My friend made me feel like a leper, and he did not even realize it.
I got my first stretch marks somewhere around the age of 11. Blame it on puberty, being in the back row for school pictures because of my height, or on just not being a small pre-teen.
I hated them. I worked out. I was an athlete. None of that mattered. I still got streaks all over my body because of collagen disruption. Color me pissed.
Flash forward to being a curvy twenty-something, and needless to say, I still have them. I have them in places I don’t mind (thick thighs save lives), and places I do mind. Places that are pretty visible, and places that I can do nothing about. No amount of dry brushing, cover up, or tanning would make them go away. So, I could walk around completely covered for the rest of my life, or rock off-the-shoulder shirts like everyone else this season.
I decided to embrace myself and my stripes. Then, someone really hurt me.
He didn’t say anything out loud. I’m not even sure that he knows that I noticed. He came to visit me in a coffeeshop so that I could help him with a proposal. Having a business degree seems to qualify me for free consulting on the regular.
I was wearing an off-the-shoulder dress that I love. I was having a great outfit day. Then, it happened.
He looked at me, and then he looked at my shoulders. The shoulders that I have had for twenty-four years. The ones that became striped somewhere around 13. The ones that have served countless tennis balls, rested against the Pantheon, held my arms as I danced in Barcelona, and have helped me hug the people I love the most.
And he looked disgusted.
I was taken aback. Humiliated.
He went in for a hug, but he made sure not to touch my shoulders. He quickly hugged me where my dress touched my skin and sat down.
It took my years to be okay with my shoulders, and someone had the ability to make that come crashing down in a matter of seconds. But he didn’t.
That was a week ago. Today, I wore the same dress to go meet one of my favorite ladies for lunch. She looked at me, hugged me, and didn’t even flinch about touching my shoulders while we embraced.
I never told her what happened. And I don’t have to. Sometimes, friends give us the reassurance we need without ever knowing what’s happening within our hearts.
Find friends who do that. Spend your time with the people who love your stripes. Learn to accept them for yourself.