To The Woman With Stretch Marks And Eye Bags

Photo: Serge Bielanko

From a man who thinks you're beautiful.

Hey Girl.

Let me just say this stuff, OK? Just let me get all Gosling for a sec, will you? I mean, Lord knows I'm no Gosling, people. Oh, hell no. But whatever. It's a mood thing. It helps me set my tone here. 

So. Where was I? Oh yeah.

Hey Girl.

Hey Girrrrrrrl.

You ended up standing in front of the full-length the other day, huh? The kids were napping or maybe they were at summer camp, and you just did it. You let your clothes drop to the floor, flung your shoes on the carpet, and thrust yourself into that raw naked $120 espresso frame Target mirror, knowing damn right well it was gonna hurt like hell. 

And it did, huh? But what else? It made you ... what? Sad? Angry? Confused? 

Oh, girl. I know the feeling. Don't think you ladies are all alone in the I Hate the F*cking Way I Look Department. Please understand this one fact, if nothing else: Guys get it. Most guys, anyway. We might not talk about it much or even confide in our closest friends, but truth is: the physical thing is sledge-hammering away at our confidence and soul way more than we let on.

We're idiots too, though, in a way. Because it's part of life, this sagging and jiggling. It's an odd show of strength, all these scars and rolls

It's different though for women, in ways I'll never really fathom. Beauty, that mere notion of your face and your body working FOR you in this world, helping you attract people toward you, and feeling the strength that comes along with that welling up down in your bones and your guts, it's snake oil.

We know it's for sale. And we buy it and swallow it and believe in its illustrious mega powers oh-so-well. Yet, the truth is, at the end of the day we're all left staring at a billion empty bottles of what we thought would heal us, what we were sure would cure our ails and blues forever. 

But it doesn't. Beauty fades. Twenty-three-year-old tightness slides away. Our muscles, our high asses, your perky young tits, my once unconquerable young man stamina — those motherf*ckers bailed on us.

You, me — we all wish we were them. It's the inevitable sham. It's life's cruelest little test. We wish we had someone else's body. We wish away, in a sense, our own bag of bones for a thinner, tighter set. 

I get it. There's no real choice in the matter short of all this surgical pipe dreaming some of us end up doing. But looking like a space alien is proof in and of itself that you would've been better off spending your money on cleaner food and better books and love or passion.

It's not rocket science, the harsh reality of our one stupid seashell that we're stuck in. But over time we make peace with it, hopefully. 

My genetic biology is what it is. There are bags under my eyes that won't go away. My dad had them, too. So that's all there is to it. Certain things are mine without asking — and I'm OK with now.

But other stuff, my friend, oh god. There are so many things I have longed to change or get rid of since I was old enough to climb up on a rickety box and glare at my bloated face in my mom's medicine cabinet mirror. Things I'm too ashamed of even now to own. Isn't that sad? Doesn't that seem like an unfair burden for any grown-up to struggle under, let alone a young kid?

Maybe you know what I'm talking about. But if you don't — if you are a woman who has somehow managed to avoid what every other woman eventually deals with — then I tip my cap at you and fling you a look. 

If you are the woman who has miraculously dodged the C-section scars, the ass fat, the back chub, the mangled feet, the puffy morning face, the crooking teeth, the eye bags, the sagging jowls, the varicose veins, the stretch marks, the drooping breasts, the loosening vaginas, the goat hairs, the age spots, and the pummeling of the confidence that comes with each and all of those more or less natural phenomena, well, I salute you. We all do. In the same breath we curse your friggin' existence as a plague of Bitch upon the Earth.

Chances are, though, you smile when I list that stuff up there. Because you're familiar with the feeling. Because you and me, man/woman, it doesn't even matter that much. We both know it's the pure poetry of time we're up against. And hating it is part of living. It's as natural as the sun going down.

Just remember this one thing: There's something beautiful about knowing we're not alone in this world. There's something magical about knowing that no matter where you throw a dart at the map, there is someone else staring at herself (or himself) in the Target mirror or in some broken piece of glass out in the jungle, and they're ready to punch their own reflection right in the godd*mn shattered face.

Do what you can to make yourself pretty. Nothing wrong with that, you know. But take it easy on yourself, too.


Listen: late at night when my kids are at their mom's and I take that huge leap out in front of my mirror, you know what I see? I'll tell you, because we're never gonna meet, so screw it.

I slip into that glass and I see Gosling. Truth. I look like Ryan Gosling if they pulled him out of the Mississippi River after he'd drown and gone missing three months ago. 


Hey Girl.

You look fine. You look like you've been living some life. And I'm starting to dig that about you.



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