Can I Touch Your Hair?

 Africa Hair

They say your hair is your crowning glory.  That didn’t resonate with me until I went natural.  My hair also didn’t get much attention until then as well.

I went natural after feeling the burn of the relaxer (and the scabs that followed) one too many times.  I had braided my hair one summer, a couple of weeks after what turned out to be the last relaxer.  The braids were so tight, I got a severe migraine. It hurt so bad that I had to cancel a date!  Subsequently, the braids broke off at my hairline.  That was the last straw.

I was also going to be studying abroad in London for the upcoming semester.  I didn’t want the hassle of trying to find a salon while I was there.  So I chopped off all of my relaxed hair and rocked a short fro.

I don’t think you understand how liberating that is!  It was amazing to go to a barber shop and pay only $5 to maintain my new look (I also got another date from being around the guys at the shop)!

But as my hair grew, it went through a few awkward stages.  I also had to endure some “haters” that didn’t quite understand the statement I was making by embracing my natural texture.  I felt alone since a lot of my friends and other women around me were still relaxing their hair.

Fortunately today when I look around, I see that beautiful natural hair has become the norm.  Women everywhere are celebrating their natural hair.  A few of my friends even started the successful organization Curly Girl Collective that not only highlights the beauty of natural hair, but educates women (and men) on the tools and products to maintain your crown.  They even have an annual Curl Fest that brings hundreds to Prospect Park for a natural hair party.  It actually happens to be tomorrow and I can’t wait!

I have been natural for almost 17 years now. So I have fully embraced my crown, especially the locs I’ve had for the last 10 years (even though I have to explain that I’m not a rasta regularly).  I love my hair!  So I appreciate it when I receive compliments on it.  I also don’t mind questions about it.  Well, sensible questions.

I once had a teen on the train ask me if my hair caught flies.  Say what now?!  She rephrased herself and asked if because my hair was the texture that it was, it was more susceptible to bugs getting caught in it. Not much better, but still.  I politely explained to her that my locs were no more venus fly traps than her hair was.  Ok, maybe I wasn’t polite.

Another time I had to endure this conversation:

Curious: How long is your hair?

Me: (moving hair so that she could see) This long.

Curious: No, how long is your hair?

Me: I don’t understand.

Curious: I mean, when you take out the braids?

Me: Oh, no these are locs.  This is all my hair.

Curious: Oh, so how long is it when you take those out?

Me:  Well, since these are growing from my scalp, I would have to cut them or unravel them.

Curious: Ohhh, so how long would your hair be then?

Me: (blank stare)

BUT what really irks me is when a complete stranger tries to touch it.  I mean I wouldn’t dare run up on a stranger and touch their nose or their ears.  So why is it OK to touch my hair, another body part?  Some don’t even ask first, they just reach for it.  That’s when I get super powers and do a Matrix lean back to avoid them.

A woman I met recently expressed her annoyance with it as well and said “This is not a petting zoo.” Don’t get me wrong, I understand that people are curious.  Just be respectful about it.  Being the germaphobe that I am (another post in itself), having strange hands in my hair is not on my Top 5 list of things to do today.  So let this serve as my PSA.  Feel free to ask me about my hair, just please don’t try to touch it.

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