Some of us have them in one area of our body, while others have them all over. Regardless of where those pesky red, pink, black, brown, or sometimes white lines appear, the general consensus is that all of us women hate them.
I'm talking about stretch marks. Which I unaffectionately referred to as “those."
I was in seventh grade when “those" appeared on my calves; it was as if they came out of nowhere. One day nothing, and the next, a mess. I didn't know what to do or how to get rid of them. I just knew those stretch marks were ugly, horrible, and made me stand out. The thought of those lines on my calves made me feel marked and altered like I'd done something wrong to my body. I couldn't understand why I got them when most of the other girls in my seventh grade class didn't have any…that I knew of. The only thing I did know was that I didn't want to get made fun of for being different.
And the fact that I was at the age when girls were starting to shave their legs (my mom wouldn't let me), I knew I couldn't let anyone at my school see my hairy, stretch mark tarnished legs. So I chose to wear pants every day. It was the only way to keep myself out of the line of fire while at school.
From seventh grade on, I never wore shorts-- only in the privacy of my own home. Even when I got to high school and was issued shorts for P.E., I still didn't put them on. Thankfully, we had the option to wear sweat pants instead of our gym shorts. If not, I'm sure I would have ditched P.E. as often as possible.
I continued to keep my legs and “those" covered well into high school. While other girls would wear shorts without thinking twice about it, I was secretly wishing I could do the same. This would lead to internal battles with myself about whether or not I could handle the ridicule that would come at exposing myself. But I never allowed myself to give in. “Pants for life" was my motto.
Growing up in Southern California, with excellent-sometimes hot weather, the one thing I was trying to avoid happened. While I was trying to avoid being an outcast and teased for having “those," I was being talked about for always being covered up--even on hot days. In eleventh grade, I remember hearing an acquaintance say, “Tamika always dresses like it's winter."
I thought to myself, "If they're commenting about me always wearing pants, they're sure to comment on my stretch marks."
So I continued on. In an effort to have the issue of me wearing pants fade into the background of people's minds, I made sure everything about me was perfect. I tried my hardest to stay up on fashion trends and keep my hair and makeup on point. In other words, what people were actually able to see, had to be flawless. But the years of wearing pants to hide my stretch marks did more mental damage than anything. It taught me to hide the things on my body that I couldn't fix.
By the time I graduated from high school, wearing pants was just a part of who I was. I never thought twice about buying or wearing shorts, dresses, or skirts. The only time I ever considered wearing shorts and not giving a crap about what others may say was when I moved away for college. I wasn't going to college with any of my high school friends, so I figured I could have a fresh start. I could wear my shorts, people would make their comments about my stretch marks and then hopefully move on from it. But just as I'd kept myself covered up for years prior, I couldn't do it. I couldn't bear showing the imperfections of my body.
It wasn't until I was well into my twenties that I finally decided to wear a pair of shorts and not care what anyone had to say about “those" or me. My first attempt was a trip to the beach (which I hadn't been to in years). It was there that I saw men and women letting their stretch marks show without a care in the world. This gave me confidence. If they could do it, so could I. But my old, timid way of thinking came back. And even though I was there, at the beach wearing shorts; I still got nervous when people stood or walked behind me, “Are they looking at my legs?" I'd think to myself.
After that beach experience, I still didn't wear shorts a lot. I had to get past the mental aspect of it. I had to grow confidence. In doing so I learned that it was fear that had me hiding in pants all those past years. The fear of not being perfect led me to sacrifice comfort with myself and my body. I was too busy comparing myself to other girls and then women.
The way I used to think about my body when I was younger was damaging. The things we say about ourselves, our worst enemies probably aren't even thinking.
And if our thoughts on a particular issue are negative, they can stay that way for years. I had to learn how to accept my body and its imperfections- they add character and separate me from others.
I also had to renew my mind, and get rid of all the negative thoughts I had when it came to “those" and accept that I got them because I grew a shape (which I love) during puberty and my stretch marks are just a reminder of that.
I am now at a place in my life where I know I am perfect the way I am, and wearing clothing that shows my calves is no longer an issue for me. Being comfortable in my skin and with who I am is far more important than anything I think someone could possibly be thinking or saying about me or “those."
It's important that we love our flaws just as much as our perfections, and that we remind ourselves that even the parts of us unseen are still beautiful.
Featured image by Getty Images