I do not remember a time when I did not have cellulite on my ass. Fetus onward, there were dimples. I didn’t think much of it until society told me to think a lot about it, which was when I was about ten years old.
It was then that I saw a clip of Howard Stern descending onto the stage of the MTV’s Video Music Awards in assless chaps. I have a vivid memory of him turning around and squeezing his butt cheeks to reveal a flat ass full of cellulite. The audience erupted in disgusted moans.
For the next fifteen years whenever I caught a glimpse of my ass, Howard Stern and the audience’s reaction flashed through my mind. It was a dark kind of embarrassment. The kind where you privately question your self worth forever on repeat.
The first two things I ever googled in my pre-teen years were 1) Does Jonathan Taylor Thomas have a girlfriend? And 2) Is cellulite normal?
Any woman with cellulite can rattle off the stat that about 90% of women will experience cellulite in their lifetime. It’s our mantra to remind us that we are the majority, that there is power in numbers.
If you are a 10% unicorn, bravo. Seriously, bravo. But also if I ever meet you I will require a cheek swab to test your genetic makeup so I can try to procreate in that direction.
For you smooth skinned unicorns, let me educate you. Cellulite occurs when fat cells accumulate under the skin and push upward, while fibrous connective cords that connect the skin to underlying muscle pull downward. This creates an effect on your skin akin to pushing your hand against a chain link fence.
My early twenties were spent slathering potions on my chain-linked-ass that promised cellulite reduction. I scrubbed and rubbed vigorously. I even bruised myself with a device meant to “massage” the cellulite away. I eventually gave up and moved into body neutral territory. It was a relief to simply not think about what my ass looked like, good or bad.
It took a relationship with a man who loved my ass to fully shake my insecurity. I’m not proud that it took a man’s adoration and approval to get to a place where I actually liked my ass, but to say anything else would be a lie.
One day, about four years ago, said man showed me something he knew I wasn’t going to stumble upon on my own. It was Kendrick Lamar’s new music video with these lyrics:
I’m so f*ckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretchmarks
Still will take you down right on your mama’s couch in Polo socks, ayy.
It wasn’t cellulite, but it was stretchmarks (which I also have, duh, because why would I not), and it was a sentiment that made the Twitter Universe erupt like the applause of Oprah’s Ted Talk. Apparently I wasn’t the only one privately questioning her self worth for years.
(Another life lesson, if you’re ever asking the question “is this normal?” You are 100% normal. Normal people question themselves. Psychopaths do not.)
I grinned from ear to ear while I watched Kendrick Lamar’s music video on repeat.
So this next chapter in my “cellulite journey” might come as a shock, but bear with me, because I have some thoughts (duh, I have too many thoughts to function normally most days) on the other side.
At the beginning of this summer I was given the opportunity to try a brand new procedure called Qwo, an FDA approved injectable aimed at cellulite reduction by releasing the fibrous bands of connective tissue, redistributing face cells and stimulating the growth of new collagen.
I believe my response to the initial email was “OH MY GOD, YES.”
And then my stomach sank. Were all those years of me working towards body acceptance for naught? Was I a scam artist for preaching body positivity and body neutrality left, right and center but when given the privileged opportunity to change something about myself, I whiplashed into “OH MY GOD, YES.”
Maybe. Or maybe I was just being more honest with myself then I have been in years.
There are many, many, MANY wrong things about the misogynistic society we live in. But at the top of my list is the black and white way we demand women live and feel.
You must HATE your body. You must LOVE your body. You must feel NEUTRAL about your body. Yes, I think body neutrality is also black and white because it is spoken in absolute terms.
My relationship with my body is much more complex than that, yes, in part due to the misogynistic society my body thoughts were formed in, but also due to being a human with some insecurities who wants to take advantage of the opportunity for improvement.
I lift weights three times a week to feel strong, avoid injury, and to see a physical change in my body. Why can’t all three of those things be true and good and weighted with equal value?
If you consider yourself body happy or body neutral, but given the opportunity to change something about yourself A) Would you? And B) Does that mean you never were truly body happy or body neutral?
I went through with the Qwo treatments, feeling only about 5% of guilt, and 95% of excitement and daaammmnnnn is my cellulite dramatically reduced. It’s not gone, and the changes aren’t permanent, and the treatment is expensive and I’m in a really privileged spot to even have this discourse around it, and the list can go on and on and on but at the end of the day, I’m really happy I did it. And I don’t want to feel guilty about it. I have enough unnecessary guilt and shame due to simply existing as a woman in our society.
I’m also happy I went through with the procedure because it woke me up to the inherent in-fighting we are still participating in around the discourse of our bodies. I listened to Glennon Doyle’s recent podcast on beauty this week (and for the record, I love Glennon, Abby and Amanda, they can adopt me any day), but I was a bit irked with the absolute terms they were applying to beauty.
Yes, men’s faces do just exist while many women apply makeup daily to cover things. But in the podcast they said women feel they “NEED” to do this. Sure. Some do. But I also think there is a percentage of the female population that simply want to do this. This percentage is aware that men don’t feel the “NEED” to cover themselves, but they are still grateful for a little concealer from time to time.
Yes, women have been conditioned to spend too much time on their appearance due to misogyny, but if there are women that find their confidence and strength in that manicured appearance, I also applaud that. I applaud any woman who has made her own informed choice on how she chooses to present herself in the world.
Because I want to be just as accepting of women who chose to make changes to their appearance, as those that choose to accept themselves as they are.