mark

As the allergist had me roll up my sleeves to prick my skin for a common allergen test, a frown creased her pretty face.

“Will this be okay?” I asked.

She ran her fingers up and down my right forearm. She tapped a small patch, right along the line where the hair grows thick.

“Here,” she said and then tapped a place right near the elbow on my left forearm, matching–and not mirroring–the right. “And here.”

A photo of my forearms.

Mika Matsuzaki, 2012. CC-BY-SA

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gain

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.

Photo of a woman's back, with stretch marks by her arm pits.

Photo courtesy of bhumika.B on Flickr. CC-BY.


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.

A photo of me.

Photo courtesy of madprime on Flickr. CC-BY-SA

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.

Photo of a woman with a broken heart drawn over her heart.

Photo courtesy of Identity Photogr@phy. CC-BY

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.