing to varicose veins, blood clots, back problems), but it looks great. There is an elegant confidence to it that just can’t be duplicated by crossed ankles, no matter what the finishing schools may tell you.
(My mother, who received training in ladylike deportment from some fearsome French nuns, taught us to sit on the very edge of our seats, knees together, feet pulled to one side, ankles slightly crossed so it’s not too, too hard to hold the position, hands lightly folded in the lap, palms up, white gloves clean, back ramrod straight, crown of head being pulled by an invisible thread. Who’s holding the thread? Your guardian angel, of course. I can fall into this position now without any difficulty at all, but somehow all of my childhood pictures show me slouching, knees flung wide, glasses fallen to the end of my nose. Hat akimbo. But my gloves looked pretty good.)
At my heaviest I never lost the instinct and urge to cross my legs, despite not being able to do it for a matter of years. As I lost the weight, I’d give it a shot now and then, when no one was really looking. And then one day I did it without thinking. My lower leg still pointed a bit north, but the leg was definitely up, decidedly over.
Next I was able to cross with my lower leg hanging fairly naturally. Then I could cross my legs AND fit them under a conference table. And now, I just cross and uncross them in a most annoying way, over and over again during most meetings, impressing myself and smiling inwardly each time.
It doesn’t take much to please me these days.
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