People Pet My Hair

Since going completely natural in July 2018 and figuring out what to do with my hair so that it isn’t ruling my life a few months after that, people want to touch my hair.

My first encounter was with my friends’ dad, but that experience was funny. I hadn’t seen him in months, and all of a sudden I walk into his daughter’s apartment with a new personality on top of my head.

“What happened to your hair?!” He enthusiastically reached out a long arm. “Can I touch it?”

I laughed and jumped back and said, “AHH!”

My friend intervened. “Dad! You can’t do that!”

Another friend has a baby who is less than one, and he also likes my hair. He looks at me when I shake my head, causing my hair to wiggle like a Koosh ball. He giggles. I let him stand on my lap and touch my hair. He doesn’t yank it or mush it.

The other day, I saw my Aunt Estelle at the mall. She commented on my hair, and then, she reached out and touched it. My Aunt Estelle is about 76 and an OG, so there’s no way I am going to say, “Don’t do that!” Besides, I didn’t mind.

An hour or so after that, I saw another woman I know but hadn’t seen in at least nine months. She’s natural but always wears a blowout, so she is familiar with natural hair. But, when she commented on my hair, she reached out and fluffed it, and that bothered me. First, I hadn’t seen her in a long time. Second, we aren’t close and the type of conversation we had automatically excluded her from touching my hair.

Before I went natural, I heard a lot of stories about hair suddenly becoming an object of interest. Some people felt like they were in a petting zoo. Others feel like people suddenly have a right to enter their personal space when they never would have before. Others have tried to figure out a response in advance. They’ve decided to reach out and touch the other person’s hair at the same time.

Before I went natural, I can’t remember a time when anyone wanted to touch my hair. My hair blended in with everyone else’s.  But now, my hair is anything but boring. It’s a creature with its own mind. It’s lively. It’s happy. It’s free. And people want to pet it.

I don’t mind that people are interested in my hair because I’m also interested in other people’s hair, but I haven’t decided if I should be bothered when people touch it without asking. Because I am black, a part of me feels obligated to become enraged like other naturals who think that hair petting is a larger representation of the objectification of black women and black people in general. I don’t think it’s that serious. I don’t feel objectified. I just feel like people are in my personal space.

So, with that in mind, unless someone is my 76-year-old aunt, a baby, my mother, or a friend who I’ve known for ages, please ask before you touch my hair. It’s the polite thing to do.

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