I worked all summer of my 8th grade year digging postholes, stretching wire, hauling hay and creating a terraced garden at 9,000 feet in the mountains of Colorado. I had worked without my shirt every day possible. I was proud of the tone of my skin. I was almost more proud of the tan line at the waste of my pants. The contrast was remarkable.
I was excited to go back to school in the fall. I had missed my friends and I was finally gaining confidence as a leader in the class and this year I was going to be the starting center on the Jr. High basketball team. My best friend Tim was the most popular boy in Jr. High—and we were inseparable. What good times. I might even get Mary Patterson to like me. (I would pass a note and find out.)
On one of the first few days of school we had our first P.E. class. We were to run laps around the track so I laced up my white high-top canvas all-stars, pulled on my gym shorts, grabbed my T-shirt then remembered my mocha tan and decided to leave the shirt in my locker. Wow! Just wait until everyone sees my tan, I thought to myself. I ran up the stairs from the locker room and into the gym and then headed outside towards the track. Sitting in the bleachers was a group of the High School Cheerleaders, with their short skirts, fine legs and tight sweaters. My 8th grade hormones were boiling.
Did they notice my tan? Girls like tans on boys, right? I jogged across the hardwood floor towards the door when I heard a booming voice from bleachers,” Hey Chambers! Come over here.” I turned and walked back to the bleachers where the cheerleaders with the short skirts and tight sweaters were sitting. In the middle of them was the High School football coach. He was a physically imposing, gruff as football coaches like to be and he was surrounded by the giggling cheerleaders.
I stood in front of them all—feeling a little exposed now with nothing on but my white canvas High-tops, gym shorts and mocha-tan. He said, “Chambers…if I had a chest like that I think I would cover it up with a shirt.” Then he laughed. The long-legged cheerleaders giggled. The mocha-tanned boy laughed. Then I turned and ran out the door. Face burning, mouth dry, eyes stinging with tears, I ran like the wind to the track and out of earshot of the giggling girls.
When I got to the track I found someone’s discarded T-shirt lying on the ground; it was sweaty and smelly but I put it on.
And I didn’t take it off for 25 years.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.