Monday, November 04, 2013

Love the skin you're in -- or else!

Once upon a time, I was invisible -- more or less. I glided through the world, unnoticed. No jaws were dropped when I walked into a room, no readjustments were made. Black girls who were extremely light or dark were considered especially exotic and desirable, for whatever reason. I existed in that dead zone of brownness that rendered me generic at first glance. I flew below the radar -- and because I didn't know any other way to be, I enjoyed it quite a lot. This went on forever, really. This went on for my whole life.

I instinctively knew that good health was paramount to a great quality of life. What good would it do for me to conquer the world if I didn't have the energy to enjoy it? One memory that stands out from my high school years (and yes, that will probably stay with me forever) is a of a painfully on trend black girl with unspeakably horrible skin who, in a moment of clarity on a schoolbus, stopped hating me long enough to concede that my skin was so beautiful, it quite literally took her breath away. That totally freaked me out -- probably because I knew it was true.

I didn't take up smoking or drinking in high school or college, and I didn't do drugs. Those were expensive habits and I never had money. Maybe things would have been different if I could have attracted a guy to pay for all of that stuff but nope, I couldn't do that, either. I did what I had to do to stay lean and strong -- mostly running and weight-lifting -- and thanks to the heart attack Daddy had when I was 9 years old, I wasn't in the habit of eating garbage -- or junk food, which was considered expensive and a waste of money.

I didn't realize it at the time but by putting those good habits in place on automatic, I was setting myself up for success. After a certain point, they become so much a part of my everyday life, it felt wrong when I didn't do them.

Hear this, loud and clear: There was never, ever, ever a moment -- as a little kid or as an adult -- when I did not moisturize my skin on a daily basis. I used everything from Palmer's Cocoa Butter to Vaseline Intensive Care but God knows, I used something. Presenting oneself to the world with ashy skin was akin to sloth of the highest order. It simply wasn't an option. Period. When I got to college, I kept moisturizing, I wore sunscreen every day, I got facials every month and I slept in a sports bra to keep my breasts stationary. (More on that some other time.)

Relocating to New York City didn't change anything. I found a decent gym, a facialist, an eyebrowist and I got to work. Did I have money? Of course not. I was still broke as hell, living hand to mouth in an SRO on the Upper West Side and barely getting by. But I was lean and strong and healthy, and my skin looked amazing. I realized that God gave me everything I needed to maintain myself, physically. All I really lacked was discipline.  That was the real struggle.

And now?  My routine hasn't changed. I still take care of my skin religiously. I still hit the gym, hard. My body has changed, so I'm better off if I eat clean. The really weird thing is, all of a sudden, everyone can see me -- which kind of makes me wonder if I was ever invisible in the first place.

Whatever it takes. I'm not giving up. I'm not going to let it drop. I'm going to fight for my good health all the way down the line.

For me, that starts with my skin.

No comments: