Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chronicles of Life ... Look, don’t touch

I love my hair, especially touching it. I rock the natural look and the compliments flow in. Hearing them is always greatly appreciated; however, people who touch my hair without permission are not. Few things irritate me more than random strangers touching my hair. It makes me feel violated in at least 10 different ways. Unfortunately, it’s happened more times than I care to count. Now I must take action. The next nimrod that touches my hair unsolicited is going to get slapped. My pimp hand is ready.

It's been a few months since someone had the audacity to touch my hair. Then it happened again Saturday. I was talking to two men, and to my horror one placed his hands all over my head. I froze. It wasn’t even a quick touch a go, but an all out hair groping. I should have saw it coming when he said, “I love your hair.” I had to inch away so he would stop touching me. It lasted for maybe about 10 seconds but the damage is done. I am a hair assault victim. Someone please call 9-1-1.

Just when I thought the worst had passed, another violator appeared. “Your hair is so cool,” she said. Up went her hands, and the first man joined he assault on my hair. I froze again. You just don’t expect to be violated twice in one day. Then they both said my hair reminded them of Tracy Chapman. I wasn’t sure if I should take that as an insult or compliment (Side Note: After looking up pictures of her on Google, I am thoroughly insulted. Macy Gray would have been a compliment). I think a little part of me died inside. It was all I could do to walk away from the situation, with some dignity. Immediately, I called a friend and my parents to share my tale of woe. “I have just been violated,” I said. Everyone says I should have slapped their hands away or called security. I was just too shocked to do anything.

To me, hair is a part of the body, akin to breast. Imagine having random strangers touching your breast all the time. You would feel violated. People can compliment my hair all they want, but touching it is humiliating. I feel like in their eyes I am no longer a person, but a puppy to pet or some side show freak, a la Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman. I shouldn’t have to feel like that. It is blatant disregard of my personal space and shows I am not respected as another human being.

I was always taught hair is the woman’s glory. Hair touching is an intimate act that should only be shared with close family and friends. There is an elite group of people who can touch my hair without asking. Half the reason I went natural was because I didn’t like having any and every beautician in it. If I won’t let professionals touch my hair, then strangers can forget it. I don’t know you or where your hands have been.

There is also a racial issue often perceived from these types of situations. I can’t speak for all of us, but the black women I know ¬– relaxed or natural – hate when strangers touch their hair. I won’t get into the whole historical context, but I always wonder, “Would they have been so intrigued if I wasn’t black, especially with natural hair?” There are hundreds of blog posts all over the internet dedicated to the issue of touching a black woman’s hair. Renee, of, wrote it best, "My blackness and your curiosity does not give you the right to touch me."

This whole experience has been traumatic. I probably need therapy. Washing and styling my hair always soothes me. I just washed it Thursday, but that unwanted hand residue makes my hair feel dirty. I’m thinking about writing Oprah. Maybe I can share my tale of woe on her show. I know I’m not the only victim of hair assault (black or otherwise).

One day I will get through this, and when I do, all the hair violators better beware. My hair may be the eighth wonder of the world. My natural coils might look so soft and inviting. You might get seasick by my waves. But I’m giving you fair warning, you can look, but don’t touch. Lest ye want to feel the wrath of my backhand.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. They were waaay out of line. I rock the natural from time to time, but I work with black folks who (1) aren't amazed by my locks and (2) know betta than to stick their hands anywhere on my person without an invitation. LOL.