If you’ve ever looked at your stretch marks and thought to yourself, "Hmmm, I wonder if these completely arbitrary lines indicate something much deeper than the subcutaneous tissue they are"—you’re not alone. If you haven’t thought about this, welcome to #ThighReading.
Okay, so maybe "thigh reading" is not an actual way to determine your fortune, but it’s a pretty great way to spread a body positive message. Last week, Twitter user @princess_labia (+500 points for that handle) posted a picture of stretch marks on her thighs with the caption “palm readings <<<< thigh readings.” She then followed that tweet with another, asking folks to share pics of their own stretch marks.
Over the past week, users (mostly women) have generously shared photos of their stretch marks, both as a form of self-empowerment and to normalize yet another part of the human body that women are told is a blemish. But all these beautiful photos made me wonder: What are stretch marks—and could they actually hold mystical powers?
First, let's address the former. Stretch marks, known by dermatologists as "striae distensae," occur when the skin, um, stretches. The dermis, the middle layer of the skin just under the surface, gives skin its elasticity—but sometimes when it’s stretched too much, it can tear. In more extreme cases, stretch marks can coincide with increased levels of cortisone, a hormone released by the adrenal glands that breaks down the elastic connective fibers in the skin.
The main causes for stretch marks are weight gain or weight loss, pregnancy, and “being female.” No, I am not kidding—the very first risk factor for developing stretch marks listed on the Mayo Clinic's website is “being female,” so stretch marks are just as natural to women as breasts and a vagina. Still, men can develop stretch marks, too, and certain diseases and conditions can lead to them as well.
Now, in light of #ThighReading, we’ve pulled a Cosmo and come up with a totally unimpeachable guide to interpreting these squiggles—on your thighs and elsewhere—to help you gain deeper understanding of your life and character. (Disclaimer: More than one of these descriptions may apply to you. And that's okay. Humans are complex beings who can't be defined by one set of characteristics.) So here it is: What your stretch marks say about you!
Do your stretch marks flow in and out of each other like the branches of a willow tree? This means that you’re a complicated person, full of different ideas. For example, sometimes you find Taylor Swift super annoying, but other times you hear Blank Space in a Forever 21, and you don’t mind it. You are truly a mysterious person, but be careful! You can also be pretty shady (like a willow tree), so you gotta keep yourself in check from time to time.
Do your stretch marks resemble the hide of a zebra? Then, zebra, don’t ever try to change your stripes. You don’t always respond well to change, and you prefer the comfort of the familiar. Still, you are a very authentic person, in that you are most likely an actual human being (not a horselike animal). Be careful, though—you tend to see the world in black and white, so push yourself to deepen your perspective by trying new things like going to a library, traveling, or reading Family Circus comics.
Do your stretch marks expand and take the shape of a river delta channeling into an ocean? You are carefree and go with the flow of life's currents, but your interests spread widely. You are talented at more than one activity and possess the rare ability to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. Sometimes, though, it can be hard for you to maintain focus, so just make sure that big wheel keep on turnin’, and also that Proud Mary keep on burnin’. Just keep rollin’ (rollin’, rollin’) on the river.
Do your stretch marks resemble cat scratches? Okay, so you’re a bit of a diva. You always speak your mind, especially when someone asks you your opinion, and you don’t care what the response is—kind of like my aunt at Christmas dinner, except without the terrorist sympathizing stuff. Your confidence inspires friends to action, which makes you a born leader (not that you asked for any of this). You are also a kind person who sometimes doesn’t remember the name of someone you've met before, but you definitely remember his or her face. Just be careful of that catty attitude, girl.