At the track, high school students warm up with lacrosse sticks and soccer cleats. The grass is cropped close to the earth, green spikes in the summer evening. Blue and lavender clouds gather beyond the trees, the sun sighing low in the midwest sky.
The woman in front of you runs. Her nylon shorts flutter. Her ponytail bounces, perky as rollerskating, left and right.
Her thick cellulite shifts beneath middle-age skin, which sags with the laxity of time. Her thighs come up, feet fall, sneakers roll on the soft ochre ground, ankles hold steady, spine reaches high, her legs moving smooth as watch gears. She’s a runner.
The thought is so fast you almost missed it: Jesus, that cellulite in those shorts!
She’s also a wife; her ring catches sunlight as she rounds the bend. Maybe a mom.
You catch the thought–the nastiness, the Pavlovian response–and correct it. Instead of cringing at her soft thighs, you think, “You go girl!” You replace what you’ve been trained to do — shame, shirk, shy away from bodies as they age, evolve, or simply exist — and lean into the sweeter experience of celebrating her. You lift her up.