The Truth About Stretch Marks
Psst… I’m going to tell you a secret. Something you might not believe. Are you ready?
Everyone has stretch marks.
Shocking, I know. But, no matter what shape or size you may be, those little tiger stripes don’t care.
So, why is it shameful to have stretch marks? Because they’re a sign of fatness, right? Of your skin stretching beyond its means. We hide them with clothing and makeup, we try to get rid of them with oils and creams, we cringe whenever we see them in the mirror. But, here’s the thing – your body is pretty amazing. Your skin is a living organism that adapts as you change and grow. This doesn’t just include outwards, it includes upwards.
Stretch marks can appear anywhere – stomach, hips, thighs, arms, back, you name it. They can also appear for loads more reasons than weight gain. Of course, women get them during pregnancy as their body grows to accommodate an actual human being inside of them. They can appear during growth spurts when your body is becoming what it is meant to be. They can be hereditary, so there is no avoiding them. You can even get stretch marks from losing weight too quickly – the exact opposite of what they are condemned for.
Commonly, stretch marks are associated with women. While it’s true that women are more likely to develop them, men are not magically immune. Yet, women are conditioned to believe that stretch marks are unattractive, while little is said about men who have these scars. The most common reasons men develop stretch marks are weight gain, rapid growth and body training – pretty much the exact same reasons women can get them. They’re as natural as breathing.
Let me tell you a story of one of the worst experiences of my life, all because of stretch marks. My body has been through a lot in its twenty-six years and I’m not ashamed to say it is covered in stretch marks. Undoubtedly, some were unavoidable as I grew up. However, the majority are a result of weight fluctuation. Over the years, I’ve gone through phases of self-loathing because of them. I’ll admit I’ve tried oils and creams to reduce their appearance; I’ve deliberately not worn something because you could see them; I’ve deleted photographs because my stretch marks were visible. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to terms with them.
Flashback to 2014, the year my brother got married. I was fortunate enough to be one of the bridesmaids – my first time ever being one, actually. It was my first time experiencing all the things that come with being part of the bridal party, including hair and makeup trials and the dreaded fake tan. Would you believe I’d never had a spray tan before? It’s just not my thing. But, I took it on the chin and booked myself into a local salon to get it done. I knew I would have to strip off, but thought I’d have a say in just how much – oh, how wrong I was.
The girl doing my spray tan asked me to remove my bra, but keep my knickers on if I wanted. How very kind. I would’ve rather kept all my underwear on, but I bit my tongue and told myself she’d seen it all before. She warned me before I left that I would be extremely dark, but it would lighten up after I had a shower. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite believe how dark I would be… I got home and freaked out! Cue jumping in the shower to wash it all off, then immediately regretting my decision when I realised I’d be the only pale bridesmaid. So, I had to make an awkward call to the salon to let them know what I’d done and if they could see me again.
On my second visit, I didn’t get the same girl. No, this time I got the owner and she wasn’t amused. We went upstairs to the tanning room and I stripped off again, keeping my knickers on like last time. But, she point-blank refused to spray tan me if I didn’t take them off. I was utterly mortified and didn’t know what to do. Did this woman have a right to do this? Wasn’t it up to me how much I wanted to take off and keep on? I nervously laughed and told her I’d like to keep them on. She refused again.
So, I took a deep breath and took them off. Did she give me paper pants? No. In some sort of twisted show of superiority, she made me take everything off before she did her job. It was awful. But, the humiliation didn’t stop there. With my entire body exposed to this woman, she took a step back and asked, “So, how many kids do you have?”
Why on earth did she ask that? Because of my stretch marks.
Yup, according to this woman, the only plausible explanation there was for having stretch marks like mine is I must have given birth. The thing is, I’m pretty sure she knew I wasn’t a mother. I don’t exactly give off motherly vibes, do I? I was also pretty young at the time. She acted ‘surprised’ when I told her that no, I didn’t have any children. All the while I just wanted to cry. I was ridiculed and belittled by this woman, all for the sake of a spray tan.
The best part of it all, I was fairly comfortable with my stretch marks at that point in my life. I’d had them for years and they’d faded to that shiny grey colour. Yet, this woman pointing them out made me feel disgusting. But, you can bet your life she had them too. It’s safe to say I’ll never get a spray tan again…
Stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of. Just like moles and birth marks and imperfections, everyone has them. They are a symbol of growth and change; a testament to how strong our bodies are and what they can withstand. We only believe them to be unattractive because we’ve been told they are. If you’re unhappy with your stretch marks, then there are ways to hide them. But, please don’t think for a second that you have to. Your body is beautiful just the way it is, tiger stripes and all.
Until next time,