(Never did I think a Coldplay song would perfectly describe my struggles with body-positivity.)
“Emaa, what are those?” asked an aunty while pointing to my knees. I, immediately conscious of the fact that I had decided to wear a mini skirt to a family gathering, mentally prepared myself for the impending conversation. “Uh”, I gulped, “they are stretch marks”. When the confusion on her face didn’t waver, I went on to explain, “You know, because I’m tall. The skin expands and sometimes leaves behind these kinds of marks.”
Although the bewilderment on her face conveyed the fact that this was a concept absolutely alien to her, I refuse to believe a middle-aged woman who had been through two tummy-expanding pregnancies (a deduction I made after she loudly proclaimed how successful and rich both her sons were, you know, since they were abroad) was not familiar with the concept of stretch marks. Her lack of awareness made my then thirteen-year-old self quite embarrassed, and even ashamed of a physiological trait absolutely beyond my control. I felt as if I was almost abnormal.
But what this aunty could not have anticipated was the fact that while the marks on my knees were comparatively lighter, the lines on my bum were much darker and more prominent. For once, I silently thanked the universe for the oppressive moral standards of conventional society which demand the covering-up of the butt, saving me from further ridicule.
Fast forward to the summer of 2017: I was 18 and had just finished with my boards, ready to take on the world with my two-piece bikini and the perfectly toned body I had spent about a year working on at the gym, for the quintessential post-graduation beach trip with friends (okay, one friend in my case. And family. But whatever, it was cool).
As soon as the bikini arrived, I rushed to try it on, only to have all my enthusiasm go down the drain: my old nemesis had come back to bite me in the ass (quite literally). What I hadn’t foreseen was the fact that my abs were no compensation for the horrifying marks on my bum, now completely exposed, thanks to the bikini. I had a mini existential crisis, considered cancelling the whole trip, and spent the whole evening googling remedies to get rid of stretch marks. I think after a month of trying various home remedies, the most awful a mixture of two kinds of oil some well-informed adults were certain would work, investing in over-priced and absolutely useless creams, I gave up. Nothing had worked, and honestly, it wasn’t going to anyway.
We went to the beach, and most of the time I wore shorts to cover my bum. People thought I was trying to not be obscene (lol, they wish) but I knew I was just trying to hide my stretch marks.
It was only after I moved to college that I was exposed to more feminist discourses about body positivity and began my journey in self-acceptance. A huge inspiration for my change of attitude towards stretch marks is a close friend who unflinchingly flaunted her stretch marks while walking around in her two-pieces, and damn, did she look hot.
Stretch marks can occur due to a variety of reasons: pregnancies, weight gain, puberty, hormonal changes- in other words, they are an everyday part of growing up and that is not something you should want to hide.
I’ve had a stretch-mark anxiety phase, a dark-pigmentation-in-underarm anxiety phase, a bodyweight, facial hair, pimple phase, you name it phase. I won’t say there aren’t times that I haven’t been bothered by them or doubted myself, but these are increasingly rarer circumstances now. Two years later, when I went back to the beach, not only was I okay with my stretch marks, I was goddamn proud of them.
Tip: Instead of googling ‘10 ways to get rid of ___’; start with ‘what are ___ and why do they occur’. Once you understand why certain things happen, I guarantee you’ll realize how NOT abnormal these things are and begin to accept yourself.