One night when I was about 15, I laid on my right side in bed while reading what I’m sure was the newest Harry Potter novel. I idly ran my left hand over the curve of my hip as I turned the pages, a distracted movement as I slid my hand seamlessly from my waist, down to my thigh, and back. I thought nothing of it until I paid attention to what I was feeling: lines, grooves. I looked over to give it a closer look, having never really noticed them until now, and I smiled, turning back to the book while continuing to stroke my hip, this time with purpose and pride.
And there you have it, my first encounter with stretch marks. Up until then I had only ever heard of them, so when I noticed them on my hips, it wasn’t completely foreign, but it also wasn’t a mark of disgust. I was 15; I had never even heard that stretch marks were a bad thing! I just knew one thing: it meant my hips had grown, but nothing else.
When you’re 15, that’s pretty cool. I was always destined to be a curvy woman, but knowing that my hips had gone the extra mile to make themselves known was sort of cool. I liked having the marks to show that yes, this is what a woman looks like, and that she had arrived. I smiled knowing that I had lost my baby weight one year earlier, and that it was my natural figure simply coming out. It showed my growth into adulthood.
Stretch marks are the physical manifestation of growth, of time gone by, of your experiences. They show the ultimate sacrifice a mother made to bear her child, where a man lifted weights to gain confidence, and where the freshman fifteen decided to settle in. They aren’t always pretty, but they’re the part of you that will never go away, no matter how much you diet and exercise, and they’re marks that should be celebrated because – here’s the secret – we all have them! We all had to grow into these bodies, and whether the circumstances were for better or for worse, you can look at those marks and know you made it through something.
We should point at stretch marks like we point at our childhood scars, beaming with pride about days gone by. “I got this one when my breasts first came in” or “I got this one when my college boyfriend broke up with me and I put $200 of Chinese food on my credit card.” Those times will mark your body forever, and like every hard time and happy moment you’ve faced up until now – you’re better for it.
I have a tattoo on my left shoulder that I got when I was 18; I still like it, but there are one or two things about it that I would change by the age of 28. However, I see those imperfections much like my stretch marks – something in my life lead me to that point, and there’s no looking back. By my age now, I’ve seen things – and eaten things – and my hips, breasts and inner thighs have the scars to prove it.
I still run my hands over the lines – both old and new – fascinated with the texture and reading into the meaning like they were the lines on my palms. I’ll never make an effort to hide my stretch marks, I’ll wear these stripes like the tiger I am.