“Don’t be ashamed of your stretchmarks. You’re just a tiger that’s earned it’s stripes.”
I read this and rolled my eyes. What is this fuckery? Honestly, it took me back to the “FAT stands for Fabulous And Tempting” days. I’ve never appreciated such sayings, probably never will. They sound like something a teary eyed, self hating woman would say to herself in her bathroom, and that, my love, is not a sign of pride in one’s self as far as I’m concerned.
I got stretchmarks when I was 12. I had no idea what they were and thought it was a part of puberty, my cousin and my mother found them amusing and used to call me Zebra sometimes. My waist and my cousin’s were referred to as Zebra Crossings for years afterwards, and because it was something I bonded with the women in my family over, I wasn’t ashamed.
Growing up with African women, body issues and insecurities were rife. Of course we didn’t notice at the time, we just knew our mothers, aunts and sisters were fixated on their weight. Chinese slimming tea, smaller portions, workout videos, tights and sneakers that were always unused, creams, belts, they were all a part of the constant battle to lose weight.
My aunts would walk into the house and the first thing they’d comment on was our weight. “You’re thinner” they’d say beaming, or “You’ve gained” as they scowled and asked my mother what was wrong and what she was feeding me.
I’ve never really thought it was a matter of self hate. Maybe because in my household it wasn’t all that extreme. They were doing what they felt they needed to do to be more appealing I guess, and they slacked often so, it wasn’t all that serious.
Back to the stretchmarks.
My Zebra Crossing started on my waist and traveled downwards a bit. I couldn’t have been bothered. Nobody saw my body and I couldn’t care less. They were normal. The problem arose when I noticed them on my knees. I was crushed. I couldn’t wear shorts anymore. At 13, I had things to hide. I hated them. I tried everything my mother suggested but, it was done. See this was before Bio Oil and Jasmine Tissue Oil entered our house. Back then it was “Try Vaseline or something”. For 3 years I had to buy clothes that were below the knee. The waist Crossing I got accustomed to and I accepted that I had more marks than my 40 something year old mother.
But through all that I never really felt ugly. I was annoyed. I was exasperated, but never truly insecure. Until one day I stepped out of the shower and saw one on the underside of one breast. Lord, I broke then. This would mean no more low cut tops. What WOULD I be able to wear now? I wanted to have a nice body dammit. I wanted to not feel awkward at pool parties and feel the breeze on my knees in a place other than my yard. I was already tired of my aunts pulling me toward them and pulling up my clothing while they suggested things that never worked. On my breasts too? I couldn’t.
That day I started using Bio Oil. And no, this is not another success story. It did nothing but make me sweat and make my skin shiny. I gave up. I got mad at my body. And I stopped looking at it. I just went about my days, undressed,dressed,undressed,dressed..Never quite paying attention to it.
One day I was nervous about having sex with someone because I felt ugly. I undressed in my room, a panicked look on my face and realized my breast marks were gone. Those on my waist I’d have an eternal relationship with, and my knees were pretty much the same. I stared, probed, lifted my breasts, pulled at my skin, looked at my skin tone, the darker areas, the lighter areas, and really took my body in.
This was it. I had stretchmarks. My tummy refused to be flat, no matter what I tried, my right ass cheek had a dimple while the left didn’t, and my breasts were as they were. In that moment I asked myself “The fuck is your problem though?”
It would be nice to wear shorts and tiny summer dressed but, evidently that wasn’t happening anytime soon. Turning around, my waist stretchmarks looked really pretty to me. I still trace them along with a smile. My breasts are lovely and my tummy, it isn’t offensive, not in the least. It occurred to me: I have the body of the Women in my family. There is nothing odd or ugly about it.
If it bothered me that much, I could do something about it. If not, I was fine.
I haven’t really had issues since then. I don’t understand it when women honestly hate their bodies. I can’t relate. I understand to a certain degree, I understand wanting to change a few things, it’s normal, but women who detest their bodies, I never really know how to explain to them that it’s okay.
Do I sometimes look at my friends who appear to have flawless bodies and envy them? Yes.