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True Life: I Let a White Woman Touch My Hair

Avatar • Sep 12, 2014

 

donttouchthehair natural hair

 Source: Tankmonster

Often, naturals are met with stares and curiosity about their hair. For years, most black women were wearing their hair relaxed or pressed. The kinky, curly, coily and wavy phenomenon is still very new for the world. It only makes sense that you are asked questions about something that wasn’t very popular in the past. Some find your natural hair so interesting that they may even feel the need to, dare I say, touch it. This is where most naturals draw the line. Legitimate questions are welcomed, but your random hand in their hair is NOT.

I can’ tell you how many times people have rudely touched my hair. I say “rudely” because it’s extremely rude to touch a part of another person’s body without even thinking about asking. It’s very weird for me to see someone run their fingers through a strangers head. Why don’t you just slap them on the behind while you’re at it? You already invaded their personal space, what’s another offense?

People randomly touch a natural haired woman’s hair for different reasons. They want to see if it’s really all their hair, they want to feel the texture or perhaps they’re just inquisitive. Whatever their reasons, it’s not okay to put your hands in a strangers head. Do folks really expect you to sit there while they pet you and poke at your head?

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Two years ago, I was at a meeting where I was sporting a half wig. I purchased the wig for those days when I just didn’t feel like doing my hair, but still wanted my hair to look cute. The whole time I was styling and blending the wig, I was thinking “I know how invasive people can be; I hope no one tries to touch my hair today.” This was my first time wearing a wig.

Sure enough, after the meeting was over, Jane, the organizer of the meeting, walked up to me and told me that she loved my hair. I smiled and said thank you. Next thing I knew, her frail manicured hand was headed for my head. I leaned my head away, she turned red and I walked away. I was irritated, but I can’t say that I was completely surprised. It wasn’t my first “strange hand in hair” experience and I knew it wouldn’t be the last.

On the other hand, a few weeks ago, I experienced something different. I was sitting at my desk at work when Nancy, an older Caucasian co-worker, walked up to me and started a conversation about my hair. It seems that in the office, I’m sort of the go to person when it comes to questions about natural hair. Nancy explained to me that she admires my natural hair and that she often hears me talking to others about how to care for their hair. We chit chatted for a bit and then she asked politely…”Can I touch your hair? Do you mind?” I smiled at her and gave her permission touch my afro. Afterwards, she stated that it was so beautiful and soft. She had never touched black hair before. She learned something that day.

Why was it okay for Nancy to touch my hair and not Jane? Nancy politely asked to touch my hair, but Jane didn’t. Jane got ahead of herself and decided to invade my personal space by putting her strange hands in my hair. She didn’t even know who I was and we had never even had a conversation with each other. Nancy was already having a conversation with me before she ASKED to touch my hair. I thanked Nancy for asking me because that’s the way it should be done. Give people the right to say “yes, you may or “no, you may not touch my hair.” Understand that like arms and legs, hair is an extension of the body and it should be respected.

Would you allow someone to touch your hair if they asked politely?

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char
6 years ago

seriously, like literally an hour ago i had a meeting with someone we’re working with for a shoot. she greets me, compliments my weight lost (looking good my friends) then instantly her hand shoots into my hair. like so quickly i can’t even breathe. mind you it’s a purple afro wig, but that is not the point. the point is her hand. was in. my hair. without permission. without any hesitation. without anything other than ‘let me put my hand in your hair and discover….” what, i don’t know. there are some people who know they are in the hair zone.… Read more »

Kezzy
Kezzy
6 years ago

Great article. I’ve suffered a lot from people touching my hair without permission but it’s nice to know that some people can ask. I always wonder what it would be like of the roles were reversed. What would a white woman (or any woman for that matter who doesn’t have kinky/ curly hair) say or do if strangers just went up to them and started touching their hair? I can expect the reaction wouldn’t be too friendly. No one likes their personal space invaded. NO ONE. So why is it okay to do it to someone with kinky/curly hair? I… Read more »

Whitney
Whitney
6 years ago

Unless they look unclean I don’t mind letting people touch my hair. They are curious and that is a good thing. Plus I ask people to touch their hair all the time lol white/black/asian. Im weird. I Like hair. In a non creepy way lol

happyhair
happyhair
6 years ago

Unless they look unclean I don’t mind letting people touch my hair. They are curious and that is a good thing. Asking first is preferred of course. Plus I ask to touch people’s hair all the time lol white/black/asian. I like hair. In a non creepy way lol.

Princess
Princess
6 years ago

“For years, most black women were wearing their hair relaxed or pressed. The kinky, curly, coily and wavy phenomenon is still very new for the world” Umm it isn’t new, maybe in your world, but in reality the Kinky coily hair has always been here, the phenomenon is the altering of our natural texture not the return to it. Black people reside in many parts of the world not just America. I get your stance about hair touching though. Now that we as black women have a lot more access to the world we live in and integrate/ interact more… Read more »

nahi
nahi
6 years ago
Reply to  Princess

I have to agree, though the NHC has help in new methods of caring for afro textured hair, black people don’t only exist in America, I live outside of the usa and I’ve been seeing natural hair all my life. Its not new or some phenomenon, natural hair has been around, its just that former relaxed hair black Americans are ccatching on that natural afro textured hair is bomb.

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  nahi

How many of those Black people in other countries have worn anything but braids or locs? Or shaved down barely noticeable hair? How many wear large fros? It’s not just NOT having a perm, it’s wearing your big bada** hair in all types of unadulterated bold styles.

cryssi
cryssi
6 years ago

Yes I would. At my old job I was the only and first black woman to work there, so I often got a lot of questions about black hair. One day one of my customers asked if she could touch my hair and I said yes. I do understand though why some black women may not be comfortable with allowing a white person to satisfy their curiosity on their head.

Oy
Oy
6 years ago

Hmm, I still feel like a co-worker does not have the right to even ask. I think overall it gets frustrating to feel like a damn petting zoo and White people’s carte blanche attitude when it comes to asking and touching can be very offensive. On he other hand I remember the days when I loved touching guys hair although I was in high school. I would ask and tell them I thought their hair looked interesting and I wanted to know how the texture felt. So I get the feeling but it seems immature and rude to think that… Read more »

Dananana
Dananana
6 years ago
Reply to  Oy

Exactly this!

Ann Gree
Ann Gree
6 years ago

I used to not care about this probably because no one ever touched or touches my hair. Now, I feel uncomfortable about the topic because whenever white people have spoken about natural hair around me, it has had a negative connotation and contrary to popular comments on natural hair sites, they DO uphold a hierarchy with regards to afro textured hair. If they didn’t we wouldn’t see black women being wiped out of ads and other beauty based media in favour of an ambiguous look. Just like some ignorant black people they often heap praise on looser textures and make… Read more »

anon
anon
6 years ago
Reply to  Ann Gree

So many good points made here. It blows my mind to read comments implying that white people are somehow more accepting and appreciative of darker skin, kinkier hair, and more “African features,” as if whites were not the very architects of race and color based prejudice in so many corners of this world. The media (white-owned and controlled) is proof-positive of this. Yes, blacks have internalized anti-black sentiments and regulate themselves accordingly; but do you really believe that the folks who taught blacks to hate themselves for centuries have become bias-free in the course of a few generations (because note… Read more »

anastasia
anastasia
6 years ago
Reply to  anon

1,000 Thumbs up Anon & Ann Gree –I hear you both, totally agree, and know what you state is TRUE.

Answer to question: Those in my circle of trust can freely touch my hair, all others need to satisfy their curiosity elsewhere.

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  anastasia

Yass! I’m so exhausted reading these delusional comments from Black newbs fawning over Whites as if they didn’t institute the internalized bigotry that we’ve relentlessly strove throughout 400+ plus years to combat. To the newbs — STOP perpetuating these myths about hoards of urbane Whites in the U.S., colorblind Canada, mixed Caribbean and Latin America and cosmopolitan Europe — it’s junk and you know it! Do you see dark and kinky Blacks on magazine covers? In TV shows and films? Representing children’s toys? Who do you think makes those decisions?! It’s those same ‘saviors’ you claim love your hair! Stop… Read more »

Yayla
Yayla
6 years ago
Reply to  Ann Gree

Wow. Spot on! I’m UK based too and relate to all you’ve just said.

nollyA
nollyA
6 years ago

i don’t know if i’m the only one LOL but i take it as a compliment when people want to touch my hair and when they are fascinated by it.

Leesha
Leesha
6 years ago

Lol — sounds like a lesson for the kids.

Latte
Latte
6 years ago

I completely agree with your logic of touch/don’t touch. Of course, it all boils down to the person’s comfort level. In my early 20s people touched my hair without asking. I’ve unwittingly developed a very expressive face over the years (I’m 33 now). So people know with one glance that if I don’t know you well, the hair is off limits.

Cherry Frosted Pomegranate
Cherry Frosted Pomegranate
6 years ago

When I was in 7th grade, a young man whom had been my boyfriend for 2 days in 5th grade, was my science partner for the week. We were sitting two-by-two in class as it makes for better partner work in the lab. Well, for some reason he thought it would be okay to touch my thigh!! I immediately stabbed his hand and his thigh with a pen. I knew that if he said anything to the teacher about the ‘asault’ to his person, he’d then have to explain why he thought it was correct to touch me against my… Read more »

Loc Starrr
Loc Starrr
6 years ago

Long story in 3…2…1… Yeah… I have a real “thing” about personal space. I don’t like when people touch me out of the blue–so much so that my instinct is to respond defensively. Like, physically defensively lol. This instinct almost resulted in a really bad scenario. Back in ’03 or so, when I was sporting a big Afro (and was a lot more hot headed), my boss at the time walked up to me and, without a word, reached for my hair. Well… My hand immediately recoiled into the “backhand slap” position. All at the same time, I stopped myself… Read more »

TWA4now
TWA4now
6 years ago

After chutch, one lady with bone straight relaxed hair reached out and touched one of my twist. I thought something was in my hair by the way she was touching it. I asked her was something in my hair and what she was doing. She just looked at me funny and smule. It is a good thing i knew her or else something else would have came out of my mouth that would have sent to back to the altar that day. Yes, they can touch my hair with my permission. It can turn into a teaching lesson with the… Read more »

Twinkle
Twinkle
6 years ago

Yes I would and have, hell I’ve even asked to to touch another fellow curly girls hair myself lol. If someone asks nicely and they don’t have any ill will behind it..I don’t see why not..you can kind of tell who to let or not let touch the hair lol

Marcia
Marcia
6 years ago

Ummm…seriously? Silly title. Who cares who you did or didn’t let touch your hair, or what the “race” of the potential touchee is…people wanting to touch another’s hair is NOT a new or an interesting phenomenon. Children and women do it all the time–in fact, someone somewhere in the world is probably doing it at this very moment (gasp!). Any original articles in the works? This subject is a bit tired.…

Loc Starrr
Loc Starrr
6 years ago
Reply to  Marcia

Hey there you salty lil troll

Allegra
6 years ago

I don’t mind if someone asks to touch my hair because I’m a hair touch-er myself! LOL — whenever I am at a meetup or at Target, I find myself asking to touch someone’s hair. I have a good friend with locs and I’m always touching her hair, I had to check myself one day and asked her if she was ok with me playing in her hair all the time, she said she didn’t mind but now I always ask. But I actually like it when someone asks to touch my hair, I love the look on their face… Read more »

Elle
Elle
6 years ago

Friends and family ONLY!
And I better see you wash your hands thoroughly with dish liquid first.

I’ve witnessed strangers do the following publicly: dig in their noses, teeth, ears, pink eye, wedgies, nether regions, toes, clip toenails, lick fingers, scratch their scalps, pick stuff off the floor, change diapers. Even if asking politely, not just anyone can touch my hair.

I also believe that intentionally touching a woman’s body without permission, ANY PART, is harassment. A Black woman’s body is not public domain, stop treating it like it’s one.

panda
panda
6 years ago

People I know and have know for a while and if they ask: yes.

People I know/don’t know if they just go for it: no

People I don’t know and they ask: no/depends on the vibe they are giving off

naturally Tee
naturally Tee
6 years ago

A white co-worker asked to touch my hair and I obliged. I had crochet braids at the time not sure she realized it was fake or not. lol

GATA
6 years ago

I have–and I would– allow people to touch my hair if they asked politely. Reaching out and touching it w/o asking? You might come back with a stump. (^_^)

Deedeemaha
Deedeemaha
6 years ago

It did not bother me when it was done. I think I have been ask twice perhaps. On the other hand I have been ask many times by My own race black women and men. I was wondering however, were you wearing your half afro wig blend when the second lady politely ask? The reason I am asking, is because in the past when I would wear wigs/weave fake ponytail I did not want people to touch my hair no matter what the race was. No man, women or child could touch my hair. Lol. I don’t feel that way now… Read more »

Chelsea
6 years ago

If people ask and I am in the right mood the answer is always yes.

naturalfoolery
naturalfoolery
6 years ago

As a black woman my question is, how do you prevent POC from touching your hair without asking? In instances were people have “rooted” my hair it has been more difficult to tell people who look like me “no, please don’t touch my hair”.

naturalfoolery
naturalfoolery
6 years ago
Reply to  naturalfoolery

*where 🙂

Chelsea
6 years ago
Reply to  naturalfoolery

The same way I prevent others. I make it clear that my hair is in my personal space to everyone, orange, black, pink, white, blue & purple.

I am polite about it, but if someone reaches for my hair without asking I simply tell them, “I prefer to have people ask before touching my hair. It’s something I consider to be very personal and I don’t share my hair with everyone.”

People usually respect that.

nonhlanhla makhanya
nonhlanhla makhanya
6 years ago

I know how you feel about your hair being touched without your permission,ive had coloured dread locks for over a decade now and have developed a mechanism of walking away from stares and people usking if my hair is really mine?some would just touch it on public transport thinking i will not feel the touch but when i turn around they get embarrassed that i actually felt it and they would just confess what they thought about my hair,mind you i am South African and people here are still sceptical about embracing our natural hair post apartheid.more over i have… Read more »

Unknown
Unknown
6 years ago

SMH at some of the articles on this website…I swear at times this blog reminds me of a gossip column.

IndiChriss
IndiChriss
6 years ago
Reply to  Unknown

Ditto

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago

It depends on the case and scenario… Asking politely is very important but I may reply with a “Yes” or “No”. On the day that I wash my hair, I like to seal my hair with castor oil which is thick and oily. If someone asks to touch my hair then or any time that my hair is oily, I would politely decline so that they don’t end up embarrassed and with oily hands. Also, depending on the person and their hygiene, I may decline or accept. I’m not being a snob, I work very hard to take care of… Read more »

sheilakanjo
sheilakanjo
6 years ago

I dont let anyone touch my hair… they tug at it like its some animal so nooo i dont.

Jo
Jo
6 years ago

I don’t like to generalize or discriminate, so I would never have an issue with a person of another ethnicity/cultural background touching my hair as long as he or she asks nicely and isn’t filthy/sick with the flu. If my answer happens to be no for whichever reason, i’d simply say that “I’ve just got it styled perfectly and don’t want to start over again” or something.

Marcia
Marcia
6 years ago

Ummm…seriously? Silly title. Who cares who you did or didn’t let touch your hair, or what the “race” of the potential touchee is…people wanting to touch another’s hair is NOT a new or an interesting phenomenon. Children and women do it all the time–in fact, someone somewhere in the world is probably doing it at this very moment (gasp!). Any original articles in the works? This subject is a bit tired….

Delia
Delia
6 years ago
Reply to  Marcia

When you come from a cultural background that has people touching you whether you want them to or not for around, oh say, 400 years you get a little irritated that personal space is still disregarded and people who are “white” have the nerve to be offended. The race does matter at first because flashback to Sarah Bartje and her being labeled a Hottentot Venus, black womens/ bodies were never our own. I do agree that the race doesn’t matter as much, but it still makes a difference if the person who is doing the unwarranted touching misses the reasons… Read more »

Shaniqua
6 years ago
Reply to  Delia

Well said. I think too many people like to pretend the historic context is nonexistent.

Meka
Meka
6 years ago
Reply to  Delia

Well said sister!

B3 Fearless
B3 Fearless
6 years ago

I chose to read the post because I thought maybe it was talking about the writer’s experience getting her hair done by a White stylist, but to learn that it was about touching?! And the touches described can happen from anyone, no matter their race. The title of this post rub me the wrong way and I find it offensive. In my experience Black people have been the ones to touch my hair without asking. I think the protocol for hair touching should be like it is for your pregnant belly. Family and friends have a free pass (most of the… Read more »

Rae
Rae
6 years ago

I work for an airline and when I had my crochet braids, random, extremely old white women would feel like they had the right to just reach out and touch my hair. It annoyed the hell out of me even though it wasn’t mine. Like to the point where I wanted to slap them, but I couldn’t because #1 they were older than Jesus and #2 for the time being I like my job. I have had three employees touch my hair without permission. One (annoying black guy) got popped so hard that I broke a nail. He had the… Read more »

Delia
Delia
6 years ago

If they ask, I don’t mind. It’s the not asking that bothers me, like somehow my body is yours to touch freely and at will. When I see people of color who want to root through my hair, I give them the “No” if they haven’t asked me just like I would a white person. Most of the time, it’s a sly way to check if its real and then the question about heritage start.

Loc Starrr
Loc Starrr
6 years ago

I have to admit, it’s a bit more off-putting when a white person does it :-/

I think part of it is that I, unfortunately, tend to be on “condescension alert” when it comes to white people.

Also, maybe it’s because I, like so many other black kids, was instructed to keep my hands out of other kids’ hair, ESPECIALLY white kids; and not to let anyone, especially white kids, play in mine.
*Did anyone else get these instructions when they were little?*

AnaDion
AnaDion
6 years ago

I do not really mind people that I know touch my hair. At all, actually. I have a white, male friend (who, incidentally is a bit of a******) and he has been touch my hair since I first went natural, about 3 years after we me. He likes to see the springy curls bounce. I do not blame him for that, so do I. When around the same time another white male, who I knew by virtue of seating proximity in a math class and a few small chats touched my hair, I was annoyed and a bit bemused by… Read more »

Tiphanie W.
Tiphanie W.
6 years ago

Depending on the hairstyle I don’t mind if someone asks nicely to touch my hair but sticking your hand in my hair without permission will get it swatted like I would a fly. Along with a comment about being in my bubble (personal space.)

Andrea
Andrea
6 years ago

I may or may not. I let a white coworker who asked but I didn’t let some stranger black man in Walmart who asked. If I don’t know you, don’t like you then no no matter how politely you ask. Also like others have pointed out I have just as many issues with black people sticking their hands in my hair without asking as non black people. Actually it’s more annoying and sad when a black woman touches your hair and acts so surprised how soft it is. I want to scream why wouldn’t my hair be soft. There are… Read more »

Johanna
Johanna
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

I feel you! Another thing that gets to me is when black people WITH natural hair act so surprised about shrinkage. My mom does this and sounds just like the white people who don’t get that if you straighten something curly, then…uh…yes, it’s long now because you stretched it out. We argue because I’m there like HOW DO YOU NOT GET THIS YOUR OWN HAIR DOES IT.

Rebecca
Rebecca
6 years ago

Hair touching is a thing — black, white, purple,etc etc Different is interesting. We live overseas. I’m white and when we lived in Zimbabwe lots of kids (and sometimes adults) wanted to touch my hair, especially in places they hadn’t seen many white folks up close. Now we live in Central America and my black husband is the novelty. But that’s not why I’m commenting. I’d love advice for how natural kiddos can avoid hair-touching. My bi-racial girls get their hair touched ALL the time by everyone in every country we’ve been to. I know it drives them crazy. (And… Read more »

Nei
Nei
5 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca

My biracial daughter had the same issue at 6 years old. Theres no remedy honestly, only letting them know that is OK to have boundaries and to say no. For my little one, I tell her to say her mommy said no. Then I proceed to style in a way that will withstand a rambunctious 6 year old and will ward off garnering unsolicited attention…like french braids and braided buns. She wears it out or in curly ponytails only when she’s with me. But you’re right, different is peculiar. But in American culture, this kind of touching is just inexcusable. It… Read more »

Joy Villa
Joy Villa
4 years ago
Reply to  Nei

Amen, I love your comparisons!

Treasure
Treasure
6 years ago

I can only speak for my own head of hair. I just love my hair and every natural part of my body. I don’t mind if people play in it, tug or inspect my hair. I encourage it and tell most “Go on, I know you want to touch it!” Especially if it’s new to them. I guess I’m one of those weirdos that love when people play in my hair it’s soothing. Fgrew up with everyone taking care of my hair so I was accustomed to family and friends helping me mantain my hair. Also many friends of mine… Read more »

Treasure
Treasure
6 years ago
Reply to  Treasure

Grr I hate typos. I wish I could go back and edit. I accidentally posted this before rereading. I did enjoy the article and I can understand if an individual feels this way.

Joy Villa
Joy Villa
4 years ago
Reply to  Treasure

I’m the same way! The only thing I absolutely HATE is when people tell me, rudely and arrogantly “oh come on, that’s a wig!” I mean what if it was, can you imagine? I never let those types of MFers get a hold of this Juicy Gold. ????

Nei
Nei
5 years ago

An Indian woman I worked with grabbed my hair out of the blue while I bent over to check my computer’s connections. It was the most alarming feeling I had ever felt! Did my hair catch on a rack? What the heck was that?! She almost got karate chopped! She quickly apologized when she realized how she had caught me off gaurd and startled me. She flinched when I jumped lol. The apology : I’m sorry but I just had to I’m so curious about this hair. It’s surprising soft, blah blah blah!” Not just white people yall.

Johanna
Johanna
3 years ago
Reply to  Nei

I am so tired of them saying it’s surprisingly soft and all that. This whole “black people hair feel like a brillo pad” thing is getting old af…”

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