Editor's Picks Self-Care Style Dedicated Feature Fashion Lookbook

I didn’t know what a parasol was until the pandemic happened. Now I’m obsessed.

Not too long ago, I decided to make like Marie Kondo and spend on the things that bring me joy.

Let me back up.

Most of my days are carefully planned, scheduled down to almost the minute.

When I’m not working at The Tempest, I’m managing my freelance writing, and perpetually side-hustling. Then, there are the demands of my personal life: helping family, attempting to be a responsible adult who pays bills on time, eating vegetables, and getting regular oil changes.

All while trying to cling to whatever kind of social life 2020 will allow.

While I like many of the things that I do, it means that I frequently overschedule myself. I bog down my days with things I “should” do and spend most of my free time thinking about everything I “could” be doing instead.

I bog down my days with things I “should” do. 

I was denying myself every small thing that brought me joy, and it was taking a toll on my mental health. Even when I should have been able to relax, my mind was still whirring.

Enter the pandemic and the general chaos that is 2020.

And the need to wear masks.

Mask(ing) On

At first, masks just seemed like functional necessities. Everyone acted like the pandemic was only going to last a few weeks, so why bother looking cute?

I bought a couple, cycling them out so I could wash them, but they weren’t much to write home about: it only took a few minutes for the soon-familiar feeling of soreness around my ears. Looking cute was just a fever dream, and any mask I put to use quickly began losing the elasticity that kept me perfectly distanced from the virus.

But then, I realized, if I have to wear a mask to prevent myself from potentially spreading or contracting a life-threatening virus, why not try to find something both functional and cute?

Easier said than done. I spent hours scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, trying to keep my hopes up in finding the perfect mask that would save my life – literally and socially.

And then I found her.

That is, I stumbled on my friend’s Instagram post (who I then messaged ruthlessly until she spilled the beans about where she bought her mask).

Sleek, beautifully cut, patterns selected as though the company saw into my multi-hued soul. It was hard finding the perfect set because there were so damn many to choose from. Each one was created using African-inspired textiles, but I finally found her: defiantly patterned in turquoise and cream shades, made for a queen.

The brand, Crown Inspired, promised that the masks would keep pressure off one’s ears, never come loose, be dual-layered – and for those that want it – sport a pocket filter for that extra set of protection.

Of course, all of that could only be proven by wearing my new mask, so I put in the order and waited.

The Verdict

[Image Description: Lauren wearing a Crown Inspired face mask with a beautiful blue design and pattern] Credit: Rita Harper
I own several and this one is my favorite, by far.

Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it is also one of the most well-designed masks I’ve tried. It’s dual-layered with a large pocket filter (I was able to get two coffee filters inside with ease), but what I really love about it is the way the strings are designed.

They are crafted so that they do not place any pressure on the ears, but what’s more,  they are easily adjustable and the mask feels very secure.

I don’t find myself fidgeting with it as I do with my other ones, and the strings are long enough that I’m even able to tie a loose safety knot around the back so that I know it won’t budge.

Oh, and there’s something else.

I added something else to my shopping cart right before I hit checkout.

A parasol.

It’s gorgeous, but it also helps to protect me from UV rays while I stretch my legs by taking walks around the neighborhood, or go on my weekly trip to the grocery store.

(In case you’ve never heard of them, parasols are all about shielding our beautiful skin from the sun, not the rain. Reverse umbrellas for the win!)

But I like the parasol for reasons that go beyond skincare. The thing is that living through this year has taught me a lot about the way I move around the world.

Yes, I mean this in a practical sense, because I have to spend extra time assessing which stores feel safe to visit, what time I should go in order to avoid potential crowds, or if I can just order online and pick up in-store to avoid having to actually shop the sales floor, altogether.

But, I’ve also been thinking about the way I move through life emotionally.

How I Lost Myself

A long time ago, I made a commitment to take up more space. I made a conscious effort, and frankly, up until a few months ago, I thought I’d succeeded.

I didn’t realize how self-conscious I still was, or how much I shrunk myself in order to avoid the judgment of others…

…until I watched half of my country act a complete fool over being asked to simply attempt to stop the spread of a horrifyingly contagious virus by wearing face coverings.

If there were grown-ass adult women willing to turn a superstore upside-down because an employee asked them to don a mask in compliance with store policy, statewide mandates, or anything else, then why was I scurrying about, trying my best not to inconvenience anyone else or draw too much attention to myself?

A long time ago, I made a commitment to take up more space – but I failed. 

How many colorful jumpsuits or unnatural hair dyes have I passed up because I still cared about flying under the radar?

How many years did I go wearing stud earrings that I did not like because I was worried that hoops elevated my look a little too much?

What was the point of any of that?

Taking Up My Space

This? The parasol? Hell, this is a game-changer. When I whip it out, people immediately take notice, and I haven’t felt “extra” or “over-the-top.” I’m doing what I want to do and not worrying about what random people on the street think of my appearance.

Because when I whip it out, I’m going on a journey.

A journey to a place where I am drinking a perfectly chilled beverage, in a pretty glass, while strolling through wildflowers with my honey.

Spending my days reading, outside at the park, free of cat-calling and joy-killing mosquitoes. And should I decide to venture to the shops, every item of clothing I fancy will not only fit me just the way I like but will be well within my price range.

It’s a fantasy world that I’m living in, and I love it.

Oh, did I mention that the parasol matches the mask?!!?!

collage of a Crown Inspired parasol with a blue print, closed. and the same parasol open
[Image description: Crown Inspired parasol with a blue-print, closed // The same parasol, open.] Credit: Rita Harper
I couldn’t ask for a more perfect combo. I mean, how show-stopping is that?

You see a person walking down the street twirling a parasol, you instantly look over and wonder, “What is their deal? What do they know that I do not know?”

I am making it a point to get as much mileage out of this parasol as I can.

Then, imagine catching a glimpse of that person’s face and realizing that their mask is perfectly coordinated with their parasol?

A look. A moment.

A statement. 

But honestly? Most people are into it.

I’ve already gotten tons of questions about both the mask and the parasol, and I’ve loved those interactions, too. I will not be the least surprised if I spot more Crown Inspired parasols around my neighborhood in the near future.

The autumn rains have already begun here and just this afternoon, there was a slight chill in the air, so I am making it a point to get as much mileage out of this parasol before I have to break out the scarves. For my next outing, I shall grab an iced cold brew coffee and stroll about the area without a care in the world.

lauren is sitting in front of a fountain on a ledge wearing a Crown Inspired face mask and holding a matching parasol to go with it
[Image description: Lauren is sitting in front of a fountain on a ledge wearing a Crown Inspired face mask and holding a matching parasol.] Credit: Rita Harper
Because, when it comes to parasols? They’re absolutely perfect for that.

Especially during a global pandemic.

P.S. I figured you’d want to rock your own beautiful tee, too, so here’s an amazing 15% discount that Crown Inspired gifted you: just enter TEMPEST15 at checkout. Get your own now!

By Lauren McEwen

Lauren McEwen is the Lead Partnerships Strategist for The Tempest, based in the Atlanta area. She has
written about everything from pop culture to gender to business. Her
work has appeared in The Washington Post, Madame Noire, The Baltimore Sun, Bitch Magazine,, and Comic Book Resources. Although she likes a ton of things, her three true loves are cheese, Harry Potter, and Beyonce.