photo: Marissa Pina, Vivala

Growing up, I was chubby. I was never considered overweight or fat, but I definitely carried my baby weight well into my teen years and even into my early adulthood. I hadn’t noticed my weight, mainly because kids on the playground found other reasons to pick on me (mainly my hair). My weight fluctuated as I grew, and when I hit eighth grade, I had my first major slim-down — my baby weight still rested in my face and in my arms, but my stomach and legs had finally started to find their shape. 

It was around then that I noticed that my stretch marks were much more prominent. I hated the way they'd peek out at the top of my hips and bottom of my shorts, because they made my skin tone uneven, like small white veins stretched against my complexion.

For years, I tried everything — from cocoa butter to foul-smelling oils I couldn't stomach to the most expensive lotions on the market — to fully get rid of them. 

I started to lose more weight, gain some back, and lose it again. After I finally started to emerge from puberty, I did the one thing that everyone says is the hardest thing for you to do: I looked at myself completely naked in front of a mirror, for the first time since early childhood, without judgment. My stretch marks stood there, like they always have.

I stood there looking as they stretched across my skin, down my thighs, around my butt. For the first time, I thought they looked cool, interesting — not things to be ashamed of or hide. I realized there that for years I had been told to conform to this hairless, blemish-free world of beauty. I needed the smoothest skin — not only without hair, but without scarring or any type of discoloration. I needed to be perfectly even from head to toe. 

But each mark held the memories of how my body can change, will change, and continue to change. Now, I’m proud to have them, to show them off, because coming to the realization that I loved my body was a moment of solidarity within who I was. I was happy with who I saw in the mirror, and decided at that very moment to love every inch, and to remind myself that I do every day. I knew if I didn’t, I would slip back into thinking that these marks weren’t a badge of honor, but a mistake to be hidden behind leggings and jeans again. 

Since that day, I haven’t used a lotion to get rid of them or sought out a single doctor about how to remove them. I smile when I touch them, and I know that they will continue to change with me. I saw how beautiful a body can be if you allow yourself to grow with it.