While visiting my lovely girlfriend in California (and how it came to pass that I’m living on the East Coast with a girlfriend on the West is another story entirely, one you wouldn’t believe if I told you), I lost my sunscreening privileges after badly burning myself on a trip to the beach.

I thought I’d done a good job.  I really had.

I’d used the thick, white, zinc-based stuff on my face, spreading it around until I looked ghost-like.  After I was done, I still had some leftover, so I spread it down both arms.  It was only later that I realized my face sunscreen leftovers were not nearly enough to cover my arms; I literally had pale fingerprint marks where I’d managed to spread some sunscreen, surrounded by oceans of scalded red on the rest of my arms.  Additionally, I seemed to forget I have the following body parts:  feet, thighs, a neck, a chest, and the posteriors of two shoulders.

My girlfriend inspected me gingerly the next day, as if I might shatter if she pressed her fingers into my angry red flesh too hard.  She shook her head, clucked her tongue, and observed, “White people are a disaster in the sun.”  A moment later, she added, “You are not allowed to sunscreen without help anymore.”

Fast forward to a week later, when I decided it would be a good idea to use my clippers to fade the backs and side of my head.  You see, I’ve had my head shaved for years and years, and I’ve always shaved my own head with no disastrous consequences.  But recently, I decided to grow my hair out to something more… normal? — if that word can ever be properly used to describe my taste in hair or fashion.

I thought I could do it myself.  After all, I knew my way around a set of clippers, plus I watched a YouTube video on how to give oneself a fade:

Seemed easy enough.

I spent twenty or thirty minutes working hard on my haircut, and when I came out of the bathroom and showed the people I lived with my outcome, one of them pointed out it was crooked and included some bald spots, but the other reassured me by saying:

“You can go out in public with that… for short periods of time.”

It’s really okay to need help.

You know what I’ve realized from my recent experiences?  It’s okay to need help sometimes.  There are some things we can do on our own without any problem, like making a bowl of cereal, for example.  But there are other things, like (if you are me) cooking anything more complicated than cereal, that requires us to reach out and ask for help.

Asking for help can be really, really hard.  And again, if you’re anything like me, that first step of reaching out and admitting you can’t do something by yourself feels next to impossible sometimes.  But here’s something you can think about the next time you need help that might make it easier:

Reverse the situation.  Ask yourself, “If my friend needed help from me, would I be happy to give it?”  The answer is that OF COURSE you would.  If one of your close friends reached out to ask for your moral support during a break-up, for example, you would probably drop everything to help them.  You would be there for them.

So guess what?  They feel the same way about you.  They are so happy to help you.  In fact, they WANT to help you.  They would much rather have you ask for help than see you hurting.

The next time I went to the beach with my girlfriend, she stood nearby, watching like a hawk, as I applied my sunscreen.  She quizzed me for at least a straight minute when I said I was finished.

“Did you get your ears?”

“What about your feet?”

“Do you need me to get the back of your shoulders?” — to which I said no, and then she said, “Yes, you do.  Turn around.”

Ask for help when you need it, my friends.  And watch your own friends and family like hawks, insisting upon helping the stubborn ones even when they say they’re fine.  In the end, we have to memorize our own lines and play our own parts in this human drama called life.  But no one ever said we wouldn’t have any supporting cast members.