No, You Can't Touch My Hair

The first time someone asked me if they could touch my hair, I was 16 years old. At the time, I was working at a very popular retail store (rhymes with Ranana Bepublic) in an outlet mall near my hometown. During my employment, this particular retail store was transitioning to a more modern, contemporary style as opposed to the refined, business aesthetic it once had. This included changes in the employee dress code. We went from only being able to wear slacks, pencil skirts, dress shoes and blouses, to basically being able to wear whatever our hearts desired as long as it was stylish and on-trend. Employees who were once only permitted to have natural hair colors, began sporting every color in the rainbow without even a second look. I, however, had just recently finished my two-year transition from relaxed hair to natural hair and was rocking my beloved afro. Before this moment, I had always straightened my hair in hopes that it would make sure that I didn’t attract too much attention.

On this particular day, I was working at the cash wrap (this is just a fancy way to describe all of the cash registers), when a woman approached me and asked, “Is that hair all yours?”

I looked around, confused as to who she was speaking to. When I realized that we were the only two people around, I answered, “Yes,” with an awkward laugh because God knows that I’ve never been more uncomfortable.

She then proceeded to ask me if she could touch my hair, but not before her hand was already four fingers deep into my kinks. I laughed it off because, one: I’m nice, two: I was on the clock at my place of employment and three: I had never been in this situation to even begin to know how to react.

I’ve had numerous encounters similar to this one since this initial incident and I want to take the time to address the facts about why asking to touch my hair isn’t okay.  

1. It’s micro-aggressive.

While you asking to touch my hair may just seem like an innocent act of curiosity, to me, it seems like a marginalization due to my skin color. Folks often assume, due to my light brown skin tone and slightly slanted eyes, that I am of a mixed race. Then once they discover the texture of my natural hair, they bombard me with questions regarding my parents’ biological makeup, how I grew it to its length and manage its thickness.

2. It’s weird and gross.

Besides the fact that you felt bold enough to come up to me to ask if you could touch my hair, you did so assuming that I would allow your filthy hands to dig their way through my hair and onto my scalp. Strangers are just that. Strangers. So to allow someone who I don’t know from a can of paint to touch my hair with the hands they use to pick their nose, wipe their butt and eat their food…? Yeah, that’s going to have to be a “No,” from me.

3. Even if I did let you touch my hair, I don’t trust you to not mess up this perfect twist-out that I spent 14 hours on.

Let’s be real. The people asking to touch my hair are not other black women. They are white women with little to no knowledge about how black hair works and what I’m NOT about to do is allow an army of women to mush and tug on my laid edges like I’m in an exclusive zoo exhibit. Every coiled strand of my head was put into a position in which I expect it to stay and your hands will only cause me frizz and anxiety. I’m more open to questions regarding how I achieved a style and the products used rather than your hands-on analysis.

4. It’s rude.

No one has the right to tell anyone else if they can or cannot be offended. Asking to touch my hair, in all honesty, is one of the rudest things you can do to a black woman. Critiquing my hair texture (nappy, poofy, weird, etc.), asking why I don’t straighten it often, comparing me to famous natural celebs because of our hair (Jill Scott, Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Diana Ross) and any other shady/petty comment regarding the hair that naturally grows out of my head is uncalled for, offensive and it gives me the right to politely tell you to get the hell out of my face.