Today I changed my hair up and went from a flat twist updo to a twist out. These are responses I received:
1. I thought it was a wig.
2. You did not fix your hair today
3. I like your hair.
This had me think of the misinformation about curly hair. Us curly girls around the world should break this cycle of ignorance. However this can be a difficult task. What do you say when people ask constantly to touch your hair or in some cases do not request permission at all and just go for the gusto. I will provide a variety of responses that can be used in these situations. Before that, here is a summary from Black Peace Corps Volunteers response to the one burning question: Do you let people touch your hair?
Some normally allow people to touch their hair to fully educate our host country nationals about me not being white and the reasons they can tell I’m not white. Some of us have even gone as far as let our close family and friends here wash our hair and style it (with close supervision) It is a great lesson for them to actually see the struggles We have on hair wash days. See this post for about hair washing in the Philippines. In addition to curbing their curiosity, we generally let people touch my hair if they ask because I appreciate them asking. “I’ve never told someone no. My way of saying no is leaving it in a bun on top of my head.” However, there are exception. If I just washed my hair and I am wearing it down I do not want people to pull/touch my hair. It messes up the curl pattern when you run your fingers through it. So that is one of the reasons you cannot touch my hair. Also if I just saw you digging for gold in your nose, no you can’t touch my hair. If your hands are dirty…visibly dirty. No you can’t touch my hair, or like the lady that had chicken blood on her hand decided she wanted to touch it…that’s a hard no! A maybe throw in a Heisman for good measure. And even after all this the biggest reason why wont let you touch our hair is if you haven’t taken the time to try to talk to me first. For example, if I’m at the market shopping for tomatoes and I see you trying to cop a feel….no AND I’m moving to the next vegetable stand. One volunteer said “If someone I know asks me or if we are having a conversation about my hair and they look curious I will ask them if they want to touch, or instead of touching I pull a strand of hair to show them my curl pattern and why it doesn’t grow straight compared to their hair strand.
How we style our hair determines the comments we receive as well. We tend to wear our hair up in ponytails or buns because walking in your local community with your hair down is dangerous. Wearing an Afro is basically an open invitation to “touch.” The word touch is used very loosely because touching is the equivalent of a car inspection; a close analysis involving pulling and tugging. However there are different comments than if you wear extensions. Here are comments based on hairstyles: Marley Twists: horse hair, bob Marley, Pancit Canton (a Filippino brand of instant noodles) Locs: Do you get them from dead people? Bob Marley Two strand twists: Beautiful Box braids: technical questions on how braids work. Betrayed, are you from Nigeria? Bob Marley Wash and Go: Oh! it’s so sticky. Is it your? Afro: softer than I expect. Anything regarding texture and curl pattern, sponge. Why don’t you rebond it? Why does it grow up instead of down? Is it a wig?
So what do you say when someone asks to touch your hair?
- Did you wash your hands?
- Are your hands clean?
- Yes, but you have to wash your hands first
- Sorry I just washed my hair
- Do I look like a dog?
- Go ahead
- I’d rather you not
- No but I can show you my shrinkage
- It’s just hair like yours
- Let’s change the subject
- No problem (Only valid outside the USA)
And here are the cliff notes version of why you can’t touch our hair: We are not rag dolls We are not displays It’s hair like yours and I don’t tug on it We don’t want dirt and germs from your hands in our hair We respect our hair like the rest of our body We put product in our hair don’t touch it and mess it up We don’t like being treated differently.