Burn Baby, Burn

Slather on the aloe, kids, I did it!

As I type this, the skin on my decolletage is hot to the touch, feels like it is infested with a thousand fire ants and is beginning to blister and peel.

I. Have. Sunburned.

sol01Sunburning is one part of the Oreo lifestyle that cannot be learned. It must be experienced.  While all Oreo hopefuls are able to further their assimilation by taking a class in medieval dress pattern making, renting a kayak for the day or picking up some new tech stocks on eTrade. But a sunburn is a special step.

It’s like a fiery kiss from God saying: “Well done. You’re on your way.”

As a child of color, you are often told that you don’t need to worry about sunscreen because you simply will not burn. This is devastating when trying to blend in. Not only do you tan, which just seems cruel, but you are also left out of conversations about “laying out,” going to tanning salons and recurring freckles.

Thankfully, I defeated the odds.

You may think that the melanoma risk is a hefty price to pay for acceptance. But what’s worse? A relatively treatable medical condition or being considered part of a quota system?

My battle scar did not come easily. It took a drive out of unusually overcast Los Angeles and nearly 8 hours in uncomfortably warm sun to crack the surface. I was sweaty, dehydrated and seeing desert oases where there were none. I wanted to give up, but this lifestyle is a marathon, not a race, so I toughed it out and was rewarded this morning as I rolled over onto my chest and let out a scream of pain that woke my whole building.

When my neighbor came to see if everything was okay, she found me in tears. She tried to comfort me, but there was no need. These were tears of joy at my pain.

Sure it hurts to take a shower or wear shirts, but nothing worth winning was won without suffering.

Now excuse me as I log off. I have a dermatologist’s appointment to schedule and a sheet of peeled skin to hang on my wall next to my other trophies.


  1. As I, white girl, I envy those with a natural “tan.” I have a melanin enhanced husband who scoffs every time I slather on the SPF 30 with the micronized zink to avoid the burn. Sorry you had to experience the pain, but though you wish to join in the acquisition talks of the “perfect tan,” just remember when you are 40 and still look 29 those of creamy complexion who “laid out” in the sun will look like they are 55.

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