“It just means you was really, really small and you got big or you was really, really big and you got small. Either way, it means change."
Those were the words of my first boyfriend after expressing my fear of undressing in front of him. Around that time my stretch marks were fresh - the color of dark cinnamon - and nothing sweet to the taste of my own self-confidence. All the girls my age still had their baby smooth skin and I was a walking case study for cocoa butter. I felt ugly and ashamed of my marks. My mother had stretch marks on her stomach after two children; I was sixteen and had just barely found out how a tampon worked.
Fast forward to 2017, when stretch marks are going through an unexpected glow-up.
Supermodel Lais Ribeiro infamously flaunted not only a bra that could outbid my student loans, but her stretch marks on the Victoria's Secret runway. Missguided, a top brand in fast-fashion, has declared that they are ceasing the of photoshop to hide stretch marks on their models' bodies. This past fall, Victoria's Secret released an un-touched photoshoot of Jasmine Tookes revealing her own stretch marks. Plus-size model Lucija Lugomer fully embraced her stretch marks and talked about her journey to self-acceptance. Model and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi posted a photo of herself earlier this month with her stretch marks in full view. All of these posts were garnished with hype and praise. Why?
Why are stretch marks - these reminders of our growth and existence - receiving so much viral attention? But then again, why shouldn't they?
via Instagram (@victoriassecret_passion)
The main problem, of course, is lack of representation. A rule of thumb: if it has to become a hashtag, it's because there's a need being called out. Body positivity is a movement that is taking over the internet simply because there aren't enough images of “normal" bodies in mainstream media.
When we think of the culture of beauty and high-fashion, we are conditioned to believe that imperfection isn't even supposed to exist. Between photo-editing and filters and apps that smooth our complexions with the touch of a button, we're constantly exposed to everyone else's idea of beauty. Out of this perfection-focused era comes a new one, in which women are recognizing the need to normalize their flaws and take matters into their own hands in beautiful ways.
In the same space of praise, I recognize the bittersweet reality that representation of such “oddities" is scarce. I'm hopeful that we will normalize the celebration of the woman's body in all forms, shapes, sizes, and marks alike so much that it becomes like breathing. I'm calling out a beauty revolution. I'm taking the initiative to look at these viral posts as a head nod in the direction of change in the way we view “flaws."
Call them what you will: tiger stripes, battle wounds, growth lines, marks on the tree.
Our scars have stories. They are reminders that we are superwomen and subject to our gravity here on earth.
Stretch marks are not a trend, but a sentiment of humanism that keeps us connected by embracing the nature of life. This should be viral and celebrated - to the point it becomes second nature. Embracing every inch, every line, every crevice of ourselves is what forms the nucleus of revolution. There is magic hidden in our perceived flaws that's dying to unfold, and I believe that those of us who were touched by the viral posts of stretch marks know it, too.
If the recent posts weren't enough of a reminder, I hope you know your scars are beautiful. I hope you know that your beauty doesn't have to harmonize with the ideals of others to be validated. I hope you know that you are not alone as you look in the mirror and wish for your outer thighs to get a clean slate.
Let the marks be reminders of how we stretched to love others and grew into the woman we were called to be.
For this beauty revolution I can only ask that you plant a seed in your wound and turn it into wisdom for the next woman to indulge. Allow others to reimagine the era of struggle they went through as a time of reformation and revolution, to reach a self that they had lost touch with in the fire of their pain. Remind yourself and remind others of their beauty. Being ourselves is the only beauty standard we need to abide by, and I hope every time women do this it goes viral. Cocoa butter kisses to our beautifully stretch-marked selves.
Are you learning to embrace your stretch marks or other body "flaws"? Share your experience with self-acceptance in the comments.