By Richard Ray:
Have you ever walked out of your house looking crazy?
Chances are you have, whether you realized it or not. Even worse were the times you did so in denial? I might have just been guilty of the worst offense, doing so knowingly, but in partial denial that it did not look as bad as it actually did.
I have learned the hard ways over the years that Black actually sort of cracks. I love the sun. Between the beach, pool, basketball outdoors and 10-25 mile bike rides, I spend lots of time in the sun. I have a perpetual tan on top of already brown skin and am probably 3 shades darker than I was 10-15 years ago. This is all good until a few times I received too much concentrated sun, usually falling asleep at the beach. The consequence was learning that Black/Brown people can get sunburned too.
Of course I needed to learn this often uncomfortable lessons several times before I finally changed up my program. Now on long bike rides I always wear a baseball cap as well as trips to the beach and pool. I wear long sleeves often and even put on sun block in a few key areas when I go to the beach or on a particularly sunny day playing ball. My shaved head, forehead, nose and shoulders seem to be the most susceptible to burning and I take pains to cover them up… normally
Well recently I forgot to wear my hat while spending hours in both the pool and the ocean, coupled with a afternoon basketball session. The consequences were delayed as it was a day or so before I realized how much my forehead, head and shoulders were so sensitize to the slightest touch. I often shave in the shower, and really do somehow avoid any extended time in front of the mirror and even then always done at a relatively safe distance.
I realized I had gotten too much sun, but it was only a few days later, I realized how much from the constant flaking I could see while showering. Yet, I still avoided closer inspection in the mirror for some reason. Well my reality finally hit home when I had to attend an event at an upscale jewelry boutique, run by a magazine published by the city’s largest newspaper. By this point denial was no longer an option an I had to come to grips cause I was shedding like a snake. My shaved head was so flakey I alternatively looked like someone with a bad case of dandruff or a mild case of leprosy.
I am not exactly the skin care king, so I did not know what to do at this point beside bootleg exfoliation with soap and a wash cloth and afterwards applying some lotion. The results were mixed. The denial came in the form of the lotion initially masking the dryness temporarily. However, by the time I looked in the visor mirror as I arrived at the venue and saw a photographer, I knew I was a gigantic fail.
I had managed to address most of the peeling on my forehead and nose, but my head was another story. At the hairline there was such a noticeable darker coloration, it looked as if I had just returned from LeBron James barber and attempted to paint a hairline across the front of my head. I am not prone to being self conscious normally, but I tried to avoid the event photographer at every turn. I do this normally anyway, but today was about much more than my usual shyness and avoidance of picture taking.
The venue was too small to avoid anyone, and I kept lying to myself that most people would realize that my skin peeling was from the sun, though I was unsure the predominate Caucasian crowd would even realize Black people peel from the sun too. A smart man would have never gone. A not so dumb man would have stayed only minutes. Instead I endured and eventually my luck ran out when the photographer cornered a group I was engaged with. I tried to politely sidestep being included in the picture, but the photographer graciously tried to lie and say my skin issue was not that noticeable.
I usually pride myself on not looking too crazy when I walk out of the house. This day was clearly an exception.