Ashley Graham’s Stretch Marks Are Helping Me Feel More Represented

Being body positive is hard. Being body positive during a pandemic is harder. Without the structure of a commute and standard nine-to-five, my eating habits — and, consequently, my weight — have been fluctuating quicker than Usain Bolt can run 100 yards. Any time I change or take a shower, new sets of stretch marks seem to mysteriously pop up around my butt, thighs, stomach, and breasts. I practically live in old and ratty workout clothes, which do nothing for me in the confidence department. Feeling good about my body gets more and more difficult as the clock ticks.

But then people like Ashley Graham appear on my Instagram feed while shamelessly posing, stretch-marked bellies out, looking like they don’t have a care in the world. Yeah, she really did that. On July 29, Graham modeled a low-cut string bikini and made no effort to hide the purple stretch marks splayed across her lower stomach (the same new marks she shared several time during her recent pregnancy). Most people would pair a picture like this with some grandeur statement about body positivity, but this is just an average post for Graham.

It does not escape me that Graham makes no mention whatsoever of stretch marks or bellies or loving her body in the caption of this photo. By not making a statement, she’s actually making a really big statement: Stretch marks are normal, and there’s no use making a big fuss over them. My stretch marks are nowhere near the same as Graham’s because I’ve never been pregnant. Our individual bodies and how we use them might be totally different, but she’s managed to point out one big similarity they do share: they change. My body, her body, and your body are all built to adapt to our surrounding climates. Graham’s body changed to make room for another human being. Mine is changing while it adjusts to a completely new lifestyle mostly spent at home. It’s human. It’s inevitable.

That’s not to mention the fact that Graham still looks hot as hell, stretch marks and all. I know she’s a model and quite literally gets paid to look hot, but you can’t deny the power in the confidence of her stance and the intimate angle of the photo. Seeing someone wear their stretch marks with pride, regardless of whether they otherwise fit all the traditional standards of beauty, makes it easier to accept my own isolation body. It won’t look like this forever, and I might not like all the forms it takes on in the future — but at the end of the day, it’s just a human body. It’ll carry me around for the rest of my life, and if it develops a few marks along the way, that’s OK. That’s what it’s supposed to do.

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