The first time I began to suspect that a certain kind of leg runs in my family, I was about 13.

For years before that, I had laughed at my older cousin for her spindly stems, which stuck out from her body like two long toothpicks. She was sensitive about it, so naturally, we made fun. As a kid that kind of shit is hilarious, because you don’t know from sexy and “chicken-legs” is the kind of childhood insult that has stood the test of time.

But as soon as I hit puberty, I started to notice that skinny legs weren’t my cousin’s burden to bear alone. Lo and behold, my eyes were opening to the fact that my mother’s legs were slim, my aunt’s legs were slim, and sure the fuck enough, looking in the mirror, there were my own stick-like legs, protruding from my torso like a couple of whittled down twigs. As the rest of my body began gaining fat in weird places and growing into shapes that I couldn’t control and didn’t always love, my legs stayed staunchly slim.

After that realization, though, I can’t say that I paid much attention to my gams. For most of middle and high school, I was so focused on disliking my body that I zeroed in on what I thought was wrong with my legs rather than what might be right. In a word: hair. Clearly, my legs were hairier than any normal girl’s and that was a perfectly legitimate reason to loathe them.

But as I fanatically wielded Nair, home waxing kits and even, in one spectacularly misguided move, an epilator, I also took up soccer. And after about a month of 2-hour practices, for the first time I had a glimmer of hope that every part of my body might not be horrifically disfigured. My spindly legs had somehow became taut and toned; I even enjoyed absent-mindedly flexing my feet to watch the muscles in my calves form a sleek line.

Even so, it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I fully appreciated my lower quadrant. Maintaining a fairly steady workout routine, my naturally chicken-ish legs have kept just the right amount of lean muscle, looking — let’s just be honest here — all kinds of fabulous in every size and shape of miniskirt, the shortest of shorts, and even some club gear that you will never, ever get me to describe in full, but suffice it to say it may have involved pleather and the turn of the millennium.

More than all that, though, what I really love about my legs is their resiliency. After I broke my foot three years ago, my legs still happily bounced back into shape once I was…well, able to walk on them again. And if I slack off on exercising, give me a few weeks of yoga and running, and BOOM. ZZ Top galore.

So, I guess what I should say first is a belated apology to my cousin. Sorry about all that. Your legs are slammin’. Really. And also, this is a long overdue shout-out to my own legs. You guys are rad. Thanks for all you do. I only wish I had appreciated you sooner.