Let's Normalize It: Stretch Marks
I’ve always had those squiggly white lines running up my inner thighs, I remember them being there when I was a teenager playing soccer, field hockey, basketball, and volleyball. I used to wear board shorts in the summer (where are my 90’s kids at?) to cover them and my “thunder thighs”. We all wore long shorts as teenagers, it was the cool thing to do. Then something shifted as we grew up, suddenly we started rolling our shorts up at soccer, making them shorter. I always had a layer underneath to cover my stretch marks though, because I felt the need to hide my stretch marks.
When I became pregnant with my son, my first stretch mark showed up just above my butt crack; at first I thought I had cut myself because it was bright red and angry looking, then I realized what it was and I cried. My pregnancy stretch marks just added to the array of what was already on my inner thighs, but they also showed up along my hips and boobs (thanks breastfeeding).
I am now almost 12 years postpartum, and in the past couple weeks, new stretch marks have begun to angrily run up my inner thighs again. The weight I’ve gained during the pandemic, caring for my mother in law, and finally watching her pass, has accumulated around my midsection, butt, and thighs. I almost cried when I first realized what those angry red lines were. At first, I thought they were bruises (because I did have some from bike riding), but upon closer inspection, I realized what they were.
Stretch marks outside of pregnancy… I honestly never thought I would see more form, but here they are, and here I am normalizing them.
Stretch marks appear when our bodies go through rapid growth, usually during puberty and pregnancy, but they can also appear after rapid weight gain or loss. Increased cortisol can weaken the elasticity of the skin, which can also cause stretch marks to appear. While they don’t require treatment, we’ve been told as women that they’re unattractive and should be hidden, so the beauty industry has provided us with magical creams and ointments to lather all over ourselves in hopes of reducing the unsightly lines (bullshit alert… they don’t really work).
Thankfully, in recent years, women have started embracing their stretch marks, some even celebrate them as earned tiger stripes. There are some beautiful tattoos that have been done to accentuate them.
But… how do you get from feeling absolutely mortified at the sight of bright red lines that finally fade to white after what feels like forever, to fully embracing them and showing them off proudly?
Well, it’s a journey, and it’s okay if you haven’t accepted them yet. It’s okay if you don’t love those parts of your body, it’s okay to feel shitty about how they appeared (like I do, because it was due to rapid weight gain, something I never thought would happen to me). You are beautiful, you are enough, even if you don’t feel like it right now.
Something simple you can do is to start seeing other women who have embraced their stretch marks. Find accounts to follow that don’t photoshop or try to hide them. Seek out women who have figured out how to love themselves despite this perceived imperfection and fill your feed with their images. The more we see things being normalized, the less we’ll feel shitty about ourselves.
Something I’ve been working on is recognizing and appreciating what my body has done for me, especially after these challenging couple of years. She did a triathlon, ran countless kilometers, hiked more mountains than I can count, lifted weights, swam in the lake, tubed down the river, took care of my dying mother in law, held my husband when she passed, held my son, played with the dog and the cat, built a garden from scratch, rode horses, went camping, helped my husband build fences and do yard work, helped clients develop strength and confidence, and so much more. This body has done so much for me, even when I’ve felt incapable. She has held me through all the stress, trauma, depression, and grief. She has added some extra cushioning in response to very real situations, so if she needs to stretch and mold into this new form to hold me through the rest of my life, then I think I can accept a couple new lines on her.
Summer is a few short months away, and last year when I turned 30 I made a promise to myself to never miss another summer because I wasn’t comfortable or confident in my body. I lived in my bathing suit last year and it was amazing, I felt the freest I’ve ever felt, the sexiest I’ve ever felt. This year, I’ve already heard some of the old voices giving their opinions… “there’s no way you can wear a bikini this year, you’ve gained so much weight” or “you can’t expose your thighs, they’re huge and gross now”. Normally, I probably would have listened to that voice and already given up, but fuck that.
Your body is the least interesting thing about you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your kids don’t care about your body, the people at the beach or pool or gym don’t care about your body because they’re too worried about their own, so why should you care? Your body is meant to be utilized and enjoyed, and you can’t do that if you refuse to go out and do something with it!
If you’ve gained some weight this year and maybe some new dimples, stretch marks, or cellulite, please let this be your reminder that you are still worthy. You are worthy of spending time at the beach in a bathing suit, hiking that mountain, wearing those cute shorts, and rocking that dress. Let this be the year that we say fuck it to societal norms meant to make us feel like shit about ourselves, and embrace ourselves instead.
I love you, you have a glorious booty, and you are an amazing human being.