When I became a college cheerleader, I was fitted for a new uniform. I remember putting it on for my first game day, adjusting my bow in front of the mirror. I had been a cheerleader throughout all of high school, so the feeling of the uniform was warm and familiar—but it did seem to look a little different. I twirled in front of the mirror, studying myself and putting the finishing touches on my mascara. Something did look different, just a little. Not bad different, but something was definitely strange in the way the skirt hung on my body. I shrugged and left for the game, chalking it up to the angle of the mirror or something.
Here’s something no one told me about my body: even after puberty, it’s going to keep changing, because you’re a woman and that’s just the way cards are dealt for us. I had gone through the awkward stage that puberty blessed me with years ago, the one my mother refers to as my Ugly Betty stage, and I sort of figured my body was done changing until I got knocked up or something. As usual, I’d thought wrong.
It was when I put a bikini on that spring that I really noticed what had happened to me. I spun in the same circle, craning my neck. Was it my ass? That looked about the same to me. Blindingly white from lack of sun all winter, but the same size as normal. My waist looked slimmer, but there was something weird about the way it curved into my hips. My hips. I’d never really had hips before.
Ohhhhhhhh. Oh, shit.
Where I had once had the barest curve from waist to pelvis, I now had a serious dip. My waistline definitely hadn’t gotten any slimmer — my hips had gotten wider. It definitely didn’t look bad, but my new shape came at a sort of price. I still had the flat muscles that I was used to seeing on my lower back, but there was a roundness there that I wasn’t used to. I poked at my new hips with my finger, and I touched the barest hint of softness. What. The Fuck.
Love handles. I had love handles.
It might not seem like that big of a deal, but it was. It was like going through the painful, weird stages of puberty all over again. My body had changed on me yet again, this time to even better prepare me to carry a small human one day, with secret pockets of fat it was mischievously hiding in weird places. My clothes looked different on me. I felt so betrayed. I was a cheerleader, in great shape, and I worked out every day. But I couldn’t help the shape of my stupid body.
I did what any girl would do. I asked my significant other what she thought. A loaded question, for sure, but she also has a face like an open book, so I’d know if she were lying.
“I think your love handles are sexy,” she said. “I really do. Your hips are so cute.” Yeah, yeah, she’s the best, I know.
It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen just because of her words, but my attitude toward my love handles did change. I started to like the way I looked in the glimpses of myself I caught in the mirror when I got out of the shower. I looked more… feminine.
Now, I fucking love my love handles. I would never want to get rid of them. They’re small, but they’re curvy and sexy and even though I’m supposed to hate them and starve them away, I would never. They’re called love handles for a reason—maybe it was meant to be that I fell in love with mine.
They also really do come in handy during sex (that’s where the handle part comes in. Holla.) So, if you’ve got ‘em, I say flaunt ‘em. No judgment from this girl..
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