How does one learn to love their body? How do I go about the process of actually seeing my body as it is, instead of through squinted eyes, or through the lens of others’ hurtful, flippant, presumptuous gaze? How do I do this, and where do I begin?
CONTENT WARNING: BODY IMAGE, BODY CHANGES, WEIGHT LOSS
I have had stretch marks on my body for almost as long as I can remember. The first ones came with puberty, like faded lightening strikes across my hips, ushering me into womanhood. The women in my family chuckled in sweet tones and clucked and snickered; their lives well lived, they knew that there would be more. Later, new marks, pink and shiny, scrawled across the sides of my breasts, then the tops. Then my stomach and the smooth, sloped flesh of my lower back from my waist to my butt was likewise decorated. I have never had a baby, but it would be believable that I may have if you looked carefully. I also have no claim to the idea that I’m “a tiger that earned her stripes”, as the Body+ movement says they are. These aren’t battle scars from having a child or being a weight lifter. These are receipts for a lifetime of being in a flawed and imperfect body. Daily reminders that my body isn’t good enough.
I’ve never felt the shame and dread of stretch marks, specifically, that many do, to me they were just a part of growing up. In many cases they appear when your body becomes smaller, not bigger, though how much you will see them or have them at all is largely genetic. I’ve never minded them, that is to say I have never found them repulsive, like so many other things about my body. I have lost weight in this past year and I now have new stretch marks to show for it. You can see them in the picture below. I used to only have stretch marks running vertically, but now I have a whole new landscape of grooves and creases that have turned the skin of my breasts and stomach into something that resembles pale crepe paper, tiny gathers and wrinkles and grooves that preserve the story of my body’s changes. What a shitty reward for losing weight. Insult to injury.
I try very hard to love my body, and I am mostly unsuccessful. I was taught, and it was reinforced for decades, that my body was flawed and undesirable and wrong. That’s a stigma that was internalized a long time ago that I am working at undoing. I am trying so, so hard. Although I don’t begrudge these new stretch marks specifically, they are part of the overall aesthetic nightmare of my body, they are symbolic of yet another way that I don’t measure up. They may not be my biggest body pet peeve, but they don’t feel good.
Maybe these feelings are exacerbated by the indulgence of the holidays, maybe I’m being too critical, but the truth is, these stretch marks feel like prison bars. Maybe I am a tiger, and this body is my cage.