This is Carmen's story.
When puberty hit, it hit hard. I gained forty pounds, sprouted hair, and developed D-cup breasts seemingly overnight. I was thirteen and my body was a foreign thing.
To my total horror and shame, I got stretch marks all around each breast. They are mostly white now, but back then they were red and very noticeable.
I cannot explain how horrible I felt about them. I felt robbed of my youth. I would always hear older women muse nostalgic about how being thirteen meant effortless beauty: clear skin, eating junk food and never gaining a pound. Flawlessness. This was not my reality.
I have various scars from various things on my body and would never, ever feel as horrible and self conscious about them as I do about my stretch marks. They are the first thing I think of when I’m with a new lover. Their visibility is the first thing I consider when trying on clothing.
They are my scars. I felt disfigured and only stopped feeling so very, very recently. I still cringe whenever I see them. I’m cringing right now as I write this.
Svea: Has anyone else (other than me) ever commented on your stretch marks? I think you said that your boyfriend (whose name escapes me) thought they were pretty. What did he say? Can I include that in your story? I think it's important. Do you?
Carmen: I'm not sure if ... [my boyfriend] said anything about my marks other than that they're pretty and he hardly notices them. I've always been too scared to mention them to anyone else.
And then, a bit later:
Svea: Can I put the portrait one of you in, under Carmen? I love that photo.
Carmen: Just saw the post........... OK, sorry to be super annoying BUT I didn;t realize you were going to put that horriffic and absoluteley repulsive las pic of my deformed breast. Oh God I want to die. Ok, you can keep it IF you please, please, please delete the pic that shows my actual face so people don;t know that it's me and that I'm that totally repulsive. I know you won;t agree and I don;t need reassurance I just do NOT want people seeing my face any more. I am never getting naked again ever.
Svea: Oh my word, my dear, you're freaking out. I think all the photos are beautiful. I'd rather take off the last one than the first. Can I do that?
Carmen: yes. although from your point of view the last one shows the "scars" better. In that it shows how grotesque and deformed and stretched the skin is. but fine, if you take the last one out then i can deal with my face being attached to an embarassing story. bleh.
Svea: Well hey, I want you to feel good about it. It matters less to me than it does to you...
So I've taken the post down (it's saved, but as a draft). Think about what you want (which pictures, etc.), and just let me know in a few hours or at the end of the day or when you're ready... I just really love that portrait, but then maybe I could take other portrait photos of you that aren't 'scar' related. You are, after all, Ms. photogenic.
Let me know what you want. It's not empowering if you hate it! Well, that is, if you hate it and don't want it up!
Carmen: Hey Ms. Svea,
Svea: Ok, sounds good. Why are you still up?
It's only midnight for me, but it's three for you!
You know, a lot of the scars [in the project] aren't all that visible... I think it's really interesting that way. They just are more important/meaningful (in both positive and negative ways) to us than they are to other people.
Carmen: ok, so I'm very sorry to be a huge pain in the butt..but...could you take down the the pic that shows my face from the lifelines project? I know, I know..
Svea: Don't be sorry! It's fine. I want you to be comfortable with it... Can I put the other (more close-up one) up instead? Now that I don't have you face in it, you just might be more comfortable with that... >)
Also, it would be cool to put this correspondence in. You know, us negotiating the photos. Since no one can identify you now, would that be OK?
Carmen: Thanks dood. Yes, you can put the horrific "close up" up...everything is fine as long as my face isn;t there. Our correspondance is okay too.