Monday, February 08, 2021

Why we cross our legs

Ever wonder why people cross their legs? No, me neither. Until today, that is. Whether it's ankle-on-ankle with straight legs, the "figure-four" (ankle on opposite knee), or "European-style" (the classic one knee on top of the other), it seems to be almost universal.

Well, it turns out that, despite some claims to the contrary, we don't really know. One website purports to explain that we cross our legs in an attempt to "improve the mechanics of the lower back and take the strain off'. Which kind of makes sense, except that ... the same article later mentions that crossing your legs is "horrible for your posture", "puts undue pressure on your peroneal nerve", "can also stretch out your piriformis", and "can cause your BP to spike by more than 6 percent". Also, "keeping your legs crossed while sitting can purportedly cause varicose, or 'spider', veins".

Another rather unconvincing explanation offered is that crossing one's legs is a "power move", giving the example of various US presidents who cross their legs. But, surely a plurality of people - male and female, powerful and defenceless - cross their legs, not just presidents. And in what way is crossing the legs intimidating? Surely, "manspreading" is much more aggressive and macho.

Another website looks at the issue from a more psychological/sociological point of view and, like so many psychological/sociological explanations, it is equally wooly and unconvincing. Maybe the person is being submissive or anxious or repressed or who knows what. Well, yeah, maybe. But that still doesn't explain why pretty much everyone does it

Slightly more convincing, although far from a revolutionary thought, is the idea that it is just a learned behaviour. We cross our legs because our parents and our siblings and our work-mates cross theirs. Women in particular are "taught' to cross their legs because it is considered polite and elegant and demure. 

So, sorry, no fascinating insights to offer. We cross our legs because ... we cross our legs.

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