'Stretch marks are the badge of a real woman' goes one of my favorite quotes in the film _For Keeps? _by John G. Avildsen. Growing up, I was always embarrassed of my stretch marks—especially in gym class. Back then (it wasn't really that long ago), I never talked about it, which just made me feel more uncomfortable in my skin. But that's the thing about teenage years: Everyone's a little uncomfortable in high school. Since then, I've become more confident in my “imperfections,” partially because every woman can have stretch marks, no matter her shape or form. In an effort to spread that confidence to everyone, I decided to photograph and interview other “real woman,” as Avildsen would call them, who are also proud to show off their own zebra stripes.
Alexia Louise Harris-Gomez
'I first discovered the stretch marks on my stomach when I was eight months pregnant with my son in May of last year. I learned a lot about my body during that time. Before I had a baby, I would complain about my stomach and how I didn't like it but now that I have a bunch of stretch marks, I think of how crazy I was dwelling on my body. I would always be comparing myself to celebrities and internet pictures of girls' bodies. Now I try to stop beating myself up about my body issues, even though seeing these marks on my belly makes me have insecurities. But the best advice I can give is to stop comparing yourself to other people and give yourself time to really appreciate the skin you're in,”
'I recently and rather abruptly stopped ballet and the weight gain caused some stretch marks. I remember being really surprised because I thought stretch marks only occurred in older or pregnant women—my mom had stretch marks and the idea that I could get them was extremely bizarre. I also had this very pre-pubescent body and having marks that I associated to mature womanhood made me much more aware of myself. I see so many images showcasing 'flawless' women, which makes me start to feel a hatred towards my imperfections. But it also completely alienates me from my own body—it turns my physical self into some sort of logical impossibility. I never saw stretch marks in the media growing up and therefore assumed they were both flawed and that they didn't really exist...and how weird is that? When did our own bodies become so visually foreign? Never be ashamed of loving yourself and don't be afraid to reveal your marks, because if people see that you love yourself, maybe others will learn to love themselves, too,”
'I first noticed my stretch marks pop up around my hips when I was 15 years old. I felt insecure just like everyone else my age. But I learned that stretch marks can be cute! I call them the stripes of life—they show how far we've come, whether caused by growth spurts, weight loss or pregnancy. Whenever I feel insecure about my stretch marks I just remind myself that it's never the first thing people will notice about me,”
'I got stretch marks at a super young age...I was like 10 or 12. I was a little terrified that my skin seemed to be ripping or something. My mother explained to me that this was normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. Everyone on this planet has stretch marks! Let's be real—you can't be embarrassed about them. Just don’t be! They fade, they come back and they are totally out of your control. Besides, there is a beauty to them, the patterns they form. There is also something so inherently feminine about them, although men can get them, it’s not the same,”
'I remembered discovering stretch marks on my body around the age of 8 or 9 while vacationing in the Philippines with my family. I was hanging out in my swimsuit after going to the beach, and saw some on my thighs. Honestly, I would have rather seen a new bug bite. But I learned to think of my stretch marks as something that makes my skin mine. No one else will have these marks on them exactly as you do, just as no one will have the exact moles and fingerprints as you. It adds to the list of what makes you special and YOU,”
'When my body started to develop, that's when I saw stretch marks. They started on my thighs and moved up to my hips. I never actively tried to make them go away or prevent them because they don't bother me at all. I've found them to be a natural part of growing as a human that I like to call My Booty Stripes. Don't feel nervous to bare those beautiful stripes. You aren't alone,”
'I got stretch marks on my hips when I got curves, and I guess I had no choice in the matter. I work in an industry trying to push that perfection. People are scared of real bodies and that's unfortunate, but that's been changing recently. I will admit that when you're young, it feels more intense and you're more aware of the imperfections on your body. All of us have imperfections and that's OK,”
Photographed by the author.
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