How My Stretch Marks Became My Favourite Accessory

When I first discovered the foreign bruise-coloured marks on my lower back, I was at my wit’s end with worry and promptly called for the soonest doctor’s appointment that I could manage. 

Did I have a rare blood condition? Was this the first symptom of some horrible disease that I was the first victim of, and therefore no answers could be found via my endless Google searches? Did I have merely days left?

When my doctor looked at me with a sad smile and told me that they were “only stretch marks,” I felt as if she’d just told me I really did have that rare disease I’d been fearing - or worse. My stomach plummeted, but I assured myself that within the coming moments she’d prescribe me a quick topical ointment to remedy them away. I can only remember furiously repeating in my head, ‘It’s only temporary. It’s only temporary.’

When she went on to say that they would likely remain on my body forever, like some kind of drunken tattoo I didn’t remember consenting to, my ears rang. ‘This is how somebody reacts to the news that they are dying,’ I thought. 

“I can give you some oils that might make a little difference!” she said peppily through her grin. “But honestly, I doubt it’ll make a difference.” 

The doctor, a rail-thin woman who was pregnant, but quite honestly only looked post-buffet bloated, could never understand the detriment I felt with every word. Through my blurred tears outside the office, I caught sight of a bench, collapsed into it and sobbed. How could I ever wear a bathing suit again?

I wished it had been a disease, because if it had been disease, it was only a symptom; and symptoms were curable. 

I avoided any possible glimpses of my body for days on end; it was too raw, and too painful, as if the marks had come from actual, physical wounds themselves. I wasn’t quite sure how to heal them, either - I’d been dressing them with the band-aids of friendly advice or utter distraction, and neither was doing the trick. 

Quite honestly, it’s never going to be enough to hear that I “shouldn’t see it as a big deal” from beautiful people online who feel the privilege of their conventionally attractive bodies in all avenues of life. 

They’re the same ones who have put these bodies exclusively in magazines, in storefronts, and on billboards, and they are the same ones whose voices are so innate within us that we take their opinions as truth and banish our own.

They’re the ones who, inadvertently, made me sob as if I was terminally ill that day. 

It wasn’t until I turned toward the mirror by accident, and was caught off guard by the reflection I’d been so carefully avoiding. How could I possibly have been so cruel to my body when it was only trying to adjust? How could I have been so angry with something that is a piece of me? 

As anyone who struggles with their self-image can attest, a pothole in the road to loving yourself feels more like a moon crater. But, somehow and some way, exposing it in a raw, real light - even if that’s only alone in the bathroom mirror - can be the most incredible way to rebuild. 

Perhaps it’s that being vulnerable sends your body into a shock that is too easily confused with a rush of empowerment - but either way, it’s to be savoured. 

I worked hard to love the curves of my hips, the way my lower back dips in, and the powerful way that my back and shoulder bones are so defined and then melt into the rest of me. 

I worked hard to say okay to the rest of it, and it’s all still here; I’m just a little bit painted.