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December 8, 2007 10:45 AM   Subscribe

I am in my twenties, and I have given up on the idea of ever having sex again because I believe I am secretly too hideous for it.

Let me explain. I have been single for years. Since I was last undressed with a man, in my late teens, I have had a mild skin disorder (on trunk, arms and legs) flare to the point of intense acne, spots and scars. It is genetic and can be smoothed and softened, but never cured. Rapid weight gain and loss has also stretch-marked me. I am an attractive woman when I am dressed. I do not think I could bear the disappointment and revulsion in the eyes of another person when they saw the rest of me.

I am not interested in casual sex, only relationships, but I can't see an attractive man without thinking: don't go close, don't say a word, it would all end in tears. I am furthermore not interested in being the sort of woman who settles for a smitten man who irritates her because he's a sure thing. I would rather be alone. I frankly like it -- my own schedule, my own place, my own cats. Being a young spinster is nice, but it won't last. Being 70 with no living family does not appeal to me so much.

So we come back to the horrible skin. Am I foolish for believing this is a deal-breaker? How do I avoid being treated with contempt, like a fat girl who's used and thrown away, her body a subject of jokes?

(To reply anonymously, email randomstringofnumbers@hushmail.com.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (53 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

With people there are rarely deal breakers across the board. Being comfortable being yourself outside of a relationship I've long believed is the most important step to being comfortable in a relationship. Fear of people responding to our physical traits is a perfectly common thing, but in order to get over it I've found it goes easier if I accept those traits as part of who defines who I am, kind of like experiences. When you encounter the right person and form a relationship they will have some understanding that your personality is influenced by your physical appearance, the challenge there is to understand it and not become cowed by that influence.

My two cents anyway, as you get older everyone gets droopy wrinkly and weathered. Don't worry about your appearance too much, keep in mind the playing field levels as you get older.
posted by iamabot at 10:58 AM on December 8, 2007

"... Am I foolish for believing this is a deal-breaker? ..."

On a planet with, easily, over a billion potential male partners (out of 3+ billion people carrying Y chromosomes), I think the odds are good there are easily 100 guys who'd realistically think you're the bees knees, for all the reasons you probably are, regardless of your wrapper. Strictly on spec, give those 100 guys currently unbeknownst to you a bit of credit, and do your part to paddle towards 'em, in the larger river of life.
posted by paulsc at 11:03 AM on December 8, 2007 [7 favorites]

So long as he's prepared, no guy who's worth being with is going to be disappointed or revolted. You're looking for a relationship, so it's not as though you're going to be taking off your clothes with a guy the first time you meet him. Try to forget about it as much as you can and go on dates, and, if you find someone you really like, and you've kissed him a number of times, and things are heading towards a situation where being naked will be necessary, then sit down with him. Just tell him exactly what he's going to see, but keep the description clinical--no words like "revulsion," no matter what you think. If he blanches at this, or leaves abruptly, or says anything stupid, he wasn't worth it anyway.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:03 AM on December 8, 2007

RE: the skin condition, is it keratosis pilaris? I know people who have had luck with this Glytone product. Tanning also speeds up the regeneration of skin -- I have kp myself, though maybe not so bad, and it's much worse in the winter. Once my legs are tan in the summer, it all but goes away. (I lay out in the backyard first.) (yes, I use sunscreen.)
posted by changeling at 11:05 AM on December 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

There are a multitude of people who are absolutely hideous who are nonetheless married or partnered (often to fairly attractive people), so this skin condition (which sounds relatively minor on the revulsion scale) is certainly not a deal-breaker.

I agree with cerebus19 that you should mention it before undressing - but after getting to the point where you'd consider undressing - so that the guy has a chance to adjust to the idea. Taking him by surprise is a going to result in him being surprised, after all, and it sounds like you'd then interpret his surprise as revulsion whether or not that's what it actually is. Lots of people will wince in sympathy because it looks painful and - caring about you - they don't like the thought of you in pain. That's not the same as revulsion. Give the guy a chance to be cool.

Consider also that you may not be able to see yourself objectively. What looks revolting to you is often no big deal to the other person. I was with a guy for years who had some sort of histimine production problem, so the lightest touch would sometimes result in these inflamed weals. (Like you, this only happened on his trunk, so wasn't noticeable when he was clothed.) He was pretty self-conscious about it and may well have thought it was revolting. Once I understood what was happening (and could therefore ignore it since it wasn't harmful to his health, didn't mean I'd injured him, and went away on its own), I hardly noticed it. Certainly it never dimmed my enthusiasm for him.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:19 AM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Look at the announcements page in your local paper, the one with all the pictures of newly wed couples. Even discounting sucky newspaper printing, the sheer mindboggling ugliness of certain people who manage to get married is head turning. I'm sure you can make it if those people can, heck, at least you don't have as much barrier to meeting people in the first place as someone who's ugliness can be seen in their wedding photo.

(Not ulgyist. Really. I've dated people who I would objectively say are less than perfectly attractive, but they were very attractive to me [and not in a poxy "oh it's what's on the inside that matters" way--something like great hair can easily distract me from a spare tire around the waist, and a trim waist can distract me from a crooked nose, and so on, half of being attracted to someone is being at the point where the things you like about them drown out the flaws].)
posted by anaelith at 11:25 AM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can understand your anxiety, but please do not let these small physical problems affect your ability to put yourself out there and date, and men to love you.

My father has a rare skin disease. Basically his entire back and buttocks is covered with darkly pigmented uneven skin that is covered with precancerous lesions that he gets removed periodically. My mother, along with hordes of other women thought he was the cat's pajamas. He had a disfiguring skin condition under his shirt, but he was. and still is. a hunk with charisma. Women lined up to date him.

A very close girlfriend of mine had severe ulcerative colitis. She was incontinent of several bloody stools on a daily basis. She kept a inflatable potty in her car. She would use it driving down the road while her new boyfriend drove. She had a colostomy bag for a period of time and still had enjoyable sex with the same boyfriend. She had anxiety and embarrassment at times, but didn't allow her disease to affect her love life. Her boyfriend loved her for her, and thought she was hot, because she is.

There are thousands of people out there that aren't going to give a hoot about your skin condition. At least half of the population has stretch marks, cellulite, moles, hairy backs, baldness, etc. You should see my baby belly, it saggy and stretch marked, but I don't mind. It's an unavoidable result of pregnancy. My skin damaged, weathered and leathered chest and back looks like I've been laying on a sizzling beach since birth. We are all flawed. The majority of us will never be glossy magazine material.

Your belief that you are too hideous to date reminds me of Lucy Grealy. She had many boyfriends that loved her. She could never escape her belief that she was hideous and never allowed herself to be loved.

Good luck to you. Your trunk and arms are not hideous. You are beautiful. Your skin condition isn't going away, so maybe it's time to shake hands with it and let your guard down. Only the shallowest of men will be disappointed and repulsed.
posted by LoriFLA at 11:26 AM on December 8, 2007 [20 favorites]

Oh no! You sound so sad.

You know, a lot of fat ladies are in totally emotionally and sexually fulfilling relationships with partners who think that they're ravishing.

So are people missing limbs.

Or who have extra toes.

Or too much hair.

Or none.

Or are in wheelchairs.

Or are really boring.

Or who have terrible taste in music.


I am not trying to diminish your obvious grief and anxiety about your body when I say this: you're using this as an excuse. It is perfectly possible for you to get married to a man you think is super hot and who feels the same way. First, you will have to stop hating your body. How do you do that? Well, a lot of people would suggest therapy. I think you (general you: only you can know if you'll need help for your particular situation) can do it by yourself, but it takes work. What is not going to happen is that you're going to do no work on your emotions and then magically meet a man who will magically make it all better.

You are going to have to do the work to reach a point where you accept your body and appreciate the fact that it's strong and healthy, etc. And then a man will show up, and then you will think about how you want to talk about this with him.

But you're going to have to do the work. I personally think that one main benefit of therapy for people with body image issues is that it forces you to say really painful, dark, ugly things out loud. Most people who hate their bodies have a metric ton of shame about themselves. Shame hates the light. There's something freeing in the mere act of saying to someone else: "I hate my body because of this and this and this, and I don't think anyone will ever love me because of it."
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:28 AM on December 8, 2007 [6 favorites]

Your post put me in mind of this excellent comment by hermitosis. A heck of a lot of relationship posts on AskMe (not yours, as I'll explain) seem to be based on the absurd idea that everyone is entitled to a fulfilling lifelong relationship. From this sense of entitlement, many problems follow — many of which get in the way, ironically enough, of fulfilling lifelong relationships.

Your general comfort with being single at the moment suggests you see the truth of this at least partially. I would urge you to try to see the truth of it completely, and not to seek relationships out of a fear that being single at 70 would be awful.

I say this not because I think you're unlikely to find the right person (far from it) but because it's true for all of us, skin conditions or not, and realizing it puts you in a far better place both for enjoying singledom and finding a partner.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:40 AM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Occasionally I see things from a way-up-high perspective, and I find that it's very helpful to deal with what I think are 'serious' issues in my life. Having been in this mood for most of the morning (dealing with my own issues about where life is taking me), I might be able to utilize my Saturday afternoon zen to give you a fresh perspective...

You're going to die.

Having ruined the end of your book for you, my recommendation is to fill the time between then and now with whatever sort of joy, love, and happiness that you can possibly muster, even if it puts you at risk of possible rejection, tears, and contempt. You'll not get another ride on this merry-go-round, and I can only think what a horrible and frightening realization you're going to have when, on your death-bed, you suddenly realize that you rejected any attempts at love because you thought someone might make a face.

Be afraid of nothing. Taste everything, and make sure that when you're in your final chapter, you've left absolutely nothing out of the story.

The only possible way to fail at this life is to refuse to participate, I think. Don't ever be tempted to go that route.
posted by AbnerDoon at 12:12 PM on December 8, 2007 [63 favorites]

Yes, you're being silly.

Everyone has flaws; how you manage them is what counts. (Would someone flawless even be attractive? Not in my opinion!) Put differently; the anxiety, anguish and shyness caused by your skin condition would cause you far more relationship trouble than the physical sight of the condition itself.

Imagine an example: a shy man who treats the stump of his lost leg with shame and embarassment is unattractive. The confident man who doesn't give his missing limb a moment's thought (and can laugh about it when it does come up) can definitely be attractive!

Others in the thread will offer advice on improving your body image and boosting your confidence. Follow it! :)

Good luck! (BTW, to offer a datapoint, I realise this is easy to say, but I don't even think that I would care about a body skin condition; especially if they were "attractive" dressed- so long as it didn't bother them!).
posted by Count Ziggurat at 12:22 PM on December 8, 2007

You might consider talking to a mental health professional to help you work through your issues. Don't let your discomfort with your body keep you from going out and having fun. Many people become reclusive when they have those feelings, and their personalities become unbearable. A great personality can make you more attractive to suitors.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:34 PM on December 8, 2007

I have a skin condition called tinia versicolor which causes little red patches of bacterial growth in places where my perspiration collects - so, the summer is fun, particularly when I hit the gym or run in the park alot. Or if I wear polyester.

I also have a really round, smushy butt, though I run an average of 16 miles a week. Years of weight loss and gain according to my self-esteem at a given time have left me with stretch marks on my hips. And recently, I was reminded of a certain threshold I'd crossed into serious mid-thirties womanhood when, over coffee with a girlfriend, I heard myself utter the words, "Well, when I pluck my tits, I.....".

So, my larger point is this - it's not unusual for women to feel bad about their bodies because we're constantly bombarded with the message that we shouldn't be fat, have imperfections of any sort, that our necks should be waddle and wrinkle free, that we should all be prancing about in half shirts and vulva pants (you know, those pants with the zipper that's about an inch long that barely cover our pubic hair?), and that, basically, around every turn, lies someone seeking to evaluate our worth based solely on our appearance. But, see, when it comes to sex, instinct is going to win out every time over programming. You'll want to have sex and someone will want to have sex with you. We're animals and we're made to mate. Someone's pupils will dilate and their face will flush and the corners of their mouth will turn up the slightest bit in your presence. They won't be able to help it. Nor will you. It's at this point that confidence will either work its magic, or you'll send the guy a quiet message by clamming up or excusing yourself or shrinking in the face of attraction that you don't like him, rather than that you have an insecurity about your body that makes you feel like he won't want you after he sees you naked.

Before you make up your mind that you're too hideous for sex, try this - go on several dates. Get to know the guy. You don't have to explain why you're too hideous for sex before you get to know him. Then, when and if you trust him enough to want to have sex with him, talk to him. Sit in a well-lit room, look in his eyes, and tell him you want to take things further physically, but you're insecure about your skin condition. Show him a patch of it. Tell him it's not contagious or sexually transmitted and that it's really humbling and scary to show it to people, but you like him and trust him enough to share this piece of information about yourself with him. If he's a good guy, he'll listen to you and talk with you about it and realize that it takes courage to reveal our imperfections to others, especially when they are completely out of our control. He then might show you his extra toes or his psoriasis or the big scar running the length of his abdomen from the time he was playing Evel Knievel (rest in peace) and jumped off the roof of his grandparents' house over summer vacation. And, perhaps, before you know it, you'll be all in love and you'll start farting in front of each other and chewing with your mouth open and leaving the door open when you sit on the can and witnessing meltdowns with your family over the holidays and hemorrhoids and childbirth and hair loss and all the other really sexy, completely gorgeous, smoking hot stuff that makes up lasting love relationships.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:36 PM on December 8, 2007 [27 favorites]

Imagine this: You meet a nice guy. You go on several dates. You like him more and more each time. You think he's hot, sure, but it's what's between his ears that really excites you. He's smart, funny, kind, easygoing and generous. He's interested in what you think and he thinks you're smart, interesting, hip and sophisticated. He really listens when you talk and he makes you feel important to him. This could be serious. This has potential. Things are progressing nicely when he starts to pull back. You press him, he finally tells you:

"I have had a mild skin disorder (on trunk, arms and legs) flare to the point of intense acne, spots and scars. It is genetic and can be smoothed and softened, but never cured. Rapid weight gain and loss has also stretch-marked me. I do not think I could bear the disappointment and revulsion in your eyes when you saw the rest of me."

What would YOU do at this point? Would you run screaming from the room? Would you treat him with contempt? Or would you appreciate how hard it was for him to finally tell you and then take care when things progress to the physical to make him comfortable and show him how little something like that matters?

Are you so shallow that this would be a deal breaker for you? I bet you're not. And if you allow yourself to be open to the possibility, you'll meet someone who won't care either.
posted by Kangaroo at 12:37 PM on December 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

I once saw a documentary about circus side-show performers. One story caught my attention.

No, I am not comparing you to side show performers, but as someone with naked issues, this really touched me.

Priscilla the dog-face girl had that disorder where her whole face was hairy. The owner of the side show adopted her when she was very young and raised her as his daughter. While she was working in the side show she met Jim, the alligator-skin boy. He had a disorder that made his skin look scaly. Priscilla and Jim fell in love, got married and grew old together, long after side shows had fallen out of fashion.

One day, Priscilla said to Jim, "I think I'm going to shave all this hair off my face.". He said "No. Don't you dare. I love you just the way you are."

There is someone for everybody. Priscilla the dog-face girl, Jim the alligator-skin boy, me, and YOU.
posted by clh at 12:58 PM on December 8, 2007 [6 favorites]

How do I avoid being treated with contempt, like a fat girl who's used and thrown away, her body a subject of jokes?

Most men aren't like that. Maybe if you date jocks, alpha males with something to prove, and men who are uber-image conscious, they might act that way. But for the most part, we're nice and more respectful than the media portrays us to be.
As we all get older, I think we all become more accepting, more forgiving, less shallow, less picky, and more sympathetic. So there's reason to be optimistic.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:02 PM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

You describe your skin condition as mild but not rare. So, presumably there are guys out there with it too? You should not limit yourself to men with this condition but it could be a confidence-building starting point for meeting guys who mostly would not consider it a deal breaker (possibly even a plus). Maybe it would be worth looking into discussion or support groups for people with the same/similar condition. If nothing else, you may find some encouragement in how others deal with it.
posted by PY at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2007

It sounds like your body is beautiful. Speckling, wrinkles, coloration, and texture can all be aesthetically appealing. People pay big money to accomplish the same through tattoos and piercings and scarrification. Take care of yourself and let your skin bubble and pock as it may; your inner health and confidence will shine through, making all the details beautiful.
posted by salvia at 1:37 PM on December 8, 2007

Am I foolish for believing this is a deal-breaker?


I'm a reasonably good looking guy. While in grad school many moons ago, I worked as a library assistant in the university library. A new library science professor came in. She was married and had elephant-man's disease. She wasn't hideous, but it was obvious.

Anyway, we started to work together and she started flirting with me. I found myself responding. After that I always had problems working with her because I was attracted to her. You have far less of an issue appearance-wise. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:59 PM on December 8, 2007

Also, you should start loving yourself.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:00 PM on December 8, 2007

I am in my twenties, and...

This will seem much more minor in your 30s, 40s, 50s, etc.

As is the case with most people, there are certain physical characteristics that immediately turn me on and others that turn me off. But I KNOW that if I got along with a girl -- if I really dug her as a person -- I would quickly stop caring about body parts. An interesting girl would attract me, even if she had a skin ailment; a supermodel would turn me off, if she turned out to be boring or mean.

I didn't understand this when I was in my early 20s, because -- like many young people -- I was all about immediate gratification.

On the flip side of the equation, I'm a geeky looking guy who had trouble attracting women when I was younger. There was nothing obvious that I could point to, like a skin issue or a weight issue, but I was still so down on myself that, like you, I figured I would never have a date. I agree with the poster who said IT'S AN EXCUSE. My therapist kept telling me that I was using my looks as an easy way out.

That was hard -- impossible for a while -- to accept, because it didn't feel easy. It felt like the most painful thing in the world. But the thing is, I couldn't DO anything about my looks. So they gave me the right to throw up my hands and go, "I'm screwed." That hurt, but at leas it meant I knew my fate, which was to be lonely all my life. And that left me avoid working on my personality.

It's SO hard to see this when you're really young, but a good relationship is good whenever it happens. I hope you find love tomorrow, but if it doesn't happen to you until you're 30, it will be worth waiting for. You'll have some lonely years, and they will suck if you let them, but they'll be over, and they you'll have companionship. Same thing if it happens in your 40s or 50s or 60s.

It didn't happen to me until I was 30. Mostly, this is my fault. But in any case, I was lonely throughout my teens and twenties. Those were horrible years, but you know what? I don't even think about them any more. It's hard for me to even get in touch with that loneliness. This will happen to you, too. As-long-as you don't decide that it won't. I ALMOST didn't tell my wife how I felt about her, back when we were first hanging out as friends. I was still in the "it can never happen for me, so what's the point?" mode. Thank God I got over that.

One more thing: some of the really good-looking guys I grew up with, the ones that could get any girl, the ones who, when they were younger, only dated super hot chicks... It's amazing how many of them I run into these days who wound up marrying plain and unattractive women. I suspect, that as they got older, less superficial stuff started mattering to them.
posted by grumblebee at 2:33 PM on December 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

no, you're not too ugly to be loved (or to have wonderful sex). my friend's dad is covered with terrible scars from 3rd-degree burns all over his body. although he married before his accident, she was conceived well afterwards, so clearly there was some lovin' going on. he was a neat guy, a songwriter, and very funny. after a while you just didn't notice.

i once dated and was intimate with a guy with scars from cancer. it had nothing to do with the reason we broke up, and in fact he is now happily married. so trust me, when you're into someone, it doesn't matter. again, he was a great, magnetic person, and the scars were just stuff. they were kind of interesting, actually, although maybe i'm twisted like that.

you would probably benefit from some counseling. you're not crazy for feeling the way you do, but a therapist might help you figure out how to channel your anxiety about your appearance. i had a friend who was horribly self-conscious about being of mixed race (something not common in his part of the world). he agonized about it for most of his life, until he decided that he would use his race as a filter: so what if it turned people off? those weren't people he wanted in his life anyway. maybe it meant fewer people got close to him, but they were better quality folks.

seriously, don't give up on love. talk to a therapist. life's too short not to try.
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:59 PM on December 8, 2007

Some really good answers here, especially TryTheTilapia's.

I agree that you can find someone who will care about you, like you, and be attracted to you.

However, I have to disagree with pie-in-the-sky stuff like "as they got older, less superficial stuff started mattering to them", and (paraphrasing) "if he's a nice guy, he won't mind."

The fact is, some people will mind. Some women mind my less attractive features. This is just how it is for everyone. I don't think acknowledging a lack of physical attraction to a person makes you "bad." I think living a lie and going through the motions, keeping your partner from seeking out someone who they could truly have a fulfilling relationship with- that makes a person "bad."

For most people, physical attraction to their partner is a huge part of any relationship. Putting our heads in the sand and denying this is silly. So is calling caring about appearance "superficial." it's no more superficial than failing to be attracted to someone because they are unintelligent, listen to Maroon 5, or any of the millions of other reasons people fail to find other people attractive.

Not every man will be attracted to you. But a lot will.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:13 PM on December 8, 2007

Also, you should start loving yourself.

yes! In the immortal words of Troy McClure, "get confident, stupid!"
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:17 PM on December 8, 2007

FWIW, my GF has vidaligo, which never gets better--only worse. When we first started dating she did NOT want me to see her girlie bits, as that's where it's the most pronounced. I'm like "meh" and she's like "whe?". Doesn't much matter to me, and it's not just on her girlie bits, but it makes her feel horrible about herself. The trick is finding someone who's interested in YOU and not in FUCKING you, and that's about the most important part.

See, the way it's supposed to work is that you like someone and care about them first, and then the skronking comes later, kind of past the point where "one of my boobs is bigger than the other", "I have huge labia", or "I make a giant puddle when I orgasm" make any difference at all, because it's about the connection and the togetherness and the being inside each other that makes all the difference. BTW--those three things---each is something that was up with one of the last several girls I've dated.
posted by TomMelee at 3:22 PM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

the thing is that many women carry baggage into the bedroom. any guy worth your time will look beyond what you consider to be hideous. and for guys like me, performance trumps everything. i meant to say that compatibility trumps everything. i personally know a female who has a scare/birthmark that runs from her left leg across her body o her right ear. i'm absolutely sure it embarrasses her to no end. But i'm just as sure that i wouldn't kick her out of the bed for eating crackers. she's beautiful and i kinda like the birthmark. she's smart and funny and ravishing. on a coarser note, in reality fellatio is the ultimate trump card.
posted by Davaal at 3:47 PM on December 8, 2007

For most people, physical attraction to their partner is a huge part of any relationship. Putting our heads in the sand and denying this is silly.

I'm one of the posters who you're probably talking about, and I think I was unclear. Physical attraction is really important to me. It's just that I now know that I can get physically attracted to almost anyone, if other stuff falls into place.

I'm not saying I simply learn to love the person, in spite of the fact that I'm not attracted to her. I'm saying that I can, under the right circumstances, overcome my initial lack of attraction and become attracted. Whereas when I was younger, I didn't think this was possible. I assumed that if I wasn't attracted at first, I would never be attracted. So I moved on. An older me sometimes found himself getting attracted to girls he was downright disgusted by at first.

I'm not saying everyone is like this, should be like this, or is bad if they're not like this. But I don't think it's especially odd, either. Especially not in people over 30.
posted by grumblebee at 4:01 PM on December 8, 2007

OP, don't listen to Davaal. I'm sure he meant well and there's some core of good advice in there, but you don't ever have to perform sexual favors to get a guy to overlook your "flaws", okay? I'm sorry to tell you something so obvious, but... just in case you didn't know.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:02 PM on December 8, 2007

I agree with most of the advice here so I won't repeat what's already been said, but here is one specific piece of advice:

Mention your condition to a guy you are interested in before things get too serious. Don't treat it like its some secret you are sharing with him, just mention it nonchalantly like its no big deal. If he loses interest in you, you're probably better off without him anyway, and you haven't gotten so close to him that you'll be devastated. Also, getting the revelation out early in the relationship will make you more comfortable since you won't be constantly worrying what happens when he finds out about it.
posted by burnmp3s at 4:03 PM on December 8, 2007

Hi, like you I'm in my twenties and have a skin condition. I've got a lovely inherited predisposition for keloid scarring, which when combined with my childhood splenectomy (done back in the days before laprascopic surgery was common) means that I have a doozy of a scar on my stomach. It's a little longer than your hand from wrist to tip of finger, it's as thick as your index finger, it's notably raised above the skin's surface, and it's shiny light pink -- except when I get out of the shower or the pool, in which case it's wrinkly medium pink. Since skin cancer runs in my family too, I've had a lot of moles removed to check to see if they were normal or not (luckily, they were), and so I'm also in possession of several little raised round keloid bumps scattered across my legs and tush and back, where moles used to be.

BUT! Though I've always been on the conservative side when it comes to hooking up (like you, I am generally pro-relationship, and anti-casual-boinking), it has never stopped me from fooling around with people, and I have never had a partner have a bad reaction to what my stomach looks like. Believe me, I would have noticed if they had even so much as slightly winced or cringed, as I think I would have been hyper-aware of any bad reactions, just based on my own worries and self-consciousness. But frankly, they really just seemed too happily distracted by my boobs and the action to give a damn. I mean, you get undressed with someone not because you're trying to conduct a textbook medical exam or do thoughtful mental comparisons to the Victoria's Secret catalog. No, you get undressed in the throes of funfunfun, and if your partner is thinking at all, it's more likely to be something semi-incoherent along the lines of "oh boy, I've got a girl in bed with me here! score! OMGOMGOMG" than a disinterested cataloging of your interesting body surface. Really, they're going to have more, uh, pressing matters at hand. And guess what? Most of them have body hang-ups too, some major and some minor. They'll be too busy worrying whether you have noticed their back hair or appendix scar or extra thirty pounds or whatever.

And as other people here have said, besides thinking far too lowly of yourself, you're also thinking very little of your potential boyfriends that they would consider mere bumpy mottled skin a total dealbreaker. I mean, you read AskMefi regularly, right? You know how many guys post here about sticking with clearly deranged and abusive chicks, even when everyone here tells them to DTMFA, yes? If so many people will not just date but stick with the unhinged, then surely my impressive scar tissue and your wacky mottling are nothing in comparison. Insert trite comment here about "true beauty is on the inside", but between "has body acne, but smart and fun and creatively deranged in a good way" and "looks like Aphrodite, but jealous whackjob with frigidity issues" who do you think is going to have a better life (and boyfriend/husband)?

Looking back at my life as a whole (well, so far), I think my occasionally-abysmal body image has had far more of a negative effect on my life than my actual body parts could ever dream of. I know how tempting it is to use stuff like this as a really great excuse not to push yourself, not to make the effort. But this "too hideous to date" thing is bullshit. Having body acne probably sucks. Having it -- no, letting it -- utterly destroy your ability to connect with another person and find out how wonderful a good relationship and marriage can be? Now that truly, truly sucks. Don't do that. Please?
posted by Asparagirl at 4:27 PM on December 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Many good answers, though drjimmy11's stands out. And themhsbeagle's "What is not going to happen is that you're going to do no work on your emotions and then magically meet a man who will magically make it all better."

How do I avoid being treated with contempt, like a fat girl who's used and thrown away, her body a subject of jokes?

It could happen. It probably will happen. You'll have to accept this, think about how you'll deal with it, and cope when it does. If it helps, think about what could be a "ew, ick!" deal-breaker for you and what wouldn't be. Turn that over and over in your head until it clicks that it is not some big, heavy, value-as-a-person-judgement-rejection. It's just a fact of life and the dating-game that what is a deal-breaker for some people is a non-issue for other people. And finding Mr Right is not some magical-fairy-tale-holy-destiny-thing that just happens (even though it feels like it at the time). It's the end result of being energetic enough to sift through those people and brave enough to handle the rejection when it happens. And the only thing separating you from the other fat/ugly/scarred/hairy/limbless/burned/splotchy people that are now happily loved-up is that they realized rejection would hurt, but it wouldn't destroy them and they weren't going to let it stand in their way.
posted by Martin E. at 4:28 PM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

If I met a guy who I was absolutely smitten for and then later found out he had a skin disorder underneath his clothes, I wouldn't care at all. Personally, I like it when guys have weird things about their bodies. Strange and different isn't a deal breaker to everyone, especially not me...it's a deal sealer. Hell, I love skinny guys...anorexic, heroine addict looking skinny. I don't know why it turns me on, but it does and it's hot as fuck. And I'm sure guys that fall into that category are self conscious about their bodies if they compare themselves to models or what they think all girls like. We're all different and we all like different things.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:39 PM on December 8, 2007

I'm not going to lie and say it might not be a turn off for someone, however everyone has several physical characterists that are going to turn some people off. There are certain traits I just can't deal with (brick heads = no, heads should be round) but I really could care less if the guy can benchpress his weight, in fact it's a bit of a negative (seem to lead to the brick head). I don't really care if a guy isn't 6 feet tall or isn't rich, I know a lot of people this would be a massive deal breaker for.

Some guys want nice clear perfect skin, I think a lot more think it's more or less irrelevant. They might like the big boobs or the long legs or the nice hair or the big booty, but I think having bad skin really only cuts out a small group of men, just like being flat chested or being too short or not being tan or not being blonde would also cut off small groups of men in their own right. I too get into the mind game that men are very shallow and are only interested in perfect women, but you really do have to give men more credit. I'm constantly surprised as who my male friends think are hot, not because the women they like are particularly unattractive, just because I assumed as being attractive, successful and somewhat macho guys that they would only be interested in super models. I for one have been absolutely stunned when asked out by guys that I thought were miles and miles outside of my league. Don't underestimate yourself or overestimate your flaws.
posted by whoaali at 4:53 PM on December 8, 2007

I have several gross physical traits that bother me intensely; some obvious when you meet me, some I hide. I also have a really hot husband.

I try to remind myself something I heard Christopher Reeve say once: "Your body is not you." It helps me a lot when I am really down on my body. It's just your body!

Someone above said this better, but I also think: well, if my husband were not hot but a little short fat hairy guy, would I still love him and think he was hot? And yes, I would. And someone will think this about you, too.
posted by theredpen at 5:19 PM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, honey.

Listen. When I was 20 years old, I had washboard abs, legs up to my armpits and an ass you could bounce quarters off of. My boyfriend was 200lbs and had more stretch marks than my mother after three kids. I loved that boy like nobody's business.

I'm now 35. I have keloid scars, a veritable map of stretch marks, and more fuzz than your average woman is supposed to have. My boobs are heading south, and I have so many scars from having so many parts taken out and replaced it's ridiculous. I also have a rockin' brand new husband who loves me like nobody's business. You know why? Because I'm smart, funny, loving, and 32 kinds of awesome. And I bet you are, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:55 PM on December 8, 2007 [6 favorites]

I dated a guy with a port wine birthmark across his face. After a while, the only time I noticed was when I got him to blush and his face matched all the way across. It was cute! You really don't see things after awhile.
posted by stoneegg21 at 5:56 PM on December 8, 2007

My boyfriend stutters. When I first met him, that was the only way I remembered who he was (sadly) - it was during the first few weeks of uni and I was meeting so many new people at once. One thing led to another and a year and a bit later, we're still together in love.

Earlier this year he was sharing a story about how his stutter used to get in the way of friendships in school. I jumped and exclaimed "Oh my God! I totally forgot you stuttered!" Indeed, I didn't even notice. And this boy, mind you, doesn't stutter subtly. It's quite obvious. He did say that he stuttered less when he's more relaxed, which said a lot about our relationship (yay) but still.

Like stoneegg21 and some others said, you really don't notice after a while. Heck, expect this conversation to happen:

(after some time of being together)
You: blah blah blah anecdote about skin disorder etc etc...
Him: Skin Disorder? But your skin is PERFECT!
You: What are you talking about, I have XYZ Disorder, I told you about it ages ago. See? *shows scars*
Him: Oh, that...I didn't even notice.

silly, but shows that when they love you, superficial things don't matter.
posted by divabat at 6:24 PM on December 8, 2007

The first time I, well, you know, got to that point with the woman who ultimately became my wife, I was pretty sure her boobs were going to, well, come off. She'd made some comments about surgery and scarring and such, and, as we approached the event horizon, she was obviously getting nervous, not the omigod-he's-about-to-touch-my-boobs kind of nervous, but the he's-going-to-be-totally-freaked-out kind of nervous.

I guess I've already given away the punchline.

Give him a little prep. Don't surprise him, and he'll be fine. Really.
posted by pupsocket at 7:24 PM on December 8, 2007

Oh, you'll be fine. Really. I mean, who cares? Really?
posted by unSane at 8:20 PM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

What you're going through isn't easy, and none of us can promise your next partner will be understanding. It it's any comfort: this would not be a deal breaker for me in the least, particularly if it weren't a surprise. Seriously. Most of us are hiding something underneath our clothing.

It's normal to worry, but we all have issues that seem worse to us than they do to others. Some shallow guy might be turned off. That would hurt a lot and I'd want to beat him up for you. But just because one guy might run (which would totally suck) is no reason to give up. You have a condition; you're not a freak. You're a human being with a dermatological condition. I expect there are many more of you out there than you realize.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:37 PM on December 8, 2007

Most truly attractive people are damaged in some way.
posted by bingo at 9:10 PM on December 8, 2007

You poor dear. I know right where you're coming from, emotionally. Body shame is crippling. I don't have a skin condition but I know what it's like to intensely fear rejection due to difficult physical issues that you can't help. You hold yourself apart and don't let anyone close. And you craft internal narratives that justify this witholding. As convincing as those narratives sound to you, they are not genuine. They are buttresses to the primary defense mechanism, enablers that let you live a lie that seems to keep the pain away. Like you with your schedule and your cats, perhaps. You deserve to be loved and you can be, but you never will be if you listen to yourself this way and remain withdrawn. Nobody will ever get the chance. And the part of your soul that needs other people will get hard and dusty without nourishment. And you will be that 70 year old lady with permanent regret as her companion. There are people who do fine/better alone, but you sound like someone trying to tell herself she's one of those, but isn't. Your body shame has just detoured you there.

I think the thing we have to do is play out scenarios in which our worst fears are realized and then really get at the actual root of the fear that we are desperately avoiding so we can check whether it really holds water. So you. You're with that guy you've been seeing. He's great. Things are progressing. The giant ball of anxiety inside you is about to pop. The fear and shame about your skin is paralyzing you. Clothes start coming off and he notices - you see it on his face, revulsion barely masked. He's polite, so he tries not to make it obvious, but he notices. You can tell that it puts him off. You're horrified and crushed but you can't even begin to say anything. He tries to keep on like he was going but his amorous verve loses steam and he kind of peters out. You both play it off like it's OK and nothing's wrong. After that he's harder to reach by phone. The conversation doesn't flow like it used to when you do talk. You know what's happening. He soon says he thinks it's not going to work out. He offers one of the usual reasons, but you know. He tells his friends, "Yeah, she's great, but we were hooking up and I got her shirt off and her skin was just disgusting, all zitty and blistered and stretched out. Ugh. I liked her but that just killed it. Instantly I wanted to get out of there. I feel bad, but jeez. It's a shame - she was cute." That's how you're imagining it, right?

This could actually happen. As others upthread have noted, it probably would not. If you're at the physical point with someone you've really been clicking with mentally/emotionally, your body and its imperfections would be taken in a broader context, as part of your whole person. But let's just say it did. The beautiful man you liked so much has rejected you specifically because of your skin. Now you feel destroyed. Why? Why specifically? Imagine that palpable, visceral anguish and dig for the root of it. If you have your own answer, ignore me, but I say the root of it is the assertion, "He rejected me because I am disgusting. I am disgusting and his rejection confirms that I am not worthy. No one can like me because of the way I am and there is no way around it. I knew it." Probably you add, "I hate myself for being so disgusting. I hate this skin. I didn't want this." It's a rejection of self, a condemnation of self.

You're basically already doing this even without having been rejected yet. You are 95% positive that your skin effectively makes you unlovable and unworthy, but you don't want it to be confirmed so you avoid any situation that could lead to you having to admit it 100%. Because then you'd really be done (right?). "People who see me with clothes on think I'm just as good as anyone but they would reject me if they knew the truth." As long as your clothes stay on, you can take some comfort in other people's positive impression of you, even though you "know" it's based on a lie. Everyone mistakenly (in your mind) thinks you'd be a nice catch, so an illusion is preserved. You cling to that illusion as your source of self worth. In their eyes your idealized self is maintained. "Don't screw this up," you tell yourself. "Don't let anyone in to pop the bubble or I'll be ruined." Meanwhile you wither on the vine.

Yet the root of your fear isn't and can't be true. Simply by nature, as a person, you are worth loving. That's not rah rah feelgood stuff, it's just basic truth. It's not up for debate. You have forgotten this or never explicitly realized it to start with and you unconsciousy assume that other people get to decide for you via their approvals or rejections. Your self-worth is externally derived. In your heart you know yourself and you know how wonderful you could be for someone... "if it just weren't for this damned skin." See that? Healthy thought, short circuited.

But someone rejecting you, someone not choosing you - that does not have the power to make you unlovable. No one person or people get to decide that for you. That is the kernel of what I'm saying and I can't tell if it's coming out right or sounds like fluff. You remain lovable through any number of rejections for any number of reasons.

You absolutely must keep telling yourself that. Telling yourself negative stories about yourself over and over will ruin you. It will lead to depression, the kind that stays around and becomes part of you. You are the one person in the world who must tell yourself good stories about yourself even if you think you don't deserve it. Seriously, this is a strangely hard lesson for lots of us to learn, but you absolutely must be your own best friend. I used to think about that 1980s Whitney Houston "greatest love of all" song lyric all the time and never understood the loving yourself part. But the voice in your head needs to speak to you like it would speak to a friend that it loves. Pretend one of your friends has this problem instead of you and think of all of the loving, caring, and supportive things you would say to her to reassure her how wonderful she is despite her worries. Don't you deserve the same kind of care and support? Doesn't everyone? If you ask your friends, they'll say that you do deserve it. So join them in saying those same kinds of things to yourself. Use it as practice in letting yourself be loved. Every time you're tempted to tell yourself ugly things about yourself in the quiet of your mind, to characterize yourself as someone that shouldn't inflict herself on anyone (your words: hideous, disappointment, revulsion, horrible, contempt, fat girl, thrown away, a subject of jokes, rather be alone, dying alone), actively switch voices and use the caring one instead. Coach and console and encourage yourself like you're helping a friend through a tough time. That made a world of difference for me. It sounds trite but is powerful.

Once you are comfortable with you, have forgiven yourself for this physical thing you didn't cause and which won't change, have let go of your illusory idealized self, have truly accepted your actual self, and truly love and respect yourself as a worthy person (internally-derived self worth), you can go into any romantic situation with confidence and self assurance. You will know that you will be fine regardless of the outcome, because you'll know your worth as a person is not about to be determined by someone's reaction to your body. Confidence is the most attractive thing there is. If you're thinking about him, that will show, and if you're thinking about your skin, that too will show. Pick one. He may see the skin, but he'll see you thinking about him, confident despite something he might have thought would make you unconfident, and that will assist him in assigning the proper level of relative importance to it in his own mind. Show him how important it should be. You really can influence his perception in a big way.

Good luck, beautiful!

PS - Check out a book called Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. It totally nails this issue. Don't let the pseudo-buddhist wrapper put you off if that's not your thing. The ideas stand on their own.
posted by kookoobirdz at 12:02 AM on December 9, 2007 [11 favorites]

My two cents.

I have a spotting on my arms which over the years has got slowly worse. (mainly due to my inability to keep my fingers to myself) It's a cause of bodily revulsion for me. I got it in my twenties and it really shook my self-confidence. Even now, I can't bear to have people see it, and it's a constant source of embarrasment.

I'm not going to tell you that some people aren't going to be put off by it and I'm not going to tell you that you'll get over it when you get older. You may do, but you may not.

So ...

- You're not the only one. It is not uncommon to get stretch marks and blemishes. The reason you don't see more of it is because like you, people are pretty good at covering it up.

- The people who I've had relationships with in the last 15 years have put up with it. They've said that they don't mind. I don't know if this is true, but they've said it's not that obvious and it doesn't matter.

- I've shied away from casual relationships and made sure that in those initial few months of the relationship that the light has been off or I've been partially dressed. I don't know if this was necessary, but it made me feel better. I've told the people why I've an issue with my body before they've seen them. I've said something like ... "Ermm, I've got these spots on my arms, and I don't really like people to see them and I'd be more comfortable if I keep my t-shirt on.." Nobody has objected to this and it's helped me get over that initial shyness.

- I think people are pretty shallow. Sometimes, they're like you in that they won't mind about anything like this as long as you're not broadcasting it to the world. People don't mind too much about the secret stuff in a relationship as long as its not out in the open. You don't want it out in the open, but you can live with it. He will probably feel the same way.

- Try and choose men with terrible eyesight. (only partly joking)

- Don't be waiting for your confidence to go up before you start dating.

Good luck.
posted by seanyboy at 3:12 AM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Great advice here, and I would only add one little practical thing.
You are clearly obsessing about THE MOMENT when he sees you undress.
Well, talk to a professional glamour photographer, pick out some really nice lingerie, but stuff that shows some of your skin condition and have the photographer suggest tasteful poses. We're not talking outrageous poses here. Simple tasteful poses where this condition is evident.

Then, if you are getting to that point with a significant someone, you can explain how uptight you are about this and suggest you e-mail him a shot. That way you will not obsess about the first time.
A sensitive and caring partner won't hesitate I promise you, and things can go on from there.
If he's a jerk, you haven't really exposed yourself to that very visceral hurt and you will deal with a bit of rejection, but you will have TRIED.
posted by Wilder at 4:03 AM on December 9, 2007

I used to think this too...and honestly it surprised me how much men don't notice. I always thought I looked a lot like an alien. You mean my veiny tiny stretch marked breasts don't even get a remark? Or my weird body shape morphed by illness? Or my rough acne-covered arms (which BTW I've personally managed to soften a lot through some hard-core treatment)? Often men will make one remark like "oh, your skin here is rough" or "what are these marks?," but once I explain, they pretty much ignore it for the duration of the relationship.

Most of the men with men I date, I discover they have skin flaws too. Weird scarring, persistant acne, cysts...with all these problems out there, it's hard to believe that anyone has perfect skin. Growing up, I was homeschooled and the few people I was around were obnoxiously pretty. So them + plus airbrushed media (altough Padma Lakshmi from Top Chef has a giant scar) made me feel like a freak. The best therapy was going out and actually being around more people and being in relationships.

The downside is that men ignoring it doesn't make the insecurities go away. You have to work on that yourself.
posted by idle at 6:31 AM on December 9, 2007

Thanks for posting this. You may get meetsome guys who are shallow, and focused only on physical perfection. It hurts a lot to be criticized, unappreciated or rejected. But the prize - being loved as you are - is worth the risk.
posted by theora55 at 7:50 AM on December 9, 2007

"[Becoming Real] takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

-- The Velveteen Rabbit
posted by Asparagirl at 9:49 AM on December 9, 2007 [5 favorites]

update from the OP:

You guys have made me choke up. Thank you so much for all your

I would have no problem with a man who had my physical issues.
I've fallen for chunky guys, short guys, etc. I adore Lyle Lovett
with his goofy face and Adrien Brody with his big nose. Still I
always thought that this was what women were socialized to do, that
women can overlook these things or find them adorable while men are
disappointed with less than perfection. Just your anecdotes -- and
stories of women I know that I never considered -- has made me
realize I was wrong, at least as an absolute.

I've spent a lot of time hearing certain men talk about women with
the idea that there were no women around (or none who counted), and
it's made me frightened of their thoughts more than I should be, I
think. To make a long story short, they were not good men.

And finally, in examining my memories, I find that when I was a
lovely teenager -- EVEN THEN I was concerned I was too fat, and I
let it damage a lot of good times I could have had. Not just sex --
I mean swimming without a T-shirt, wearing revealing clothes, etc.

I didn't do nearly enough of that. I do not want to let my issues
ruin the rest of my youth.
posted by jessamyn at 10:05 AM on December 9, 2007


You f'ing rock. ;)
posted by jmnugent at 11:31 AM on December 9, 2007

OP, you're smart and funny and I'm glad to read what you've written. I'm not worried about you; you're good, with a few little soft spots here and there, like most of us.

In my experience, the people who talk the loudest have either nothing to say or something to prove. It's a problem - we judge alot to keep others at arms length. We throw up some wall to protect something that's really in no danger to begin with. I mean, seriously - love and connection and the benefit of the doubt are freeing things; sucks, then, that many people would rather live in some sort of narrow little cell, living by way of comparison to others. I do it. If I had her boobs or smaller thighs or more education or fewer mistakes in my past, etc. Or, worse still, I have this and she doesn't, or he thinks this stupid thing and I don't, so that means I'm okay, or something. It's hard work to simply accept who you are and be open to seeing who other people really are, as well, and to be content with those realities. Particularly if, like you, there's some easy target for people to take aim at, like a scar or a pimple or some exterior mark. Some asshole will make your work harder for it and that's not fair.

I like to think, though, that there's hope for that jerk sitting in a bar, loudly blathering on, making some crass joke of a woman he slept with two nights ago, bagging on her big butt or whathaveyou, because I have hope for myself. I'm learning every day that what I project into the world - how I truly see myself and what I accept in myself and others - is what people see and respond to. And then I go home to my partner, my best friend and lover, the guy who cooks with me and pats my back a little as he goes to sleep and who calls me his "little cabbage head", and I'm reminded that some jerk in the bar is just some jerk in a bar.

Good luck to you.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 11:50 AM on December 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

My coworker is a very attractive woman that some pretty bad skin problems too. She has a huge scar on her forearm and shins from a kitchen accident when she was younger. I'm not sure what her exact skin problem is, but it flares up from time to time and she has super dry, itchy red skin. It can be on her arms, legs, face, everywhere. She has also had many boyfriends, and I think she looks great. She always explains it to the guy she is dating and it doesn't seem to be a problem. I've gotten used to it and just don't even notice it. I'm sure if you're up front about it it shouldn't be a problem. And if it is, that person is just not worth it.
posted by m3thod4 at 11:51 PM on December 9, 2007

My boyfriend thinks my stretch marks are sexy.

I'm not kidding.

And I can definitely relate to your post.

Please read this whole thing. I know its long, but I believe its worth it.

So, just to clarify: two parts to this post- Skin and Stretch Marks, respectively. I'll tell you my deal then give actionable advise.

General skin issues: Born with severe Eczema. Kids used to make fun of me, saying it looked like i had tire marks on the back of my knee (one, of course, never even), calf, and the crooks of my elbows. Parents tried oatmeal baths, and too many hypoallergenic lotions, soaps, and natural remedies to count.

And for future reference: Nothing will make your kids hate you faster than forcing them to drink cod liver oil in their orange juice before they hop on the bus off to school.

Nothing helped. In fact, I think it got worse. There was definitely a point where my soars were so raw, they were wounds. Seriously.

I was quite possibly the only 4 year old in the history of the planet to be scared shitless at the thought of dying alone, to the point of tears. Seriously.

And then, I entered puberty. My mother took great pride in telling me she'd never had a blemish or zit.


I'm sure you can guess the rest: Hormones make you insecure to the point of hysteria, let alone the skin issues and the fact that my face was sprouting volcanic craters. To top it off, I was one of the few minorities in my school/town/region, and in the suburbs of New England, I definitely wasn't a girl whose name you found on the boy's bathroom wall, not even to make fun of.

They made fun of me to my face, though: "Hey, you're pretty. Pretty good to throw stones at." Yes, you clever mastermind. haha. "Doesn't she look like Martin Luther King, Jr.?". No, I don't. I'm about 6 shades lighter than him and our features don't resemble each other in the slightest, asshole.

Oh, and talk about fears of being naked with a boy: my tits have never been perky. Never. Ever. Relatively larger, but never perky. God truly has a sense of humor, a very dark one.

To be fair: I had no style, and no idea how to style myself (hair, etc.), so I really did look a goddamn mess. But not like Martin Luther King, Jr. The man is a Saint and should be honored as such.


My advice:

Don't stress it- and not even for the whole love-yourself-in-your-skin thing, though it's a great goal to strive for. But lets keep it real for a second- is is damn near impossible to be completely satisfied with your physical appearance if you are a female and under the age of 45. I've met one girl who claimed she was, and honestly, I don't think she had anything to feel ok about, let alone proud of. In your twenties, your hormones and whatnot aren't as amped as they were in your teens, but they're still there. And frankly, we just haven't lived long enough to fully appreciate how magnificent our bodies actually are, and they are truly magnificent.

I say don't stress it because a) its a huge waste of your mental energy, b) causes you gain weight, c) causes breakouts, d) DOESN'T ALLOW YOU TO MOVE FORWARD.

When I met a certain supermodel/tv host/fashion icon/international celebrity who shall remain unnamed, she had beyond one of the worst pizza-faces, I've ever seen, which she tried to hide with her hair. Point: Everyone breaks out. Don't stress it.

While I'm probably pissing off some of the greatest feminist thinkers of our time (and I've read all of them), I truly don't believe its possible to feel completely satisfied in your body before middle-age, however, you can take steps in that direction. You can feel more comfortable. You can start recognizing how awesome it is to own this machine, covered in another machine in the form of skin sack.

For this, I recommend taking a dance class. Seriously. Without a ball ,racket, paddle, chainsaw to distract you, you will learn exactly how much your body is capable of. You will feel more comfortable and confident in your skin, and in bed. You will carry yourself differently and move better. And it gives you lots of great lean muscle mass, which in addition to being oh so very sexy, burns calories while you're sitting at your desk, makes everything fit better, and will help to your skin purge toxins more effectively.

Instead of striving for pretty, strive for healthy, and the rest will follow.

Give up dairy.
Seriously. Remember how I said nothing would cure my Eczema? Then I went vegan for a year. Cleared up like *that*. As did all of my acne/blemish woes. I have since re-started dairy, though not a regular thing (like 1-2 milk products a week), and I haven't had any issues since. I get one, small bump, generally in a inconspicuous place (top forehead under bangs, temple, etc.) once a month, right before my cycle.

Eat a good portion fresh, uncooked vegetables at lunch and dinner, and eat only fruit before noon. If you do this, you will not need the 8 glasses of water a day. You're cells will be getting all the lovely water and nutrients they need, while expelling toxins at the speed of light.

Not to be my bitchy mother, but I am frequently complemented on the even tone and clarity of my skin.

Yes, I know it's difficult to do. I don't believe in diets. They you up to fail. Substitute healthier alternatives. Quality melted dairy-imitation is difficult to find, but everything else has a dairy-free alternative. Seriously. You'll probably lose a ton of weight in the process. I know I did. Dairy is evil and not meant to be drank by humans.

Learn that your skin is responsible for expelling toxins, and blemishes/acne is the form it takes. You need to cleanse the inside to cleanse the outside.

You might also want to give flax seed oil a try. Put a cap in your orange juice in the morning. It's not cod-liver oil, so you won't wish you were never born. You'll barely notice it, and it does wonders for the skin.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize! Since you break out, I'll go out on a lark and guess that you believe your skin is oily. Your skin is oily if you're not giving it the moisture it needs, so it overproduces oil to compensate. Get a light, oil free, moisturizer like the kind you spray on. Or, get Shea butter. Just Moisturize! Use it everyday. Always moisturize your hands after you wash them too. Within a month, you will notice a vast, huge improvement in the texture and appearance of your skin.

Kindly note: I know Cocoa butter is highly unrecommended for stretch marks, but I've been using it my entire life and it neither prevented nor healed them. But that's later. You might have better luck though.

Use facial skin care products on your body. Faces washes, scrubs, lotions, the whole 9 yards and then some. Look for products that contain salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acids. St. Yves makes some great stuff.

Exfoliate everything everyday. If you're afraid of damaging your skin, you can get scrubby gloves, which are less abrasive, and/or products made for sensitive skin. To be clear: We are healing your skin. And to do that, you gotta get the dead off, to make way for new, healthy, glowing skin. Don't forget your eyebrows. Dead skin hides there and forms annoying, and often painful bumps.

Totally random but: If you can, visit the ocean. Not a lake, or a river. The Ocean. I suppose the sea would work too though. Don't just look at it either, swim in it. You will feel it heal you.

Ok. Lastly....There's no easy way to say this: I know you said you don't want causal sex, and I while I don't wish to compromise your sexual morality in an any way, I would suggest that you have casual sex, with more than one person.

"Why would you say that, you terrible whore?" you ask.

Because only then will you realize how grateful and overjoyed men are to see you, the divine gift of earthly and carnal delights, naked, regardless of what we see as our flaws. You will also learn that to others who have not had the opportunity be in your body, every second of every day for 20+ years, they will just won't see some of the things you hate the most. Even if you point them out.

Moving on...

Stretch Marks

I'm not even in my mid-twenties, never had kids, covered in stretch marks (arms, boobs, thighs, hips, ass). My boyfriend even found some I didn't know existed. I wanted to die.

The first ones arrived on my boobs, when they did, at the age of 9. Thought they would go away. wrong. wrong.

Gained, lost, gained, lost, gained weight. Only the first fluctuation was a huge change (went from 150 to 113 pounds over the course of a year), and at the age of 14, shouldn't be a problem for well-cared for, youthful skin.



I've spent my entire life wearing cardigans in a heat-wave, during the summer. I never swim without a t-shirt and shorts over my bathing suit. One boob decided, randomly, within the last year, to become slightly bigger than its sister, so its marks radiate higher, which means, it is imperative that I keep a v-neck even at all times during the day.

I have spent everyday since my 9th birthday absolutely hating my body, knowing that regardless of how skinny and hot I got, I would never be able to show it off.

The first time my boyfriend and I had sex, he was absolutely puzzled as to why I kept hiding my body under the sheets- where he couldn't full see my body. (boys are v. visual creatures, as you know)

Imagine my surprise when he rips the covers off, saw my marks and went fucking crazy. Kissing them, licking them, etc.

He calls them tiger stripes and fire marks. He's particularly fond of the ones above my ass (which I never knew existed, until him) and the ones radiating from my bigger boob, which he calls "Sun Boob". He looks at them as natural tattoos.

I thought he was bullshitting me to make me feel better. But 2 years later, he still gets hot every time one of them should show.

He even looked up "stretch mark porn" only to be hugely disappointed and disgusted to learn that it is impossible to find such a thing that does not star someone who is pregnant.

He is white. I am not. He taught me that everyone, himself included, has them too. It's just a question of how visible they are. One of the things he loves about my skin tone, is that they show up more.

I've gotten every cream on the market, cuz I can't afford laser surgery just yet, though I want it like tobacco companies want politicians to take their money. I want it baaaaaad.

I've only purchased one cream since we've been together. Can't say its helped. He found it and was like "Ok, I know this is something you've hated about yourself for a while,(deep breath) and its your body and (deep breath) ok. BUT DON'T TOUCH THE ONES ABOVE YOUR ASS CUZ THEY'RE BARELY NOTICEABLE TO BEGIN WITH AND I LOVE THEM!!!!!!!!"

He claims that part of the reason he likes them is because he's programmed, as a man to do so: They appear on the female bits that symbolize fertility- hips, boobs, etc. And since you're frequently oogling the tasty bits, they become symbols of sex and beauty.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

So, my advice:

Again, don't stress it- I've never had a guy judge me for my stretch marks. Never. And, believe it or not, there is a whole species of male that prefers real women. And I'm not just referring to my bf. Since meeting him, I have met an unusual amount of men who said and meant: they hate airbrshed models, they hate fake boobs, they like hair on lady parts, and they like stretch marks.

Insane, I know. True nonetheless.

Creams are useless wastes of vast amount of funds. Some claim Cocoa Butter helps, but I haven't had any luck. Since its considerably cheaper than the others, and has such a renowned reputation,I would say it doesn't hurt to try. But other than that, don't buy their marketing bullshit. Science says stretch marks are here to stay. Deal.

Sunless tanning.
Some say you can use it to even out the coloring of your skin, so the marks are the same color as the rest of your skin. I tried it, and while it did make them more like the rest of me, they still weren't the same color. Again, you might have better luck. Just throwing it out there.

Or get the laser surgery.
Haven't tried it but I want to. Supposedly has great results. Also Microderm Abrasion stuff reportedly fades them (stretch marks = canyons, so you decease the planes on both sides to make it even).

Cover-up is this girl's best friend.
If you've got something important to go to, like a bridesmaid with a backless dress, get professionally airbrushed. It'll last for about 12 hours, through rain, sweat and the apocalypse. Well, maybe not, but it'll tide you over through pretty much everything else.

For everyday use, get dermablend or another makeup intended to cover tattoos.

Also, those spray-on-pantyhose-in-a-can will also work great.

You might also find a use for something like this.


posted by Janebond at 7:31 PM on June 25, 2008 [15 favorites]

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