I was 11 when I learnt all about stretch marks. That they mean you are fat, and these marks will be there for everyone to know you are a fat person.
My mum was looking at the marks on my arms, quite worried about some sort of strange rash I might have. At school I showed my “strange” marks to a friend. She calmly told me that they’re just stretch marks, something you get if you grow too quickly or if you put weight on too quickly. I suddenly felt very embarrassed by Mum’s concern and lack of knowledge on worldly things like stretch marks.
I proudly went back home with my new knowledge: “They’re just stretch marks, Mum,” I reported. I was expecting my mum to be relieved I did not have some strange disease. Instead her response was, “But I had stretch marks at your age and I was fat.” Through these words I learnt not only that I was fat, but that my mum would rather I had a strange disease than be as fat as she was when she was a teenager. I was fat and fat is bad, and I couldn’t hide it anymore because I had stretch marks.
More Radical Reads: 10 Ways To Be Fat (in a World That Wants to Destroy You)
I was 13 when I bought my first pot of Bio oil. As I applied the oil to the obvious stretch marks on my arms, hips, breasts and stomach, I began to notice more and more marks — on my thighs, backs of my calves, and even my knees. The Bio oil was not making things any better; my skin remained marked and now I “knew” I had fat knees.
I was 16 when I first actively lost some weight. The stretch marks did not go away then either. It was then that I learnt that no matter what I weighed, my stretch marks would be with me to let everyone know I would be a fat person forever and always.
Over the years I’ve gained and lost weight, adding more stripes to my body as I’ve gone. I’ve tried Bio oil at different points in time, which has never done anything more than raise my awareness of the number of stretch marks I have. Around the age of 20 I knew I would have to make peace with them, but I couldn’t quite figure how to stop the feelings of self-hatred when I saw the marks on my arms.
More Radical Reads: 6 Ways I Was Taught To Be A Good Fatty (and Why I Stopped)
Coming to Terms With My Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are common during pregnancy, after rapid weight gain, during puberty, and if you have a family history of stretch marks. It’s predicted that 80% of Americans have stretch marks. For me, it was an event outside of my control that finally led to my own true acceptance and even appreciation of my stretch marks.
A laparoscopy, a minor operation to remove an ovarian cyst, left me feeling prodded and poked. It also left me with three new scars on my belly to go along with my other marks. Now that my body had additional marks outside of my control, my immediate tendency was to gravitate toward the idea that this was further sign of my body’s failure. But another part of me told me I had a choice: I could continue living in further and further shame of my body, or I could let go, accept it as it is, love my body as it is, with all my stretch marks, at whatever weight my body may be.
Since my realization about my body, I’ve traveled in Europe, South East Asia, and Australia. Donning my bikini on the beach, proud of my body just as it is, I’ve been helping the world to accept my non-pregnancy related stretch marks, scars, and fat. I’ve come to understand that these things are just my body working — how my body is meant to work.
Let’s widen the conversation. Stretch marks are normal, just another way our bodies work. Let’s not cover them up, or try in vain to treat them. Let’s allow our children, and our neighbours’ children, and friends’ children, to see our stretch marks. To see that they are natural. Let’s not let another child think their marks are unusual or something to be ashamed of.
[Feature Image: A grey scale photo of a person’s lower torso and thighs. They are wearing a white bikini bottom and have visible stretch marks. Source: PeacefulDumpling]