By: Paola Orrego
I have been working in my company for almost 3 months. My job involves travelling to see clients and attending corporate events. Word around the office is that in the summer there is always a pool themed event. This year was in Miami and although the 2019 location has not been decided yet, I am already dreading it. Why can’t we meet in a cold, breezy country instead? I look so good covered, on a swimsuit... not so much. I am probably more worried about the possibility of having to bare it (almost) all in front of my lovely colleagues than I am to pass my probation period.
I am a strong and independent women but my skin imperfections are my soft spot. I was never thin. I was born prematurely and my mom and grandma made sure I survived by feeding me with all sorts of yummy things. I quickly started gaining weight and overall, had a happy childhood as the favorite grandchild of a big family. In the 80’s, some extra pounds meant chubby, healthy and cute. I got hooked on food and it makes me happy. It gives me comfort and it tastes so good. I must admit I love eating. Not just junk food but a nice cooked meal always hits the spot and I probably have a bread addiction too. Yes, I know there is an unhealthy relationship with food here but that might be a topic for a different blog, this one is about how gaining and losing weight affected my skin.
I am pretty and I love my curves. They make me feel feminine, sexy even, but my shoulders, arms, torso, bum and legs are full of cellulite and stretch marks. I don’t have children, I have no excuse. I buy all sorts of creams that make my skin really soft (or so I have been told), but my flaws remain and of course, they stay as I keep gaining and losing weight. My own personal battle. In my circle of friends and family I was “pretty but…” Words like gordita, sopita, chubby or fat come to mind. I made the conscious decision to forget the “but” and keep the “pretty.”
I can still remember the first time I realized there was an issue with my body. For my 17th birthday, I went on holiday with my parents to a little island north of Colombia. We were on the beach and I was getting ready to swim. I was full of energy and attitude. I started walking towards the sea but when I reached the shore, I turned the other way because I felt someone was looking at me. He probably didn’t even realize he was doing it but there was sadness and disgust in my dad’s eyes. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t look as good as I thought, probably not good at all. My cellulite and stretch marks were fully exposed. I felt vulnerable and self-conscious for the very first time.
After that, besides fashion statements, my clothes became my camouflage. I refuse to wear a sleeveless dress or top, and always opt for dark tights and long skirts. I never leave the house without a bolero, sweater or pashmina. I avoid tight jeans, especially if they are white or camel tones, at all cost. I learned and practiced to cover up and I think I got good at it. Sure I can’t hide the rolls, but all my imperfections are concealed. Mission accomplished! Yet the time always comes during a holiday, a sleepover, a shopping trip, a relationship, when the layers must come off and all that is left is me and my hidden truth. I stand there for seconds or minutes while others take it in, then the strong woman reappears and all goes to the back of my mind and I, with a hint of insecurity, carry on.
I thought a lot before writing this blog because I wasn’t sure if cellulite and stretch marks fall into the disfigurement category. My skin issue is seen as the result of an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise, not caused by injury or birth. Yet I have a feeling I am not alone on this one. Cellulite and stretch marks are invasive and they do not go away. I try looking at my naked self in the mirror from time to time, really observing and avoiding judgement, trying to love every inch of me. Not pretending to be strong or beating myself up because I know I am more than my marks, I have to be. I like me, and I think next year I’ll probably join the work event, have an uncomfortable 5 minutes and then get over it. After all, who in their right mind would miss a free holiday?