From Yam Legs to Hot Legs – An Ugly Duckling Story

 As a young girl in Senior Secondary school, I was constantly body-shamed about my legs, especially by one boy in particular. I really don’t think he did it out of wickedness. I think it was out of ignorance of how the effect of his words could define the way I see myself and influence my self-esteem. You see, sometimes, words are like arrows shot way ahead of you. They have a way of going into your future to wait for you before the strike your bullseye. And that is when the rotten seed that had been planted form way back begins to take root and germinate.

I can’t count how many times I heard words like “see your yam legs”, “Isu”, “Yam ooo”, “Short and stout” “Muscle”.

I just eyed and ignored the perpetrator when those words were thrown at me, but of course, the roots had begun to form deep, even though the trees were still wearing harry potter’s invisibility cloak.

It didn’t help that I used to have really bowed legs when I was a baby. I’m talking really bowed that you could trace the letter O from it. Thankfully, my mother was wise enough to take me to the Orthopaedic Hospital in Igbobi to get it sorted. She used all her salary to buy a very expensive drug and the issue was sorted out in a matter of months. 

The knowledge of my history with bow legs as a child and “yam” legs as a teenager made me so insecure about my legs that I decided never to expose my legs when I finished secondary school, where we had been forced to wear skirt.

And so, for the next four years of my life, you would never catch me wearing anything knee-length or above.

Sometime later, my mum bought me a very good-looking pair of knee length farmer shorts. I wore them to class one day and a few people commented on how I had nice legs. I accepted the compliments gracefully, but a bit sceptically.

I later examined my legs well, and was like “hmm, it seems my legs are not bad ooo”.

It was then I gradually gained the confidence to expose my leg. I started wearing knee lengths and above-the-knee dresses and shorts 

But you see this insecurity, it is a bastard, I tell you. If you don’t stone it to death, burn and bury the ashes in the pit of hell, its seed will never die out and will continue to lurk around like a sneaky rent-owing tenant in an apartment it has been evicted from. It still waited for me into my thirties. 

When I started working out, I stayed away from leg workout. I worked out every part of my body except from my knees below.

One day, I was having a conversation with my former instructor, and I asked him if it was compulsory for me to do leg workouts. He quickly pointed out to me the danger of neglecting “legs” while working all other parts.

I told him I didn’t want to do “legs” because I have “yams” and I don’t want to have more “yams”

He looked and me and said sternly, “They are not “yams”, they are called calves. You don’t know what you have. Women are killing themselves in the gym everyday to have calves. They are taking steroids, doing surgery, and lifting heavy weights. Calves are what is in vogue now. You have this naturally and you are despising it”

What an irony. Something I was shamed and insulted for is what everyone is dying to have now. This is the same way people were shamed for having big butts with words like “Idi nla, Idi rabata,” etc, but now some people are literally dying under the knife and risking their lives to get this booty.

Since the talk with my instructor, every atom of insecurity I had about my legs melted like ice cubes exposed under Gombe sun.