There are so many things we as people and I as a double-X have gained with age. People told me of many of these things: experience, understanding, senses of sacrifice, first hand loss. There are also many things I’ve gained no one told me I would.
1) Stretch Marks. Seriously. No one ever told me I’d get stretch marks. Most of them are from rapid weight gain, but I also have some from puberty. Around my breasts and on my hips. I have a few on the backs of my knees from cycling.
2) Body hair. In theory body hair comes with puberty, but I’ve always been a hairy kid. More than once I was asked if I was a werewolf. As a child. When people didn’t know werewolves are in books and not their neighborhoods. As I settle into quarter life, I noticed that I have a few long hairs that grow on my neck and chin. When I first saw one, I freaked out. I thought I was a weirdo and something was wrong with me. Then I began to notice that a lot of women have the occasional long hair growing somewhere we think women don’t have hair. I made a point to look around at people, and a few I knew well enough got asked directly about it.
3) Varicose/spider veins. I have mild, superficial spark looking veins. They are blue and purple and pink. Mostly they’re on my legs, a few light ones around my ankles. I have one on my left side and another pale pale one on my chest. The one on the back of my left thigh is the most prominent, a deep purple. As far as I can tell, this is just a thing. You get them. I got my first one when I was teaching and standing like five hours a day. More developed as I started biking, and then the other ones came along with circus.
4. Lines. This picture is me circa July 4th, 2012. Notice the lines on my forehead and around my mouth. I have lines on my face. They are there. They will not go away. This is just how I am going to look. One day I noticed that when I smiled the lines that formed didn’t go away when I stopped smiling. “At least they’re the good kind,” madprime told me.
5) Cellulite. I’m pretty sure there’s no need to explain this one. This lady has some around her stomach according to the description on Flickr.
There’s a loud conversation about how the media gives us unrealistic expectations about how we’re supposed to look. A lot of this focuses on things like the photoshopping of women’s bodies in magazines. Jezebel published before and after photos from a Lady Gaga photoshoot for Vogue, highlighting the way her overall shape was changed. I think these little falsehoods–stretch marks, cellulite, lines, dark circles under eyes–are even worse. I know my body is not some unnatural sleek shape, but I also didn’t know how positively normal all these little things happening to me as I age are.