TANESHA: Hayet, how are you?! I’m so happy you agreed to chat about this topic, it’s one women don’t discuss enough openly.
HAYET: I’m great thanks, and I agree, we honestly don’t. I think we may discuss them in small group settings but no one is really speaking about them publicly and having the hard conversations that truly demonstrate that stretch marks are normal. Since I was a little girl, all I saw about stretch marks was articles and products about how to get rid of them. We need to discuss the fact that you actually don’t have to. So I am really glad we are having an honest conversation about this and hopefully we help women feel differently about themselves.
T: Right?! I can remember when I got my first stretch marks around 12 and I didn’t really understand what they were. I just thought it wasn’t normal and that I needed to hide them at all times, so the thought of going to junior high and having to change infront of other people in a locker room really stressed me out, and I was only in fifth grade!
H: What’s interesting is that when I first got my stretch marks, I thought they were the coolest things ever! I know that sounds weird… I’m a very visual person so to me they were a beautiful pattern on my inner thighs and they were actually purple. But to be honest, I didn’t know what they were, or who to even ask. So because of that, I spent time looking for them on other people to see if anyone was as cool as me!
T: That’s so funny, I wish I thought of mine as cool, what a difference my teens and twenties would’ve been!
H: In Ghana, my mother subscribed to a British magazine called HELLO so I started looking in there for more women who would have them too, but I saw no one. It wasn’t until I saw stretch mark cream that I knew what they were, but the challenge was that a simple product on the shelf changed how I felt about myself. It was as if, by knowing what they were, society also told me that they weren’t supposed to be there. It kinda went down hill from there. It’s sad that at the age of 8, I was saving up my lunch money to buy these creams just so I didn’t have to admit that I had the stretch marks. I learned to be ashamed….thats the best way to sum it up.
T: Ughhhh, I know what you mean and it’s really sad how we’re made to feel a certain way about our bodies after seeing how other people don’t approve or don’t think it’s beautiful…. You posted an image on your blog and social media recently, exposing the stretch marks on your stomach. That image of you smiling and obviously confident in your own skin really inspired me and made me question my own insecurity with my stretch marks. Did you have any hesitation before posting that image or did you think people would react negatively?
H: Years ago I would have had hesitation posting that image. I mean if I am being honest, years ago I would never have even taken that picture. But I have grown a lot, and it isn’t this magical thing that happens and you one day love yourself. It is a step-by-step process made up of every day affirmations. The one thing I always tell myself is that my stretch marks are part of my skin, they are my skin’s “personality.” The more I treat them with mental kindness, the more I forget about them. So then when I am taking a photo, I don’t think of it as a photo showing my stretchmarks. To me it is a photo showing skin, that happens to have stretch marks on them. Women have unfortunately become hyper aware of our bodies and we can debate all day about what has caused that. But it is important to start becoming less aware of our outer selves and more aware of our inner sense of self.
T: You’re so right and I love that you call your stretch marks a part of your skin’s personality, and it’s so true: as we get older, we become mentally strong enough to dismiss so many of our hangups and insecurities that haunted our younger selves. Personally, I’m really thankful to be getting older because my past isn’t a place I want to be and I can’t express how happy I am that I’m now able to look past so many things I used to think were ugly and wrong with my body, including stretch marks.
When I was pregnant with Narayan, I remember getting a stretch mark around 7 months and crying my eyes out, literally crying into my pillow in my bed then texting my mom and sisters saying I really didn’t think I would get any more stretch marks because they came so late in the pregnancy. I was super depressed about it for a few days, and I was 32, which is eons away from when I got my first stretch marks at 12, yet all the adolescent feelings about what stretch marks meant and how they would affect my life came rushing back. I thought, how would I wear a bikini ever again, would they fade as nicely as the one’s I had at 12? So many questions and uncertainties made me feel depressed and sad, but I eventually snapped out of it and realized this body is a gift! It’s growing and expanding for my child and soon I’d have a baby in my arms, so who cares if my skin had to show the evidence of that?! Now at almost 7 months pregnant with my second baby, I’m keeping an eye out for any new stretch marks and a couple new one’s have already started to form, but this time I was able to just shrug them off like, oh well, more stretch marks and not dwell so hard.
H: I really appreciate your honesty and transparency, I know that takes a lot. What you just said has me thinking about what I would do if I ever got more stretch marks. But I think I am super proud of the mental space I am in now more than ever. I just realized that I kinda know where I have stretch marks, but I don’t really know where all of them are…I guess its because I have a lot! But I think that as women, and even more importantly for the younger girls who are going to grow up in this crazy, social media obsessed world, we need to create an environment of normalcy.
When I was younger I just needed someone to tell me that they were okay. I didn’t want to understand the negative sides of it. Heck, I didn’t even want women to call them out to celebrate them. I just wanted to see people going about their normal lives!
So I always struggle with photos like the one I posted. So many people messaged me applauding my bravery, and while I appreciate that, it also irritated me a lot. Because I was frustrated that when they looked at the photo all they saw were stretch marks…no one noticed my hair, or my eyeliner (which took me ten minutes!). It is sad that we have been trained to call out things about people’s bodies, period.
I will continue to push women to see each other as more than what is on the outside. I don’t care if you have stretch marks, or scars, or discolored skin…we need to stop looking at each other with magnifying glasses. And that will take work, but we all need to try, that is the only way to change the body conversation. Stop celebrating people for being absolutely and beautifully normal, but rather use the confident people to set a new standard for the new norm.
T: Beautifully said, I couldn’t agree more. You inspire me so much, thanks again for chatting about this!