Can we talk about knees for a moment?
Many years ago, a friend made a passing comment about her “fat knees.” I was about 22 at the time and utterly baffled. Previous to that, I’d never met anyone who felt self-conscious about her knees for any reason and figured they were not a point of bodily scrutiny for most folks. Oh, how wrong I was. And the older I get, the more women I meet who are so ashamed of their knees that they insist upon covering them with long pants or midi skirts at all times. And although most of these women are older than me – apparently knees that have passed the age of 40 are frequently assigned to the “eye-searingly gross” category – some are younger. Many, many women hate their knees. Women of all ages, sizes, and shapes.
After years of media brainwashing, I understand how we end up hating our bellies and busts and upper arms. I don’t like it, but I get it: There is enough anatomic variety and enough emphasis on how those body parts “should” be shaped to warp our views. Knee-hatred, on the other hand, continues to baffle me. I mean, have you SEEN knees? They are joints, for crying out loud. They are a body part where a whole bunch of cartilage and bone and tendon converges to enable locomotion. They are not supposed to be smooth and wrinkle-free. They would not WORK if they were smooth and wrinkle-free. There would be very little bending possible in a knee covered in tight, taut skin. And unless you have a very specific set of genetics and proportions, there will be a saggy little bit of bonus leg perched atop your kneecap. THIS IS FINE! This is how knees look. And don’t go telling me that celebrity knees are made of nothing but unbearably sexy planes and angles. All knees are a little smooshy, a little wrinkly, a little odd looking. They were designed to be that way.
I believe that my mother-in-law and father-in-law have at least three fake knees between them, and I’ve watched them endure the agony of knee-replacement surgery. Whenever my own knees get a little stiff or creaky, I am reminded to steward them well, because they are essential and somewhat vulnerable, even in a non-athlete such as myself. If you have the ability to walk unaided, you can thank your knees for that. If you can ride a bike or squat down to grab a fallen pen or bend to seat yourself in a car, you can thank your knees for all of those things, too. They may not be gorgeous, but they are little miracles of biological design.
Am I saying that you are required to massage your knees with essential oils and sing them love songs? I am not. Am I saying that if you and your knees aren’t getting along, you must immediately begin wearing mini skirts to heal the rift? Nope. But it hurts my heart to see this vital, undervalued, and amazing body part so maligned. I know that super wrinkly, saggy knees make people feel self-conscious, and if you are self-conscious about ANYTHING it is your prerogative to keep that thing private in any way you see fit. But I’ve met dozens upon dozens of women who reject skirts and dresses and shorts that look utterly marvelous on them, simply because those garments showed some knee. Wearing below-the-knee hems can make you overheat in summer, it can break up your proportions in odd ways, it can severely limit your shopping and dressing options. And hiding your knees enables you to continue feeling ashamed of them.
So, if you have been knee-shy in the past, I hope I can encourage you to practice a little knee-love. Your knees look like that because of motion, and that motion is a blessing that some are denied. Your knees look like everyone else’s, and very few people are going to scrutinize them anyway. Your knees and my knees and Shailene Woodley’s knees are all a little smooshy, a little wrinkly, a little odd looking. And that is completely, utterly fine.