At the Beggar’s Table: Stretchmarks, Scraps, and Being Worthy

Q. Hi, I’m a big girl. Big as in 16 stone, which in pounds is about 224 pounds. I know a guy and we want to have sex but I am so worried that my stretch marks, which I have over the majority of my body, will put him off. I am also worried about the discoloration on my inner thighs and the fact that my lady area is big. I really need some help on this as I’m that I will be so self-concious that I won’t go through with it, but I really, really want to. What can I do?

A. There are two ways we can go about said dilemma that is your stretch marks, my love.We can mine the QVC trove of creams and lotions, clinging on to which seem to offer the cure. We can throw around laser therapy – expensive, but proven to work! With an exclamation point that seals the deal! Then we can top it all off with the latest microdermabrasion techniques, peaked tiny crystals that seemingly scrub away the stretch marks forever. All these things promise a paved road to a new you, a you that is worthy of having sex with. I would list it all out with gusto, if it seemed like it was what you wanted. I really would. But telling you which snake oil or magic bullet will potentially cure your stretch marks and transform you would be a lie. While I do dabble in the business of telling lies now and then, I find much more comfort on that old cliché: the truth will set you free.

Now we just have to ask, what is the truth here?

I don’t know what your stretch marks look like. I certainly don’t know what it is to live with them day in and day out, to stare into the mirror and have to look at those particular marks that define your thighs like a highway map with a mean sense of humor.  The one thing I do know, with an absolute and unfortunate certainty, is the way that women are trained to hate ourselves from the second the doctor says, “It’s a girl.” We fixate upon the parts of ourselves that scream, “Not the way I want!” We chastise our bodies, as if they were nothing more than receptacles to hold all our bad feelings about ourselves, defending for permission to speak ill of ourselves. We take comfort in inconvenient truths about our bodies, since it seems more real at the lowest point, rather than the fleeting feeling of the highest. We are experts at head games, experts at navigating the mine field of crumbling our physical self-worth, based on ads, based on what we know, based on what he, she, they said, based on something that no one has actually even defined just yet, only that it is there all the time, enveloping us in the self-hate cycle, condoned and encouraged by every message we are given, no matter how invisible.

Sometimes we are right. Our bodies do betray us in ways that don’t seem part of the package deal of what we thought we were promised. We can’t help but hate at the glaring, blinking symbol that our body can become; the failure of flesh. Certainly the concept of self-love is one that could  benefit from a money mcbucks grant. Instead of government sponsored cheese, you would get government sponsored messages about your body everyday: “Girl, you are sensational and what you have to say is always important. You are an undeniable powerhouse, you are an indescribable inspiration, YOU ARE FUCKING BEAUTIFUL.” Brought to you by the U.S. Homeland Department of Self Love.

Here is an option that seems more likely than America cutting its military budget for the national self-love campaign: Billboards with images that represented what bodies actually look like. I’ve got a few ads in my mind that have made much difference, and frankly, I’m not silly enough to knock what is a direly needed, fresh perspective in the land of skinny white women with X product. But my one issue with seeing more bodies that look like your own, is that you are still comparing your body to theirs. Someone else’s body is still the measure of whether your own is worthy or not. It’s a pretty shallow bone to pick, if you do think about the large-scale benefits. I mean, how amazing would it be to see a woman weighing 224 pounds with stretch marks and marketed as sexy?

Well, I have bad news. We can’t rely on advertisers to do that. We can’t rely on companies, whose main goal is profit, to present us the images we want to see. We can always hope they do, but there is nothing more desperate than sitting like beggars at the table, feasting on scraps, hoping for just one more crumb. We also can’t use other bodies as the barometer as acceptance of our own. Yes, let’s see more of us, yes, more stretch marks, yes, more of all the things that they consider imperfections that is the lived road map of the bodies we wake up in every morning. Yes, yes, yes. But also no. No, because even though that body is a sore sight in the sea of same old, same old, it’s still not your body. No, because you do not need anything to prove the presence of your body as worthy. Not a billboard, not a H&M model, not a representation anywhere. No, because as my girl Iyanla Vanzant always says, “Comparison is an act of self-violence.”

You have stretch marks.You have discoloration. Your vagina seems larger than you think it should be. None of this is going away. None of these things need to be radically embraced and thought of as perfect, as if ignoring the things about your body that have driven you up the wall as far back as you can remember will solve every problem. But this is the way your body is. If you cream it, braise it with micro crystals, laser it, you may feel better about your body. You really may. But you may not. You may find something new to fixate on, to drive you to the brink of feeling as if it were a prison sentence to look at your naked body. Odds are, what is happening in your head is the problem. I would love to tell you that your stretch marks aren’t the problem, mostly because I genuinely believe that they aren’t. But I could speak til I was blue in the face about your body and you still may not believe me. I know this, because for years, I obsessed over the fat pouch on my stomach, or my buck teeth that seemed to jut out of my mouth, as if they were trying to escape. I thought about my untamable hair, my giant birthmark that always incited, “Oh my god, what happened to you?” my this, my that, my body part of the day, week, or year that I couldn’t stop thinking about and hating. People would give me compliments and I’d think they were lying to make me feel better. Criticism or downright insults? I knew they were the truth-tellers, people who were bold enough to not be nice and spare my feelings. I thought like this, until I could no longer hold the weight of these thoughts anymore, and collapsed under them, wondering why it was that I hate myself and my body so much, as if the years and years of practice had not been training me for this very moment.

I still do not radically love my body – my self. But I do accept that it is the way it is, even the parts that I could quickly and easily slip into thinking about and describing as unworthy. But I have to give myself permission to know that I am worthy, as do you. You are your stretch marks and you are more. You are worthy: of you, of a partner, of nakedness. Give yourself the permission, because no one else can, even if they act like they will. Define your body as worthy to by itself, stripped down to the essence, stretch marks and all.

Otherwise, you will always be sitting at the beggar’s table, wondering when the next scrap might come by.

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By TheLadyMiss

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