I’m prefacing today’s sketch, “Fearful Symmetry,” with a couple of disclaimers. First, I am an incredibly lucky person. I understand that to be able to poke fun at minor everyday problems is a luxury few people are allowed. And second, in this episode, names have been changed to protect the asymmetrical.
In a chat with women friends the other day, I decided to find out whether a first-world problem with which I had been dealing, bothered them too. “Why are modern women’s pants made with the right calf smaller than the left? The sizing and brand make no difference. Every single pair of pants I’ve purchased over the course of the last decade has a right leg that fits tighter than the left. It just makes no sense.”
Expecting commiseration, expecting suggestions about how to jury-rig solutions, expecting some good old DIY pant leg-expansion ideas – I got nothing! Silence met my exasperated complaining.
After an awkward moment, I dove in again. “Come on, ladies. Dish! If you’ve all solved this issue, don’t hold out.”
Finally, after a few sidelong glances at the other women, Edith, one of my more forthright friends, broke it to me as gently as she could. “My dear, dear, girl. Have you never thought your right leg is most likely larger than your left?”
At my stricken look, Henrietta quickly interjected, “This is totally normal, Val. One of my . . . um . . . is slightly larger than the other.”
“Really? Which one? I’ve never noticed that," accused Edith.
All this banter was a bit lost on me as I processed this new reality. My friends said later my eyes went glassy, and round red circles (perfectly symmetrical ones) appeared on my cheeks. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have labored under such an obvious misconception for a decade? Our get-together faltered. I left in a daze.
Upon arriving home, I reluctantly got my tape measure. The truth was there to see. My right calf was a good half inch larger in diameter.
I dreaded breaking the news to Joel. Then, to my horror, another possibility tiptoed into my mind. What if Joel had known all along? What if, because he’s such a gentleman, he had kindly refrained from commenting on my mismatched lower legs? And that’s why I was always catching him staring at my legs!
But no. That couldn’t be. I had dyed my dark hair blond once and he hadn’t noticed. I used my de-escalation breathing and pulled myself back from the precipice’s edge.
I decided I didn’t need to tell Joel just yet. I sat down at the computer and began to research. I either had to get my left calf to grow or my right calf to shrink, preferably the latter. Fitness websites indicated I probably hadn’t been working out my left calf as intensely as I had my right. But this couldn’t have anything to do with the discrepancy, because I have never worked out either calf. And when I compared my calf measurements to those on the charts, even the smaller of mine was above the 90th percentile for women my age. So obviously, I have naturally muscular calves to begin with. And then I saw it: a 2009 medical study found women with small calves — around 13 inches or less — are more likely to develop carotid plaque, which can often lead to strokes. Women with large calves have more subcutaneous fat in their legs, which takes fatty acids from the bloodstream and stores them where they won’t harm the body.
That solved my quandary. Instead of finding ways to make my right calf smaller – I mean, I wouldn’t want to get down to that 13-inch mark, by any means -- I obviously needed to build my left calf up. With great relief, I printed exercises to build my already top-notch left calf muscles right up. I would plan to hold off on breaking the news to Joel until I had solved the problem.
Follow Little Spouse at facebook.com/littlespouseontheprairie and on Twitter at SpouseOnThePrairie@ValerieKuchera. Tune in next week!