Stretch Marks The Spot

rubber bands

Our young adult columnist Louise Jones gives the skinny on stretch marks – and insists they go far deeper than we imagine

 

I thought they were rays of sunlight coming through the venetian blinds and falling on my thighs, at first. But when the sky clouded over and it started raining, and the white lines stayed exactly where they were, I realised I was wrong. I frowned, and pawed at them like a distracted cat before getting Mum to confirm that yes – they were stretch marks.

 

Actual, proper, real stretch marks that only pregnant women get, surely? I remember being six years old and seeing the oddly regular scratches on my heavily pregnant school teacher’s stomach as if her skin were marking the days off before its prisoner could be released. They were fascinating. But on me? I wasn’t pregnant, especially not in my legs.

 

I hated them. I thought they must be because I was putting on weight. I was getting fat. Over the years, more appeared. More on my thighs, different colours and sizes, and some on my hips. I’d wear shorts on holiday to cover them, which resulted in the worst tan lines and an even greater variety of colours on my thighs. If I tried to tan the stretch marks too, they refused and gleamed whiter than before. I was beginning to look like I’d been attacked by a set of Berol pens.

 

When my puppy fat started to disappear, I was elated. “Great!’ I thought, “No more stretch marks! They’ll disappear as swiftly and sort-of-mysteriously as they arrived.” But epidermal physics doesn’t work like that. What’s done can’t be undone – no more by Bio Oil than by prayer. And you will probably go on to get more as your body redistributes its fat in more adult ways and your skin has to stretch more quickly to accommodate your changing shape than its natural capacity happily allows.

 

It wasn’t until I went to university and a friend showed me her tattoo on her side once, and I saw that she had stretch marks too that I started to accept mine. Since then, I’ve seen them on most women my age, in all different colours and sizes, and realised that it’s not just me and it’s not just for pregnant ladies and it’s not because I’m putting on too much weight too fast. D’you know what I’m doing? I’m growing. Of course I’m growing. When you’re a teenager, you grow. If you don’t, it means something’s gone wrong of a magnitude that is going to make a lack of stretch marks seem poor recompense.

 

I’m proud of them now. It’s a sign that my body’s doing what it should, and that’s bloody great. And maybe, one day, I’ll be able to point to the stretch marks I got when I was pregnant and they will be further evidence of my body’s amazingness. At that stage, I’ll show them off with pride. I might start giving them awards. All the marks on my body tell a story. Together, they make me, me. I don’t cover them up now. I want people to look at them and wonder how long they’ve been there and appreciate the wonders of the human body to change, adapt and survive. Don’t hide yours. I want to marvel at them too. I want to know your stories.

 

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