I have some friends who never show their lower legs because they hate the size of their calves. They work out every day and look like waifs above the knee, but when I admire their bodies they’ll remind me of their lower half. It’s not a place I usually look unless otherwise provoked. Personally I get distracted by a nice décolletage or narrow waist if I have to judge the physical beauty of a woman, but I know lots of people love a long pair of pins. I can get down about my body as much as the next woman, but I don’t worry about my calves. Or at least, they don’t strike me as abnormally large since I’m a solid girl all around (a LOT more on that in the future.) But I hear about calves almost every time I talk about Asian body image. And, I have to admit a lot of us are well-endowed in that area.
Asian calves can really take you by surprise if you’re not prepared. The first time I noticed was on one of my trips to China. Naturally, everyone was shorter and thinner than me, but what did make me feel slightly less self-conscious was seeing their thick legs when they walked away.
For years, I thought it was because people in China walked and rose their bikes everywhere. Then, I met more and more Asian-American girls who complained of the same problem. And white women would sometimes point out my own “shapely” calves to me, as a compliment. Ha!
One of the easiest plastic surgeries to get is calf-reduction, in which the patient gets part of the muscle cut off and a warning for working out too much. There are other ways to turn calves that could take over the world into soft little demure calves that can’t make it up the stairs. I remember seeing tv infomercials for topical creams to reduce calves, and couldn’t believe it when my cousin came to visit, wearing these gauze strips of smelly medicinal herbs on her already tiny calves. It was 103 degrees and humid, but she wore thick tights to keep the strips in place and hidden. My dad still kept asking if she’d gotten into an accident.
Asians obsess about having long toothpick legs because we love what (most of us) don’t have. One word: anime. And the worst place to be reminded is in an American fitting room while trying on pants. If I can’t get a pair of pants beyond my calves, that’s a bad start, and has the power to ruin the whole shopping trip. Most of us petite girls with big calves look best in high-waist, wide leg pants, but at most stores it’s a sea of skinny jeans. Even if I do find one with wide enough legs and small enough hips, the pants stretch across my calves and do this weird flare thing at the bottom so I look like I’m wearing extra-long capris.
I don’t want to subject anyone to that image. If I actually find a pair of unoffensive pants, I cling on for dear life. I might have to buy several pairs, because who knows when the next time I’ll come across them will be. Haven’t you wondered why Asian girls love wearing tights and shorts? Or leggings and long tunics? Well, some of them enjoy rolling out of bed without having to change. But most of the time it’s also because our calves will not be contained. So let’s try not to worry, and let them out in the sun once in a while.