In the Eye of the Beholder (a/k/a Oh Yeah, I Have Stretchmarks)

Have you ever been to a women’s retreat?

I’ve been to a couple recently. They’re interesting. The energy there is totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. It’s soft. It’s powerful. It’s feminine. It’s sensual. It’s warm.

And having seen a recent set of photographs that were taken at the event – there’s a tremendous amount of body love. Never have I seen so much cleavage, so much form-fitting clothing, so much skin, jewelry, scarfs, scents, and curves. It’s really amazing.

I had the benefit of actually staying at the retreat location with the two leaders and three other women.

The following morning, two of the women did yoga on the deck, one plugged in, one walked around looking at the books and objects of art lost in her own thoughts, one did I know not what, and I took the opportunity to break out my travel hoop and do a little dancing.

The space was perfect. The room, cavernous. The sunlight, cutting into the room from a variety of angles. The views, mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. It really was magical.

As it often does, the hula hoop tends to draw a crowd. And you can literally see the little girl in every woman as she reaches for it and gives it a try. One of the women, I’ll call her B, was quite good. In fact, I shot some video of her hooping in her nightie, which happened to complement the hoop perfectly (what was it that I was saying about women’s retreats?)

Conversation turned to the health benefits of hooping – both physically and mentally – and when B said that it was a really good core workout, I actually pulled up my tank top to show her my new ab definition. Given the pro-body, self-love vibe of the weekend, her reaction was not one that I expected.

“Wow,” she said. “Were you really overweight?”

It took me a minute to figure out how she had made that – what I considered to be – intuitive of a leap and then I remembered.

Oh yeah, I have stretch marks.

I used to hate my stretch marks. I was so self-conscious of them. I thought they were so ugly.

I had forgotten about them. To the point that when a women with my hoop in a turquoise nightie pointed them out to me, I literally drew a blank. Oh, yeah. I used to weigh 232 pounds and I gained 40 of that 232 in about a two year period. A period in my adolescence where the skin couldn’t quite keep up. Hence, the stretch marks.

How could I have forgotten? I look at my stomach every day, though obviously that’s no longer what I see when I look in the mirror.

Oh yeah, I have stretch marks.

It reminded me of a time when I had first gotten naked with a new lover and he said, “Wow, how long have you had those stretch marks?”

My answer, as I pulled my clothes back on and headed to the door: “Long enough to know that only an asshole would ask me how long I’d had them.”

Today, with a little more self-acceptance than I had then, I’m sitting in a tank top – rucked up so that I can see my stomach.

Oh yeah, I have stretch marks.

But under the stretch marks that have been there long enough to have faded to almost nothing but still catch the light like silver fish in a pond, I have a lot of muscle. And with that muscle, the strength to keep myself up right, the strength to protect my lower back, the strength to allow me to do any number of yoga poses, the strength to dance for an hour (or sometimes more) with a weighted hoop….

Oh yeah, I have stretch marks.

And if I ever get to the point of wearing a bikini in public, I may actually paint them. Not so that they can fade away even further into my skin and into my past, but in bright, bold colors, for the entire world to see.

Hell yes, I have stretch marks.

They are a testament to where I’ve been.

They are as much a part of me as my eyes, my nose, or my fingers and though I used to think them hideous, they have their own unique beauty.

Would I have preferred to have grown up skinny? Absolutely.

But given that they’re here, I wouldn’t change the learning they’ve brought me for the world.

1 comment so far

  1. […] I quote: “Would I have preferred to have grown up skinny? Absolutely.” […]

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