It is that time of year again.
The time of year where it rains every day and the humidity is damn near 100. Which means my hair is even more difficult to deal with; which ultimately means I am even more annoyed with how my hair looks.
So when that happens, and it always happens, I revert to my natural hair state. Curly.
Wearing my hair curly is pretty much the equivalent of just getting a pixie cut. I forget how amazingly easy and convenient it is until I do it.
Throughout the year I have the tendency to wear my hair in its more natural state on the weekends. Again, it’s just easier especially when almost every hour is accounted for in some way.
But around this time of year through the Fall it is more common for me to wear it on a regular basis which means to work as well.
I am sure I have spoken about it before but, my co-workers are used to myself, and other black women (I am sure) with straight hair. Or extensions. Or braids. Or wigs. Basically anything you would see in mainstream media. Only recently have I started to see (black) women rocking their natural curls on television. So when I walk into the employee entrance and start to encounter my co-workers I am meant with a glance at my hair and I continue to sign in for the day. Eventually, some hours later, said co-worker will approach me and ask what I did to my hair and say they “love it”.
I smile and politely tell them I did nothing to my hair. This is just what it looks like if I don’t spend the insane amount of time straightening my hair. They again will tell me they love it and continue on to whatever task they were originally doing. Or I will get the random drive-by compliment on my hair.
This exchange will happen several times over the first few days of “wearing my hair naturally”curly.
Eventually, and it always happens, someone will ask to touch my hair.
No. The answer is always no.
But it is as if my no, meant a yes, or they thought I was kidding and someone will touch it anyway.
We as humans pet animals. I am not a animal.
A lot of my co-workers are like family. We spend a lot of time together. So for a lot of them I am the token black person in their lives. And I am regularly educating them on what it really means to be black and how you can and cannot say and/or do somethings. I have accepted this role in my life.
Very recently this happened. And yes, my hair was touched and then someone else said they just wanted to “touch it”. I had to explain to them it is not okay to touch a black woman’s hair, or to even ask to. I was meant with laughs asking why. I politely explained to them that I don’t go around asking to touch their hair… and I was told I could if I wanted to. But I don’t want to, that’s the point. Then I was told by one of my female co-workers that people will just touch her hair when it’s down. I told her that’s not okay though. She shrugged.
I don’t have
many any people in my life that really understand this exchange; only my mother, sister and husband (only because he has heard me complain about this for years and he prides himself in being the only person who can touch my hair).
Said co-worker messaged her husband to ask him if he had ever heard of such a thing. He said he had not. Not surprising; most white people don’t know.
Now that it was just the two of us, I explained to her it really is a thing. I told her to Google it. It’s a thing. She said she Googled touching women’s hair and I told her she needed to be more specific… Google touching a black woman’s hair and to let me know what she got. When she gasped and said oh my god. I let a tiny smile spread across my face.
She profusely apologized and started telling everyone it was definitely a thing.
I honestly laughed. I told her it was okay. I was just happy that she learned something.
I really think the thing that drove it home was when one comment in an article compared it to touching a pregnant woman’s belly. It is an invasion of one’s personal space. It’s demeaning. It makes a woman feel less than; like they are an object on display.
I refuse get into the times when I have had different co-workers in years past say I looked like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket. Or start singing the Chia pet jingle.
I welcome, and appreciate the compliments, because even though I have been doing this every year for the last few years it is not a hairstyle I am completely comfortable with. Even though my husband has always said he liked the style on me. And comments from my mother has made, very positive comments about my hair and said she wish she was brave enough to wear her hair “out”. It’s amazing what a few ignorant comments from ignorant co-workers can do to you. But if you ask me if you can touch it the answer will always be no and I will be more than happy to explain to you why.