Disclaimer: There are certain friends that touch my hair without permission and I have no problem with, but that’s because I feel comfortable and have a relationship with that person. Additionally, 9 times out of 10 they understand that it’s not okay to rake through my hair with their hands to cause frizz or mess it up, but instead scrunch to feel (or play with it).
I recently had a conversation with two of my co-workers about the way we feel when certain people touch our hair. All three of us being women of color, agreed that we have experienced random people trying to or asking to touch our hair, at least more than once. When Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” came out, we were immediately able to relate. We discussed why and when it was a problem, who and why we only let certain people touch our hair and why it felt weird when a person that didn’t have the same hair as us asked to touch it. Lastly, how it felt even more uncomfortable for us to have someone inch their finger over to our crowns like E.T. did the moon, as if we were some sort of strange statue or museum exhibit. I don’t mean to be dramatic here, but to be honest, hair is something that I directly relate to culture, experiences and different eras of criticism. Also, please understand that even if you are of color, touching another woman’s hair without her permission (or close relationship) still doesn’t always make it okay.
Despite personal space and the lack of relationship being a major factor in the reasons some women feel uncomfortable with others touching their hair, other topics also come into play. Questions like: “What are people thinking when they ask to touch my hair? Why do they look at it so strangely?”are often thought of. Although the touching of textured hair is normally unintentionally offensive (unbeknownst to the toucher), it can sometimes make a woman feel a certain way. This explains the reason why many of us are only comfortable with certain people touching it. People that know us, or that we’re extremely close to (for example: a lover, sister, best friend, etc.).
Time and Effort: Since my big chop in Summer 2014, I have become extremely interested with the way curly textured hair works. After a year of heat damage, I spent about a year learning how to get my hair back to its natural curly state. I continuously worked towards keeping it healthy. Take for example a gardener, and their process: He/she plants their seed and watches it grow. He/she invests his/her time into it, he/she nurtures it, and makes sure that it is all taken care of. Now imagine the hours spent taking care of it and researching how he/she could improve and preserve the life of that garden. A gardener is to plants as most women are to their hair. Our crowns are an investment.
In my attempt to explain why touching a woman’s hair (especially a woman of colors hair) is so personal, I have decided to decode “Don’t Touch My Hair” with direct relation to my own experiences and perspective.
“Don’t Touch My Hair,
When it’s the feelings I wear
Don’t touch my soul,
When it’s the rhythm I know”
The way that a woman wears her hair is symbolic of her feelings. More often than none a woman can associate her confidence and mood with the way her hair feels and/or looks. Hair is literally the feelings that we wear. "The rhythm I know" is the way I choose to wear it, the way I choose to express myself.
“Don’t touch my crown
They say the vision I’ve found
Don’t touch what’s there”
A woman's hair or lack of (to all my beautiful shaved hair women) is her crown. Most take great pride in it. It’s a part of her personal space, it is a part of what defines her. Hair is a journey that allows you to explore yourself, your style and your personality. How do you feel most comfortable? What suits you? Why do you like your hair like this. It’s the vision you’ve created of yourself, it’s a story about you.
“They DON’T understand
What it means to me
Where we’ve chose to go”
People that touch women’s hair or negatively judge the way a woman wears her hair don’t understand the vision described above. They don’t get why the woman chooses to wear her hair that way, they don’t understand what it means to the woman that wears it the way SHE chooses to wear it. It’s personal.
“You know this hair is my shit
Rode the ride, I gave it time
But this here is mine”
You know, this hair is mine. It belongs to me and only me, it is a part of me. What I choose to do with it is my decision. The way I choose to wear it is my decision. Rode the ride, I gave it time — I put thought into the times I was judged and given suggestions on how to wear it — but this here is mine (not yours). I, do with it as I please.
“Don’t touch my pride
They say the glory’s all mine
Don’t test my mouth
They say the truth is my sound”
In conclusion, please don’t touch my hair. The glory that is my hair, is all mine. When you touch it, you’re testing me. When I say something about my problem with you touching it, expect me to express my pride, glory and crown being touched. It will be truthful and blunt.
Remember, to explain to others why it's not okay when they touch your hair. "They don't (always) understand" what it means to you.
Thank you Solange, I feel you girl.