I noticed my first varicose vein when my second son was about six months old. I looked at it with a mixture of curiosity and confusion, but not distaste. It was new and noticeably so. And so obviously there. It’s a raised bump on the inside of my left thigh about four inches above my knee, the size and shape of a dime. Black and blue like a bruise. If you pushed it in… it would pop right back out. It didn’t hurt though, and I had heard something about varicose veins being painful. My toddlers discovered it, too, and would poke at it, the way they would with the moles on my neck.
A few years later I discovered a long protruding vein below the original bump. It begins above the knee and snakes down the rest of my thigh into calf territory. I was not quite as blasé as I was with that first bump. For one thing it looked much worse — much more prominent. And for another, I was beginning to slip out of the haze I had been in for ten years with my pregnancies, babies, toddlers and house-wifery. During the years I was in a nearly constant state of pregnancy and breastfeeding, the perception of my body had changed. It became something merely functional, not aesthetic or sexually attractive.
As my body carried around a fetus, or pushed out my babies and then provided nourishment to said infants, it began to feel purely utilitarian. My legs were included in this feeling, which is why the varicose veins initially didn’t bother me. My legs existed only to carry me and my babies around, both in and outside the womb. At that time, showing them off was the last thing on my mind. My legs served me better than my back did. My legs and back carried around a hell of a lot of weight, and while my back loudly complained, my legs seemed to get stronger.
But now, it was all too obvious that my silent legs has suffered too. When I searched on the internet, my suspicion was confirmed — age and childbirth are the leading causes of varicose veins in women. I didn’t know that varicose veins quite simply are enlarged pools of blood in places where the veins fail to circulate properly. They don’t affect your health, are painful for some, and of course, don’t look very pretty.
A couple years and a couple of new varicose vein appearances later, I snapped out of my pregnancy, breastfeeding, sleep and intellectually-deprived stupor. Again, I looked at my legs aesthetically. The image was marred by the long ropey blue lines meandering down the inside of my leg, looking like the raised rivers on a topographic map. By now I had developed the ropey meandering lines on the backside of my other calf.
And it felt really lousy.
I couldn’t help but reminisce that 20 and 30 years ago, my legs were one of my strong points — at least according to what features our current culture deems sexually attractive in a woman. My legs looked long, slender, and shapely enough for many people, both guys and girls, to compliment me on them So, I made sure that when I wore shorts or skirts, that they were long enough for only the “best” part of my legs to be exposed. I’m a long way from that now, it feels like.
I have found myself lately exposing my legs in yoga class though because it just gets too hot to cover them up all the way. When I do that, I notice the absence of people checking out my legs anyway. I get the vibe that people really don’t care much about a 50-year-old woman’s legs anyway.
Mostly though I am starting to think philosophically about my legs. I have come to realize that when I did have good-looking, shapely and eye catching legs, they never brought me fulfillment on any level; be that financially, emotionally, creatively, or sexually. It will probably be more productive for me to fret about other things besides my very functional, strong and still working-well legs.