It’s been pretty warm in the UK lately. Alright, “warm” might just mean anything over 10 degrees for us, but still. We’ve had a little bit of sunshine and summer finally seems to be on its way. For a lot of us, that means getting our limbs out, or, to be more frank, our cellulite and stretch marks. That can be pretty scary.
As a fully grown 22 year old woman, my legs are full of cellulite, stretch marks, stubble, and scars from various activities (falling off a swing as a child, cutting myself shaving in the same spot 24 times as an adult), and my arms are hairy, pale, and absolutely not toned at all. When I was younger, I was an actual twig. 14 year old me had smooth, skinny, scar-less limbs that tanned easily, and I was all too eager to whip out the summer dresses at the first glimpse of sunlight. I had no shame when I lay out my little flat body on a beach in a bikini. I had nothing to hide, because I had a child’s body. Then I put on weight, AKA grew into my womanly body, and things changed. Cue the sudden worry about purple marks, orange peel thighs, and a slightly protruding stomach.
I wasn’t used to all of this. Being a slim child, I’d never had to worry about this kind of thing before. Adulthood sprung upon me suddenly and mercilessly. It took me a long time to understand that as an 18 year old, I wasn’t supposed to look the same as I did when I was just hitting puberty. Boobs were inevitable. My hips were bound to get wider, because that’s biology. My metabolism slowed down, but my eating habits didn’t. I still wanted to fit in the dresses I loved when I was 16, but my body just wasn’t the same shape and size anymore. I eventually realised that that’s just the way that things are, and I couldn’t have possibly maintained my childhood body no matter what I did. That’s not how life works. We grow into adults, and with that comes a few marks and scars.
I am fully aware that my body is perfectly healthy. I am not overweight or obese, but you don’t have to be either of those things to have cellulite or a podgy tum, and it’s normal to be self conscious about these little things.
But at the end of the day, that’s all they are: little things.
Yeah, my legs have dimpley fat-pockets. They have scars and spots and cuts. They have shaving rash, and big patches of hair that I missed while shaving. But who’s looking that close anyway? And what does it matter to them?
I am about to tell you something absolutely groundbreaking: nobody will die, or be sick, or cry, at the sight of your bloated belly or cankles. Really! They will not run away from you, because you are not a monster. They will actually carry on with their normal lives around you, maybe buy an ice cream, and get on with it. They’re probably worrying about their own wobbly bits, or that one weird toe that everyone can see in their flip-flops, or that they forgot to shave their armpits while they’re wearing a sleeveless top. Everyone has got their own things that they worry about, and nobody looks like a Victoria’s Secret model that’s been edited and airbrushed for the cover of a magazine.
In case you haven’t heard, websites like ASOS have given up editing out stretch marks and the like. Taking a quick peek at the swimwear section of their website, you can see that even the most toned, slender models have got stretch marks. It’s part of growing, and it’s normal. Having them doesn’t make you fat or ugly or undesirable. They make you a person with skin. You won’t catch these things on the cover of Vogue or Glamour, but even celebs and models have got wrinkles, discolouration, and stomach rolls. Don’t be fooled by their supposed perfection.
Here’s the good news: you grew a body! It reached adulthood. Your adult body looks different to your childhood body, and it’s supposed to, because it develops. Your body might have grown a whole human being in there and pushed it out, or it might have run a marathon, or it might have been the hand somebody held while they got a really scary injection, or it might have done none of those things and just really enjoyed eating slices of cake like mine has. Anyway, as long as you’re healthy, it’s fine. You have a body that is alive and functions and loves you. It keeps you alive by doing things you don’t even notice, like making new cells and attacking viruses. So maybe treat it to some sunshine and an ice lolly.
Bodies are gross, but not for the reasons you think they are. They’re gross because they make weird smells and your skin cells shed everywhere all the time. They’re not gross because they have a few scars. And if somebody thinks that your body is gross because of that, then maybe you should point them to the whole skin cells thing. That might give them some perspective.
I may not leap at the chance to put on a pair of short shorts like I used to do in my teenage years, but I’m still going to whack on a dress without tights (wild, I know) when it’s hot out, because, well, it’s hot out, and I don’t want to get all sweaty and uncomfortable. FEEL THE BREEZE ON YOUR KNEES! ACCIDENTALLY DRIP MELTING ICE CREAM DOWN YOUR FOREARM! EXPOSE YOUR SHOULDERS TO POTENTIAL WASP ATTACKS! But wear sun cream, that’s important. If you’re getting out all of your appendages, they do need to be protected from the sun.
To sum it all up, it’s okay. Bodies on the beach are okay. Bodies in the park are okay. Bodies with minimal clothes on are okay. Bodies with lots of clothes on are okay. Bodies, in general, are okay. Enjoy the sunshine, friends, because your body is okay. Over and out.