How come we tend to only memorize hurtful comments and not soothing, flattering remarks?
I remember the day I started feeling self-conscious about my body. I had just turned 13 and I was meeting friends at the beach. We hadn’t discovered flirting yet, so we were actually going to play, chat or whatever we had planned that day. I didn’t think twice about changing into my swimsuit because that’s normal beachwear.
All it took was one look and one comment.
“Wow, what happened to you? Why you have so many scars?” one of the guys asked when I showed up in my bikini.
They weren’t “scars” per se but relatively new stretch marks on my hips. My classmate, who had the social skills and the cluelessness of a 13 years old, hadn’t even meant to hurt me but I agonized over the goddamn stretch marks for years after his comment.
Okay, I used to forget about the stretch marks and focus on something else once in a while—my nose, my legs, my teeth, my hair, my weight… Basically, I wanted to be a hot, petite blue-eyed blond with a small nose and a great smile.
Unfortunately, I am still a 1.70-metre-tall black-eyed brunette with a big nose and I’ll smile if I feel like it, no pressure please.
My stretch marks have faded now. I remember them as angry red lines that said “ah ah, goodbye childhood, welcome puberty!” but they are white and not that noticeable anymore. I actually feel extremely lucky because I didn’t get any additional pregnancy stretch marks, so I shouldn’t even be complaining. I also discovered that absolutely everyone has at least a few stretch marks, guys included—leave a comment if you’ve been spared!
I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time agonizing over minor dents and scratches in my paintwork—yes, “paintwork”, because that’s what my body is, an amazing machine that moves, runs, takes me places. Except for the occasional sore muscles, headache or cold, I’m mostly pain-free. My body respond to my brain and mostly complies with commands (although I really can’t do splits). It’s fucking amazing.
I’m not going to claim I think I’m pretty. I just choose not to ask myself the question.
I learned how to make my body work for me. I don’t hide, I try to change or improve what I can and on days when I have zero confidence, I remind myself that few people spend much time looking at me, anyway. I mean, how often do you walk someone on the street and think “wow, that person is [insert negative comment here]?”
The perfect body doesn’t exist anyway.
Come to the beach in Brazil. You’ll see every skin tone, every weight, every body shape, you’ll see cellulite, surgery scars, stretch marks, weird toenails, wrinkles, loose skin…—and yet, everyone is wearing a swimsuit and having fun. It’s not like Brazilians are immune to self-consciousness—they do care about their looks—but this is a country where everyone looks different, plus it’s hot, so whatever, you go to the beach and care about your stretch marks another day, ‘right?
The last beach we wanted to explore before returning the rental—”Mark, daddy didn’t really steal the car, we do have to bring it back…—was Praia Mole. It’s a classic beach on Ilha de Santa Catarina because it’s close to the city and accessible by bus. In fact, this is the only beach we went to in 2009 when we first discovered the island.
Praia Mole is a surfers’ beach with big waves. Not the best place to swim but it’s pretty.
We mostly wanted to take a trip down memory lane.
And there was something else I remembered but our 2009 trip—the nude beach hidden behind the rocks at the far end of Praia Mole.
As usual, I followed the Brazilians who instinctively know how to get from one beach to another—yes, it involved a long hiking trail and climbing rocks but after a twenty-minute walk, I found Praia da Galheta.
Less wind, smaller waves, quieter. Perfect.
Is it still a nude bea—
Oh yeah. That, or everyone lost their bikini and swim trunks in the water.
I took my bikini off and went swimming. It felt awesome. There are plenty of things I wouldn’t do at the beach—including having sex, too sandy!—but sunbathing and swimming naked is very enjoyable.
My stretch marks and I had fun.