My husband and I were recently talking about plastic surgery and why people get it.
Is it for themselves or for others? I think it’s a little bit of both. I think augmenting our body in any form is an attempt to adhere to a cultural ideal. That’s why I wear earrings and make up and why I color my hair.
French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss described the body as a surface waiting to be imprinted on by culture.
I thought about this as I stared at the fresh stretch marks on my abdomen just weeks after having a baby. They really didn’t bother me–these small jagged lines.
So I wondered: If no one had ever told me they were disgusting, would I believe they were disgusting? Would I be applying these oils and lotions to try to get them to vanish if I thought they were beautiful?
If your stretch marks bother you, I don’t think it’s wrong to try to minimize them. It’s your body; you can do what you want. But I had this thought: What if we allowed our bodies to tell the stories they wanted to tell? In other cultures scarring and tattooing and piercing are used as rites of passage. What if we looked at our bodies this way too?
What if instead of lamenting about my lack of thigh gap, I just accepted it as part of the story of where this body has been and where it’s going?
What if we stopped trying to attain this ideal culture has presented to us and we tried to change the ideal?
These are my stretch marks.
They are really not bad at all. They tell a story of a wonderful pregnancy, which I was fortunate to carry in my body. I know so many women who wish they had these marks–especially as Mother’s Day approaches.
And while we are at it, that’s my post-baby tummy telling a story of a quick and healthy delivery of a beautiful baby girl.
There’s a story Anne Lamott recounts in one of her books. She is complaining about her figure when her friend, who was dying of cancer at the time, asked her, “Do you really have that kind of time?” Do we really have time to complain about our pooches and fine lines? Couldn’t we channel that energy into something more creative and substantial?
What story is your body telling? I’m trying to tell one of confidence and accomplishment. I’m trying to tell one of acceptance and growth.
Is your body telling the story you want to tell? You are the only one who gets to tell it. For the sake of our daughters and nieces and sisters, let’s make sure it’s a good one.