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What’s the stretch?

I was 11 and my sister’s and i were so excited because our parents let us go swimming alone for the first time ever. 

The pool was just a few blocks away from our house as it was in our apartment complex. It was a hot, Saturday afternoon and we knew the pool would be crowded that summer day. We put on our bathing suits, grabbed our towels before our dad changed his mind and raced barefoot to the gated pool. There were many other children there with their parents. I found an empty pool chair and sat down to secure it for my sisters and I. 

“what’s all that stuff on your legs!” the girl next to me said to me aloud. She was around my age, maybe slightly older. Her fingers were pointed at my legs and her face twisted in disgust. I looked down at my thighs. She was pointing to my stretch marks. I was 11, i didn’t know what they were and why i even had them. The other girls i went to school with didn’t have them. 

I didn’t know what to say. So i shrugged and quickly covered my legs with my towel. 

She laughed and looked at her friend who sat with her. “they look like worms!” They both laughed, “she got worms on her legs”.  She continued. 

I was embarrassed and ashamed. I stood up and left quickly. I never wore a bathing suit, shorts, a skirt or anything else that showed my lexgs after that. For years. When i got home I asked my dad why i had stretch marks. I couldn’t remember his response exactly but it didn’t satisfy my curiosity. I was told many things, ‘Oh it’s a sign that you’ll add weight when you’re older’ 

‘That’s just the way you look’

All my life I’ve had people point them out as if they were something to be ashamed of or as if i didn’t know they were there. And i did, for years, look at them in disgust. The same way that little girl saw me. I saw myself. 

‘if only’ i thought, ‘i could just rip them off’ i thought it was the one thing that made me ugly. 

I’m not 11 anymore, I’ve grown up. 

Fitness has helped me develop self confidence in many different ways. I have been able to embrace everything about myself. I’ve worked tremendously hard for my body and i am so super proud of every line, every stretch, every scar. Now i realize that i spent years hating my body for being exactly what it was- natural. 

It blows my mind that we’re so often encouraged to feel like crap about the natural things our bodies do like develop stretch marks. We’re told to ‘fight’ it and ‘fix’ it as if it were a defect. Stretch marks have been looked upon as something we should hide or feel ashamed about. Just like many other characteristics that make us human, they are deemed as flaws we must correct in order to be beautiful. 

We are expected to find ways to minimize their appearance because it is another sign that we haven’t achieved perfection. What is perfection? 

My stripes show that i’m older, mature and have been living a full life. They are a part of me forever and i’m never getting rid of them. 

Whether you’re tall, short, fat, or thin, male, female or anything in between. Athletic or non athletic, young or old. Chances are you’ll develop a stretch mark or two. This is because all bodies stretch. And this is what stretch marks are, stretching of your skin whether due to age, accommodating a pregnancy, building bigger leaner muscle, etc. It is a sign of growth. Our skin has three layers – these being the hypodermis (deepest layer), the dermis (the middle layer) and the epidermis (outer layer). Stretch marks are formed in the middle layer – the dermis. As your body grows naturally, the connective fibres in the dermis slowly stretch.

If you’re ever struggling with accepting your stretch marks, or whatever flaw you feel you have, it’s understandable especially in a society where we’re constantly told what beauty is, what we should look like, what we should aspire to be, and where we are conditioned to think that our blemishes, cellulite, stretch marks, scars are ugly and are ‘flaws’. Know that it is natural and there is nothing ugly about them. Self love is the best kind of love out there. Here’s a reminder to love who you are . 

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