"Black Don't Crack" Myth or Reality?

This post was performed as a live reading at Milwaukee's Inaugural Listen to Your Mother Show. Such a cool, humbling opportunity to speak words that up until this point, had only been "heard" in cyberspace.


More Than Skin Deep

Have you ever heard the adage “Black don’t crack” (meaning that black skin doesn’t wrinkle)? Don't you believe it for a minute: black do crack. Especially Mom-Black which is, at this very moment, cracking all over my face.

It started five years ago on a morning just like any other. In the pre-dawn hours, my husband’s kiss goodbye awakened me, which awakened our dog who barked his alarm over the garbage truck’s conspiracy to steal our valuables, which awakened our daughter who was then convinced that rising for school an hour earlier was the thing to do. With one eye open, I Frankenstein-walked to the bathroom moments after she entered, and grunted in voice not too unlike Frankenstein, that now was not time to be up. Why I chose to glimpse in the mirror at that moment will forever be a mystery, but I did.

And that’s when I noticed it: a lonely strand of hair traversing my forehead. Now I was awake even as she shuffled back to bed while the dog snored. I blinked away the crud in my eyes and looked closer. “That’s odd,” I thought. “I’m not sporting a comb-over or anything, so why is this one hair laying sideways?” I went to brush it away and
it
would
not
budge.
Brushed at it again.
Still nothing.

That’s when I realized the ugly truth: no, it was not a hair, but a hairline ….well, line. In the middle of my forehead! A wrinkle! No, make that a crevasse. My brow reflexively furrowed in panicked horror while common sense yelled “Stop doing that! ! Stop furrowing! How do you think it got here in the first place?!”

Settle down, Rochelle. Relax the eyebrows and your forehead will follow and the crevasse will disappear. After five minutes of eyebrows-up-eyebrows-down-facial-contortions, I realized it was useless. I had
forgotten
how to relax
my face.

No amount of contortions could erase the years of stress that Wifedom, Working Motherdom and Dog Ownerdom had etched on my face. I was destined to wear Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter expression for the rest of my days.

Doggone husband.
Doggone kid.
Doggone…dog. THEY did this to me! But there’s got to be something I can do about it…Wait a minute: God gave women hands for a reason, and this is it! So, using circular motions, I pressed the butts of my hands into my forehead to massage the relaxation back in and
this new reality
out.

I don’t know long I stood there, alternately pressing, kneading and checking for signs of progress. It could’ve been ten minutes, it might’ve been ten hours. It’s all a blur. The next thing I remember was coming to a rolling stop at my daughter’s school, pushing her out of the car and hollering “put on your wheels because you’ve got a minute till the tardy bell rings!”

That was five years ago; and since that fateful morning, I’ve made peace with the crevasse. With the intervention of a plethora of cement-fillers disguised as concealer, stinging hemorrhoid cream (yes, that does work), and other magical elixirs, I can erase the lines – albeit temporarily – if I want to.

But why would I?

These lines mark the aging journey I’m on in the roles I play as mother, daughter, wife, sister, confidant and whatever other bit parts that come my way. And as a dear friend once said "aging beats the alternative.” I tend to agree. Especially when I think of the kids of Newtown. Or a friend marking another year of solo parenting after losing her husband to cancer. Or when I think of another friend: the summer of 2012 was the last season she enjoyed with her children. She was gone before a single autumn leaf fell.

So, why do any of us try hiding the hairline fissures or canyon-deep creases when they tell the world that we’re doing so much more than beating the alternative? Why, when those smile lines, crows’ feet and cracks testify that, despite facing everything
from the death of a parent, spouse or even a child;
to divorce – ones we’ve initiated and ones that blindsided us;
to making ends meet when both ends were tattered and fraid;
to potty training a three-year-old frightened of going Number 2 in the potty chair,
we’re still here.

Our lines, our wrinkles and yes – crevasses – shout to the world and remind us that we’re resilient and smarter and stronger for having sojourned through the times when even we didn’t think we could. And that we’ve been blessed with precious gifts: another day, another hour, another minute.

So, yes: black do crack. And so does white, yellow, red, brown and everything in between. So let’s all just agree to celebrate the cracks instead of
ironing them out,
puttying them in,
and spackling them over
because the beauty they hold and the stories they tell are so much more than skin deep.




4 comments:

  1. LOVE THIS SO SO MUCH. I will embrace my 'lines and crevasses' with hard earned JOY and GRATITUDE for a life worthy of them. And I can only pray for more to come...

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Christine and...AMEN! Bring on the gray hair and wrinkles.
      Spackling optional of course. ;)

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    2. Just because you look awful doesnt mean its the norm. Of course black eventually cracks. However, blacks on average age much better than anyone. You just happen to get bad genes. Maybe you have white in your blood.

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  2. There is a reason why the saying exists. People with more melanin do age more slowly than people with less melanin. That is mainly because the melanin protects us from UV rays that break down collagen and makes your skon lose elasticity. Most people with less melanin will start to wrinkle as early as their late 20's. This is not something to be ashamed of. This is just a matter of fact. It largely has to do with genetics. On both sides of my family, we do not wrinkle. I also don't get stretch marks and my breasts don't sag much even in my mid-30's. This all has to do with genetics and there is something to be said about having the blessing of melanin on your side.

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