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A response to inquiring hands for my hair

Every now and then, I meet someone with curious eyes, questions and hands for my curly hair. The one-ended conversation between this person and I always starts like this: “I love your hair!”, with an immediate, “Can I touch it?” right after. Before I can give an answer, they put their hands in my hair, like claws attempting to reach for the stuffed animals in those arcade games.

Am I the only one that does NOT take this as a compliment?

It’s funny because when I was younger, I always wanted some attention for my hair. My younger sister had long, dark, loose ringlets (before she cut them), and my mother has a pretty similar hair texture to hers, but brown. Because my curl pattern was a lot tighter, more frizzy and less manageable than the two, I used to think that I was unattractive or uninteresting to others. It was difficult for my mom to brush, comb and style  without me screaming, “Ouch! That hurts!” So I did what most women would do on their “pre-‘natural hair’ journey” — straighten it until it was manageable and more “accepted” by my peers. It took seven years (from high school until my third year of college) of straightening and continuous hair splitting and breakage that made me wonder, “Why am I doing this? You haven’t seen your curl pattern for a long while. WHAT DID YOU DO?”

Also, as a woman of color, I didn’t realize that there were DIFFERENT curl patterns, textures or even ways to love your hair without so much manipulation. I’ve learned to take better care of my locks (thanks to YouTube channels that catered to my hair texture and curl pattern and a lot of daily mantras) and embrace them for the past two years.

Now I hate the attention. I hate the questions of whether my hair is “naturally” curly, why I do certain (even more) treatments instead of the “normal” shampoo & conditioner routine, why I REFUSE to straighten it or anything like that. It took me most of my life to love myself, especially my hair. For someone to even ask why I don’t follow this norm bothers me because … we’re taught that our “oddities” and differences are beautiful and special, yet I’m stared at for not feeling self-conscious about what others might think, especially about my curls.

I’m peeved by the attention because it feels I’m being studied under this microscope, this failed “attempt” of  understanding whenever someone asks to touch my hair. I get that my curly hair is awesome, but it is also an invasion of MY personal space — something that no one appreciates or cares about when asking this question.

Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great that curly and natural hair is becoming noticed. I like knowing that there are people with similar patterns — curls, period — that I can either talk to or look at. I enjoy that I can go on Buzzfeed and see headlines like “22 Perks of Having Natural Hair” or “31 Problems Only People With Curly Hair Can Understand” and say “Mhm” in agreement or laugh at those statements. However, there is a line that I draw for that attention, and that includes curious hands that do not understand boundaries. 

So, to answer your question: No. No, you may not touch my hair.