Rant of the saggy knees

Since entering this world thirty-seven years ago, I've had a few memorable brushes with accomplishment. At seven I learned how to ride my bike without training wheels. In the sixth grade I won my class spelling bee. In high school I auditioned for all-city orchestra, and got in. I survived divorced parents, premature colicky twins, a husband constantly on the road for work and an unfortunate encounter with poison ivy. I'm pretty tough.

The other day I went out in shorts for the first time in over a year. Somehow this accomplishment feels mightier than all the things I'd accomplished previously. Now, to someone who wears shorts all the time, this might not be such a big deal. But to me, chronic shorts avoider, it is. You see, I hate my knees. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I hate the area above my knees. Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror and put my hands just above that spot, pulling the skin up so it isn't saggy. Just to see how much better it'd be. Things would be so different, I think, if I didn't have saggy knees.

Oddly enough, I don't have a problem wearing skirts. Shirts gently swish over my hips and gracefully conceal the lumps and bumps above my knees. Skirts seem infinitely more forgiving. Shorts are ruthless devices of the devil, gripping the thighs. There's no hiding in a pair of shorts, what with their four-inch inseams and thin cotton twill.

I notice knees a lot. Especially here in Dallas, where it's been shorts-weather for weeks. It's hard not to. Everyone is waltzing around in shorts, as if saggy knees don't mean a damm thing. Somewhat bafflingly, the women in short shorts seem to care the least. I visited a designer's showroom last summer. She is known here in Dallas for creating clothes for the "mature" woman, the type who lives in the suburbs, collects art, plays tennis, and whose kids are off at college. While discussing skirt length, she explained that her designs feature just-below-the-knee length hems, in order to appease "those women whose knees have dropped."

Huh, I thought. My knees have dropped too.

As women, our bodies seem defined by change. As little girls we're freckles and skinned elbows and playing dress-up in our mom's closets. In adolescence, a surge in hormones causes our bodies to take on curves. We shed our baby weight and gangly limbs for breasts and hips, hips that jut out emphatically where hips had not been before. We don't understand what's going on, but it's happening to our friends too. We can't control it. We trade in our training bras for those with adjustable straps and molded cups. Our periods arrive and we become women. Just for fun, we dye our hair colors not found in nature. We graduate from high school and head to college or enter the workforce. Soon we discover that the candy bars we ate thoughtlessly as kids now make a lipidly bee line straight to our thighs. We gain weight. Upper arms, once sleek, become a bit soft. We buy creams and lotions for age spots, wrinkles, cellulite, crow's feet. We color our hair to cover the grey. Then we have children and really don't recognize ourselves anymore at all.

When I looked at my shorts, folded neatly in my drawer, they didn't seem so harmful. They're just shorts, after all. And my life really wouldn't be that different if my knees weren't saggy. Saggy knees are just a part of getting older, like age spots and crow's feet and grey hair. Perhaps, if I didn't have saggy knees, I'd go bare-legged more often. But here's the thing. Whether my knees are smooth and taunt, or drooping and saggy,  I'd still be me: an almost middle-aged, stay-at-home mom; a poison ivy survivor, occasional sewer and bike rider. I'd still get older. I'd still have to face the uncontrollable effect of gravity on my body, the loss of elasticity, the march towards menopause. It's going to happen, whether I wear the damm shorts or not.

In the end, I wore my shorts with a striped 3/4 sleeve tee and slip-on sneakers. It wasn't that bad. I didn't experience a euphoric moment of self-acceptance and saggy knee love. I didn't rush out to J Crew and load up on their rainbow-hued chino shorts. But I creep one step closer to understanding that hating the aging process, and it's effect on my knees, is really a waste of time. It doesn't sound like much. But I'll take my victories where I can get them.

Which part of your body are you most afraid to expose? Do you find yourself nit-picking at a particular area? Are their certain articles of clothing you avoid wearing?


  1. I am a reluctant shorts wearer, too, but my thighs make me self conscious. Even though thigh circumference is obvious in jeans, I feel like shorts say "hey everybody - look at this non-firm skin!" and then I feel bad all day.

    However, I've found that I can deal with a 5-6" inseam, which is sadly hard to find, and look pretty good. So I will make myself get over it because going to the Rangers game in jeans gets hot when it's 100. Le sigh.

  2. I've found that an item, when worn with reasonable confidence (ie. your butt cheek isn't escaping out of your bootie shorts) coupled with highlighting something you love about yourself (bright pink lipstick), can really make you successful in pulling it off. If you're uncomfortable in something, it usually shows. And that 'wisdom' only comes from many days of NOT pulling it off.

  3. I hate showing my midriff, and I go to great lengths to conceal/cover/hide my belly no matter what I'm wearing. I probably add extra "bunch" in that area because of it! Haha.

  4. You hate your knees too? Today I rejoice in my newfound fellow knee-hater! I am not alone! Nearly 10 years ago, when I started dating my husband, I once told him I despised my knees. They knock together with some fat pads that won't ever go away, they're knobbbly, and they sag a little. So he gave me a card that had a little girl on the front in a dress that showed her knees. Some smart comment inside about her daring to show her knees. I laughed and sighed at once. I love my oversized calves. They're strong and propel me forward. I worship the outward swoop of my "ass"et. It swings and sways with each step I take. But those darn knees make me crazy. I live for skirts that graze below my kneecap, capris, and only dare to wear bermuda shorts if it is blazing hot. Someday I will be okay with this!

  5. I do love this post. I began a dislike for shorts around the age of 30...I too have those knees you are talking about....now at the age I am I never put them on! I went all over Europe and not once wore shorts I wore skirts and sundresses each and every day...so much more forgiving! :) Glad you were able to go out and wear yours the other day though, kudos!

  6. I still struggle with exposing my underarms. I tend to shy away from sleeveless clothing, not because I am ashamed of my plump arms, but because I suffer from Hidradenitis Suppurativa. People with HS develop plugging or clogging of their apocrine glands, which results in abscesses and cysts that scar and often end up as open wounds that will not heal. It's an ugly and painful disease. I never really know when I'm going to have a flare up, so I try to avoid wearing light colored clothing (to hide any bleeding) and if I must wear something sleeveless, I feel most comfortable wearing some form of cardigan or shrug. It was a huge mental struggle deciding what I was going to do about my wedding dress (a strapless gown that showed my underarms). I debated for months about it and finally decided to just bare my armpits. I'm proud of myself for being brave about it, but I will admit that I still cringe when I see our wedding videos of me dancing, showing my bare underarms. It's a step, though.

  7. I understand where you're coming from. My knees aren't saggy but I do carry most of my weight in my lower half, so I have big thighs and knees. I prefer to keep most of my legs above the knees covered. I do wear shorts - just longer ones, like bermuda shorts. I also like my skirts just below the knee. I am often amazed by how short some women's shorts and skirts are - I don't know how they do it!

  8. Well, since I'm 19 years older than you, what can I say... the sags get worse AND you HOPEFULLY won't care as much. One can always hope, yes?

    My stomach had to go into hiding a while ago. Too many cupcakes. I'd rather eat the damn cupcakes than display my middle.

    Now I have a new problem area and it's not my fault! I had a mastectomy two years ago -- no, the problem is not the missing breast. The problem is the butchery that was made of my underarm area! It's all poochy in weird places. I don't really want more surgery (no insurance anyway). So sleeves are my new friends. Still not sure what to do about swimwear... maybe a nice drape on that side? Sigh.

  9. I never liked shorts aesthetically but I had to get a couple of pairs two years ago on a 105 degree day. I started noticing the sagging skin above the knee too a couple of years ago. More recently I noticed the same thing above my elbows. Most of the time I manage to be in denial about it. I hope I can maintain/increase the denial so I feel free to go around sticking my saggy bits into people's view rather than spending time worrying about how to cover up for the sake of others! *crossing my old-looking fingers and praying for acceptance*

  10. I think my knees are baggy too, but that hasn't stopped me from wearing an occasional pair of shorts. I've found though that I like my shorts baggier than my knees! I know from my window-shopping project that there are scads of short short out there this year...and I won't be caught dead in those.

  11. aaahhhh the best thing about getting older is that you dont care at all what other people think.
    you are just happy being the wonderful person you are.
    all the important things that need your attention get to the forefront, and the rest just is not important.
    i love the clarity that comes with age.
    its a beautiful thing.
    :) enjoy

  12. Bravo! So well said. I am 42 and also have a skirt love/short fear. Last year I bought 2 pair that fall just above the knee. I don't wear them much, but I wear them. My legs are short...ok all of me is short and I have that lovely celuite pre-disposition, so my thighs are my hardest part to accept. However, age does make you accept things more, and the fact that my husband still looks at me with "that look" as if he doesn't see the aging. I think we have to come to terms with our aging and do so gracefully. All the plastic surgery people end up looking the same...and not younger just different then they looked before, and not in a good way. I want to age naturally and be confident in that!


I love my readers! Comments are welcomed and appreciated.