Living with Stretch Marks in Your Twenties
When you search for “stretch marks” on any social networking site, you'll find a slew of photographs and links aimed at one of two things: empowering pregnant women through their “tiger stripes” or offering a plethora of (not to mention dubious and ineffective) treatments for getting rid of the scars. This irritates me because it is discriminatory and deceptive. This is why.
Stretch marks, also known as striae (or "what the fuck happened to my body?") are off-color marks on the skin that vary in color from silver-white to dark purple and are caused by rapid skin growth and stretching. Although they are most common in pregnant women, they can also be found on post-pubescent teenagers, weightlifters, those who have gained weight quickly, and pretty much everyone with skin. That's right. That's what I said. Despite what we've been taught about this cultural taboo, the vast majority of people have stretch marks on their bodies.
I've always had light-colored scars on my hips and breasts from puberty, but they never bothered me because they didn't stand out too much. I used to think how fortunate I was not to have to deal with friends who had darker marks on them. I'd tell myself, "I'll get them when I'm pregnant, but at least I'll have an excuse." I had no idea I'd be entering the stretch mark club earlier than I had expected.
I had a breakup with my "first anything" guy when I first moved to Austin, Texas. Given our emotionally and physically abusive relationship, leaving him to come here was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. Aside from the feelings I was experiencing about him, it was also the first time I'd ever lived outside of Houston. Since I was working from home in this new area, I had few friends and no real links to my old life in Austin. I felt alone, useless, and shattered, and I was depressed like I'd never been before. To cope with the pain, I turned to food, wallowing, and inactivity. I drank more alcohol than normal, leading to even more late-night eating with little concern for the consequences. But this time was different. I've always been an emotional eater, but this time was different. I was overeating in more ways than one. I was on a binge. I'd eat until I became physically ill, then eat some more. I knew I didn't want another taste, but a hollow and lonely feeling inside me kept screaming, "Fill me." Fill me up.” I reasoned that food was the only thing I could depend on.
I found that my jeans were too tight and my tops were too tight, so I dismissed it. Prior to moving to Austin, I had just completed a 35-pound weight loss and felt fantastic about my appearance. But admitting that I was regaining it all was unimaginable. I recall standing in the bathroom with my shirt off a year after the transfer and seeing a faint reddish mark on my stomach. I initially thought I had bumped or scratched myself, but upon closer inspection, I felt a surge of nerves rush through me as it began to click. “It's a stretch mark,” says the narrator. This is fantastic. I'm fucking getting stretch marks because I'm so fat,” I told myself, but there's a lot more to weight loss than meets the eye. As a result, I began therapy to address my true concerns about food, life, and love. I'm still dealing with the mental challenges that come with attempting to lose weight. I've finally given myself permission to take my time with weight loss and ensure that I do so in a healthy manner, but I've yet to conquer one of the most bothersome side effects of my weight gain: stretch marks.
These pink tattoos from that year will never fade away, no matter how much weight I lose. Even if I transform into a ripped, svelte version of myself, the permanent marks of my life's most difficult transition will serve as a constant reminder of the insecure, desperate-for-fulfillment girl who earned the marks in the first place. I can confidently state that I am okay with the fact that losing weight will never be easy for me, and that getting there will take a long time. What I haven't accepted is that no matter how far I progress physically or mentally, I will never again have flawless skin on my stomach, arms, or thighs. I'll have to tell my future boyfriends what chapter of my life these stretch marks represent. Every time I look in the mirror or put on a swimsuit, I'll be reminded of the agony of that year. I'll also have to learn to love this part of my body, which will be the most difficult thing for me to accept.
I'm sorry to say that I didn't realize the truth about stretch marks until I got them. They are beautifully telling, even if they appear ugly from a societal perspective on body image. They hold a story about life for every individual plagued with them. Stretch marks are so much more common than we think and more beautiful than we give them credit for. Unlike what we’re taught, you don’t have to have a baby to excuse yourself for having them. They are a part of you worth loving regardless how you earned them. I say that simultaneously knowing that it is true and yet still questioning it for myself. I wonder every time I date a guy if he’ll find me less attractive for having them. Will friends see them at a pool party and judge me for eating the queso anyway? The only thing I can tell myself is that if any of that is the case, I should be having sex with better guys and spending time with more loving friends. Because at the end of the day, I can’t erase these stretch marks any more than I can erase the history and emotional scars that caused them.
Written by one of our customer.