Legs Eleven

I don’t mind if you wolf-whistle across the street,

my insecurities won’t believe you’re looking at me anyway.

If you tell me I’m pretty

the worst I’ll do is blush and smile

because I don’t count flirting as an offence

and I know that you’re mostly likely looking past me

to the blonde I walked in with.


The other day I changed twice before work,

not because I did not like the outfit

or I felt it was not flattering enough

but for the stretch of skin from mid-thigh to knee

that I have loved since fourteen

suddenly striking fear into me.


It takes one conversation to reduce a woman

to the worth of her shape.

I learnt that during an informal meeting

where my supervisor passed on words

she did not believe herself

and told me not to worry too much about it,

just to wear darker tights next time

so people were less likely to notice.


At nineteen I sat in McDonalds in Bath

after a poetry evening in the town

and while talking with a friend

we were interrupted by an older man

who wanted to tell me how I was brave

for wearing skin tan tights

instead of black.


He loved that I had beautiful legs

and wasn’t afraid to show them off.

That was all he told me before leaving

and I felt confident in my own skin

on the walk back to the university.


Now I treat limbs like traitors when they escape.

I don’t know how to wear half my own clothes

and when I try

the fabric bites into flesh as a reminder

that someone might not like

the way I have chosen to dress

or they might like it a little too much

and decide that somehow makes me less.


I’m forcing myself to remember

that night in Bath and the words of a stranger

making me feel invincible.

I shouldn’t have to apologise

for wearing clothes

that make me feel good.



When I started writing this this piece the poem was going to go in a slightly different direction so I’m not certain if the first stanza fits with the rest. Let me know in the comments below if you think it works. I’m playing with the idea of pulling it our and using it as the start of a different piece.


  1. I love it and totally think it works together. It actually helps to set the scene for what comes next and let’s us in on the theme.


    1. Thank you, that’s really helpful feedback. I was going to write a piece more geared towards the recent news piece about paparazzi on red carpets taking up-the-skirt photos of women but I ended up going down a more personal route somehow.


      1. That’s always the more powerful way to go…in my humble opinion. Our truth tells the story more accurately than someone else’s story.


  2. Such a lovely poem! I like how you’ve combined a set of experiences that have in some or the other way empowered you to love being in your own skin!
    Before trying to fit in the world, I think it is important for all of us to fit in and be comfortable with our own skins. We all are beautiful, all we need to do is FEEL beautiful.
    This is a wonderful poem!


  3. No you shouldn’t!!! This poem is very empowering. Do not hide your body; love it, however you feel comfortable.

    “Now I treat limbs like traitors” … The whole poem is fantastic, but this in particular struck me as mighty fine writing.


  4. There’s a lot to unpack here! Firstly, the very human reaction of feeling good when someone compliments you on your appearance. But tied to that, the disappointment when the whistle isn’t for you. Or worse, when you are told that your style of dress is inappropriate. The knowledge that you have every right to dress to feel good but that the male (and female) gaze can change how you feel in your outfit. Overall, I get a push-pull between the feeling at times of being overlooked and at other times overexposed. We are absolutely judged on our appearances and you illustrate how this can be exhausting for women, as people tend to think they have a right to comment on women’s appearances when maybe they should just keep their criticisms to themselves. So every time you step out of the door you are vulnerable to scrutiny. As women age the compliments dry up. Some give up on style and some find a new empowerment in dressing beautifully for themselves alone. This is a thought provoking piece of writing that I think deserves further attention. Keep up the good writing!


  5. I love the poem and starting totally flows with the words till the end. Great meaning to share in stanzas so well written. Love your body and dress however you like.


      1. You’re welcome Carol. You could surely make another amazing piece for women’s day too.
        Writers like you are an inspiration for me. I would be glad if you pay a visit to my website too and share your valuable comments with me.


  6. This is so strong and straight, I love it! But like you said the first paragraph is misleading. I would love if you just clip the first paragraph and start from the second because it feels more of a natural start for the rest of the poem. I am loving your style and the innocent feel!


  7. I thoroughly enjoyed this. I think it probably resonates with many women of all ages. I sometimes think the world has gone mad. I have two young daughters whom I want to have the confidence to be comfortable in their own skins but yet free from judgement. It is probably I who tell them the top is too revealing or the skirt too short….but then am I right to do this? I have no idea. I feel confident and happy to be who I am, but now I am 51, and I didn’t have that confidence when I was their age- just 18. I guess I would say let your inner beauty shine through and whatever happens to you in life for good or bad it is you who ultimately decides what defines you. If you have beautiful legs then let them be beautiful, if you have beautiful hair then let its beauty shine. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges set by this lovely piece of poetry. XXX


  8. lol love it, oh that we would all get such lovely compliments to boost our morale! Dress to please you not others … and the older we get the less the compliments or wolf whistles flow, younger I shrunk from it, now I realise it could be my last 🙂


    1. Clothing tends to be something I use to express my personality so it was a huge blow to be told something I wore didn’t set the right tone. I’m trying to get my confidence back. Just bought some fab leather look trousers in the hopes they’ll boost my confidence.


      1. lol I’m the opposite, would prefer to wear a uniform than think about what to wear … what’s inside is what counts not your appearance Carol and you have a very good heart 🙂


  9. This is a sense that no-one should have… whatever feels good for you is good…
    “someone might not like
    the way I have chosen to dress
    or they might like it a little too much”
    Says so much of what is wrong today


    1. Thank you Bjorn. Unfortunately it’s something that I’ve sort of just got used to as it’s always been present in one way or another. I just haven’t had it slapped in my face quite as obviously as in this situation before.


  10. The poem would be more focused if you just started with the second stanza, especially since you have included another compliment further down (the guy in Bath.)
    I wish people, women especially, wouldn’t feel the need to be pressured into right appearances and pleasing the ever-judging eyes of others. Not that it’s my place, but I’m sorry you have to be subjected to such demeaning pressure.


  11. This is fabulous and honest. I think the first stanza fits perfectly with the theme of the rest of the poem. I like that you didn’t go an angry route but more introspective. Great job.


  12. I say.. get those legs out anytime you wish… and place your stanzas any-old- how. I stopped listening to opinions a long time ago…they can’t help with my bills, or chase away my fears.
    You wrote well, here. Obviously, there are codes for work…but beyond that…sod them!


  13. Hi Carol, such a strong and brave write that I thank you for writing and with such clarity and craft too. The world needs more voices like yours, right now. Such poise and integrity too… Bravo!


  14. I love your last lines. Confidence and strength come from within. What others say is just dust in the wind. Set your course!
    Very well said! All comments about how we look are not harassment!


  15. I enjoyed this post immensely — just as it is. There is a sense of what someone else called “push-pull” here. I want to wear this, look this way, feel “good” about myself yet “others” (and that word is defined differently bydifferent folks, cultures, decades, places) tell me, sometimes in words / nonverbal / magazine ads, what I should or should not wear / look like. Your post ponders all of this quite well, focusing on legs. Others might focus on hair or belly or breasts. My thoughts? I hear my daughter’s complaints about trying to find age-appropriate clothes for her daughter who is 10 — and this struggle has been going on since she was 7 or 8. I do understand and see that. But what you’re talking about here is different, right? At 70, I’ve given up worrying about what other people think. I no longer wear heels when I “dress up” as my feet revolted from 3 and 4 inch heels long ago. I love the feel of yoga pants and tunics…and I wear my grey curly hair proudly. You don’t like what I look like? Look the other way! Thanks for this post! It got me thinking this morning — and that’s a mark of a good writer : the ability to make the reader think beyond the immediate words on the page.


    1. There is certainly an issue with some children’s clothing not being age appropriate, especially as I think the most important function for children’s clothing is practicality and durability. My focus here was more on my own self-confidence issues around choosing clothes in the morning and trying to work out if what I pick fits in with the office’s idea of professional attire. This can be quite tricky with dresses and skirts.


  16. None of us should. I’ve never worn high heels and have never been a slave to fashion. I like fashion! Still, we get judged constantly by men and other women. I feel for kids because they have it worse than we did bullying is so bad. Society has changed so much and it’s crazy time if you ask me. I have always remained myself and don’t let what people think bother me, at least not too much.


    1. I rarely wear flat shoes, heels have always given me confidence and can be quite practical when I’m trying to reach things in the top cupboard. Society is always changing but judgment has always been an issue. Women had to fight to be able to wear trousers at one point because it was considered scandalous that they should hint at the shape of their legs. I wouldn’t say this is any worse today than is used to be, just different.


      1. I do think they look good but many have ruined their feet wearing fashion rather than comfort. I’m one of those comfort people for sure and I’m 5’7” which isn’t too shabby. I’m happy you like them they look good.


Comments below, but please leave your bots at the door.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.