Most times when talking to women, no matter their ages, the common ground they stand upon in conversation is all the things they would like to change about themselves.
Higher boobs, longer legs, flatter belly, bigger eyes. It’s always something.
But nothing gets the ladies in a tizzy like stretch marks.
They talk about how if they ever won the lottery, they’d get laser surgery to remove them before spending a dime on anything else.
They refuse to wear two-piece swimsuits that might expose them, even donning swim skirts decades before their Geritol and blue old lady hair days call for it.
They look at their thighs in disgust when speaking about what bearing children did to them.
Their stretch marks didn’t just change the way their bodies looked, they changed how the women felt about themselves.
It breaks my heart how much these marks affect the women I care about, because my own stripes do not bother me. I don’t even think about them. Ever.
I’ve had them since puberty; I went from shaped like a boy to shaped like a woman in the blink of an eye.
The pale skin so many people taunted me about was pushed to its limits by wide hips, causing thick purple ropes to burst across them.
The extra inches of height I had over all my classmates (boys and girls) that got me teased only added flames to fiery stripes as they curled around my legs.
I had no control over my stretch marks—why would I let them control me?
Back before the days of smartphones, I’d unfold a paper map to figure out which way to go on my adventures. My eyes were always drawn to the rambling lines that rivers cut, insistently going wherever they damn well pleased.
Sure, the smooth, tidy lines of highway and gentle swerving country roads had a familiar comfort to them. But those rivers weren’t planned. They cut through rock and woods, taking unexpected turns, confidently flowing out, scarring the land with a purpose: to fill the glorious seas.
They did what they had to do to get the job done, and we love them for it. So why can’t we love our striped skin for the same reason?
Over twenty years have passed since my own personal purple tributaries have pushed their way across my flesh, so their color has faded. My silver stripes remain, and I make no attempt to hide them—nor will I ever pay to permanently remove them. They are a physical sign that I have changed, and I think change is good.
When I happen to catch a glimpse of another woman’s stripes, I’m never disgusted by them. I see them as evidence that she has been pushed to extremes and survived the journey, just like me.
And that is a beautiful thing, indeed.