There is something about living in Los Angeles that can make you neurotic. There are a million billboards, commercials and infomercials with thin people, advertising quick procedures to make your body “perfect.” While driving to work I always hear this commercial on the radio about the mommy make over. I can understand why a woman would want to do a little nip tuck after some children; nonetheless, it always surprises me when the doctor talks about stretch mark removal. I think to myself, ‘Hold on, that is too far.’
I never thought about my stretch marks when I was heavier. I had them, but they weren’t as noticeable as they are now that I am thinner. I often look at them and wonder what I would look like without them on the top part of my legs, both hips, my right knee and under one of my arms. I wonder what I might do differently. Yet my overarching thoughts are these are my proof of what happens in life and how you can conquer anything you set out to do.
No one mentioned to me that if you gain weight your skin will stretch and the evidence of this will be with you for the rest of your life. I wonder if someone had told me, whether I would have not “stretched” my skin. My stretch marks are darker than my skin and to me they really stand out, especially on my legs. On rare occasions when I show my bare legs, people always comment on how much lighter they are from my arms and face. Before my weight loss, I was so self-conscious of my large legs that I never used to showed them. Now when I do, I do with courage. I still absolutely do not like them. Every so often I will wear a tanning lotion on my legs to cover up my cellulite (topic for another time) and some stretch marks. In my most self-conscious moments, I will ask random people how my legs look. They say fine, not understanding why I am so concerned about them.
I decided to poll a group of friends about their thoughts about stretch marks. This was a pretty random group of friends who I assumed had stretch marks due to having children or being overweight at one point in their life. Here are a couple of the comments I received:
“I’m not saying that I wear mine with honor, even though they come from weight loss. Most of my stretch marks go unnoticed because of my complexion. However, my stomach is the worst because of the kids. I can say that I do have a complex around men with my stretch marks on my stomach even though they don’t care.
They really stand out when I’m tan, especially on my arms. Although it can be an eye sore, it doesn’t stop me from wearing sleeveless shirts. I remember as a teenager, I had lots of stretch marks on my inner thighs. Again, being tan made them extremely noticeable, but again, it didn’t stop me from wearing shorts. Heck, I kind of wish I could see them more on my thighs because that’s an indication for me that I’m losing weight in that area.”
“I never think about mine or have any feelings about them one way or the other.”
“My ‘tiger stripes’ are on my upper thighs. I have a few on my ‘kangaroo pouch’ but I was never told that they were a bad thing. I thought everyone had them. Mine kind of blend in with my skin tone so they don’t really stand out so much. They don’t make me feel unsexy, but I don’t model for a living. My stretch marks have never prevented any sexual activities from happening. And I don’t wear daisy dukes so I’m good with them.”
“I received my stretch marks after having three kids. I was a very skinny woman (Size 3). When I got pregnant with my first son, I gained over 50 lbs. After, my second and third children, I blew up from a size 3 to a size 16. I’ve been told that they don’t look bad and to wear them proudly because they are a badge of honor, but I don’t see it that way. I look at them as another flaw on my body that I don’t like people to see. I do wear two piece bathing suits. I try to suck in my stomach so the marks don’t show as badly. I wish there was a way for me to get rid of them. Unfortunately, my mother and sisters all have them so it is hereditary and they will be with me for life.”
A friend sent me a link to an article with images of women with “love lines.” #LoveYourLines is a social media photo campaign to help showcase the beauty of the female body. Interestingly, not all comments from Instagram and social media communities have been positive–perhaps reflecting the ambivalence women–like my friends and I–feel about our stretch marks. The question most commonly raised is whether it’s necessary to show the stretch marks at all, and on this point I agree the most with one commenter, Michelle in Toronto:
“Here’s why people feel the need to show their imperfections to the world: to normalize it and to empower others to accept their bodies. What is wrong with that? We live in a ‘selfie’ obsessed world, where people resort to all kinds of invasive procedures in order to achieve perfection. We have perfection shoved down our throats on a daily basis via the media and frankly, I think we need to see more of this stuff. Why? Because it’s real and it exposes the lie of what female beauty should look like.”
I still deal with moments of insecurity, but I have come a long way in accepting my body and my stretch marks. The fact that your skin stretches and grows with you is not shameful–it’s actually kind of an amazing thing. My stretch marks have told a story that I would call from ‘Trauma to Wellness.’ When I look at them now, I am convinced that I am a survivor and these healing marks show me what I can do and to never give up.
Also by EnJunaya: Fall Cleanse Detox Tea Recipe
Related: 3 Practices to Love Your Body