I love ice cream.
I mean LOVE ice cream.
I want it during 20-degree weather when the wind is blowing causing frostbite on my lips or during 90-degree weather when ice cream will melt from being in the sun for no more than 2 minutes.
But on this day, I wanted something specific.
My boyfriend and I stopped at Walmart to pick up a few items as well as get an extra key made. We got the key made and start to aimlessly walk around the store. We knew what we came in here for, but it’s easy for me to forget once I start to walk the aisles. We walk down the aisle with ice cream.
Boy does an ice cream bar sound good.
A Haagen-Daz bar. Peppermint Bark to be exact.
My stomach grumbles at the thought.
Maybe I should eat real food? Nah ice cream is why better.
We walk further down the aisle only finding Snickers and Twix ice cream bars, similar to the candy bar.
No no, not what I want.
We pick up the few items we came for, check out and leave. As we’re leaving the Walmart I spot a Walgreens right in front of the Walmart.
How did we miss it?
In Houston, Texas Walgreen drugstores are notorious for selling ice cream bars individually and a variety of flavors of Blue Bell ice cream. I was hoping this one didn’t disappoint.
I ask my boyfriend (yes, ask, as I tend to make my boyfriend go on wild goose chases often for what I want) if we can stop by the Walgreens. He looks at me hesitant as if thinking, “Woman are you serious?”
Somewhere in my mind, I’ve come up with this idea that my boyfriend calls me woman even though I know he doesn’t.
He reluctantly said yes and we drove to the Walgreens. We step into the Walgreens and we’re greeted by a woman with bright red lips and a big smile saying, “Hello and welcome to Walgreens.” We nod and reply, “Thank you,” out of appreciation. I analyze the store trying to figure out where the frozen section is located. My eyes fall upon a sign in front of the cosmetics section that reads “Buy One, Get One Half Off.” A slow smile spreads across my face and I start walking towards the sign. My boyfriend tries to lead me away, but I’m already quickly walking towards the various lipstick colors. I stop at the liquid foundation section to assess if this store carries the shade I need.
Because I am a woman of color it is sometimes difficult to find a foundation that’s my correct shade or one that blends well with my skin and usually once I do find the shade is sold out.
I spot the shade I need and hurry to pick it up. While I’m looking at other cosmetic products I hear a shrill voice.
“May I help you today?”
I look around to see if the person is speaking to me. My boyfriend turns around and motions towards me with his hands. I can’t see who my boyfriend is looking at until the person slowly walks towards us.
It’s an elderly woman, probably 60 or 65 with eyeglasses hanging from her neck and a hobble to her walk. She brings her glasses up to her face and moves her platinum gray hair out of her eyes.
I make eye contact with her and kindly decline saying, “No thank you, we’re just looking.” She spots the foundation I’m holding in my hand and starts a conversation that I wish I had never stood there for.
“Oh, we just restocked those foundations so we have more colors now.”
My boyfriend and I nod our heads taking in what the lady is saying.
“We’ve gotten more darker colors recently.”
I see my boyfriend give the woman a perplexed look and cut his eyes to the foundation.
“We use to only carry lighter colors like these.”
She points to the lighter shades that more so represent a Caucasian woman’s skin tone.
“Yeah we use to carry lighter shades, but we’ve started carrying darker shades to appeal to the changing neighborhood because more people are moving here.”
Darker shades? More people? What kind of people are you talking about exactly?
“I have a very diverse family so I understand, but we don’t care about what’s on the outside just what’s on the inside.”
What does that have to do with anything? That statement makes you sound like that white friend black people tend to have who think it’s okay to say certain things because they have a “black friend.”
My boyfriend lets out a sigh letting me know that he’s just as exhausted from this whole encounter as I am.
I kindly say to the woman, “Thank you, but we’re just looking” which she replies, “Just let me know if you need anything.”
I look at the shade and the price trying to push the encounter out of my mind, but I can’t. I started to look at the foundation differently, not as foundation, but as a representation of me, as a representation of my “dark” skin.
A burden. That’s how people and companies see me and my skin as, a burden. A burden companies now want to cater to not because they like how I look, but because they want my money. I’m a part of a market they now want to conquer and cater to. To show they can be diverse, to show there is no racism, to show we have made strides, but we haven’t. Because when I buy a foundation that blends with my skin it is still labeled as the color, tan, toffee, or caramel, labels people typically use when talking about those whom they consider “lightskin.”
I put the foundation back in it’s rightful place on the shelf and let out a sigh because racism is exhausting and I was just looking for ice cream.