Me and my fro in 2014.
The adventures of the naturalista are never dull. Having spent a large portion of my life with relaxed hair, and now a significant amount of time with natural hair, I’ve noticed the difference in the attention it gets. Most notably, everyone wants to touch it now that it’s fluffy and not flat (see below). And I know, to some people, natural hair is a new and exciting “discovery,” or perhaps even a foreign object (“oh my God, your little afro is so cute!”) and we as humans approach these things sensorially. We don’t fully understand something unless we have experienced it with the appropriate sense, and in this case, it’s touch. I get it. But here’s the thing, I still really really don’t want you to touch it.
Me, circa 2008, pre big-chop.
I often feel a little bad when someone I know asks me, “can I touch your hair?” and my first instinct is to shout “please for the love of all that is holy, no!” But I’m often too nice for my own good, so I suppress this instinct and reluctantly say yes with a weak smile, knowing the person will leave it alone after just a few moments. Until one night, when a very enthusiastic (and intoxicated) friend of a friend kept it up for a while. I barely knew the girl, yet she continued relentlessly throughout our conversation “my hair is curly, too, so it’s fine!” She explained to the rest of our friends, who by then had moved on to a different topic. I casually moved out from under her greedy caressing hands in an attempt not to be rude. I wasn’t sure how to explain to her that her hands in my hair were actually grossing me out.
Yeah, it’s gross. Mainly because I am entirely unsure where exactly anyone’s hands have been between the last time they washed them and the moment that they’ve excitedly begun rummaging atop my head like they’re looking for buried treasure. And even if you are some type of person that runs to the nearest faucet to have a rinse any time you see a friend with fro walking toward you, there are still all kind of naturally-occuring finger oils that will seriously mess with the happiness of my hair. See, I know a fro to some people looks just like a thing on my head that I have this magical ability to grow, but the truth is it does take work. The trial an error with hair products, figuring out what type of hair you have and what it needs- nay, demands -to stay healthy is difficult. So when I finally nail down my hair regimen and my hair is happy and shiny and kinky and you add your yucky (not your fault, mind you, but still yucky) finger funk to the mix, I am not a happy camper.
That leads me to another point. I have taken time (whether it be a ten-minute wash-n-go type of time, or a full day’s hot oil treatment and deep conditioning, or an overnight twist-out type of time) to do my hair that morning. It’s likely still in the shape I was happy to have achieved the last time I picked it out, and your finger party will certainly rearrange that shape, most likely to something I will not approve of. If I twisted or braided it the night before- that is, if it looks fuller than normal -then I really don’t want you to touch it, because in my experience the perfect twist out requires the perfect amount of gentle picking for it to look the way I want it to, and I’m sorry, but your hands will just ruin the day’s masterpiece.
And I know, you may from time to time see other people touching my hair, like my mother, or my best friend, and think that I have given a general green light to anyone looking to play in a fro today. But unfortunately, that is not true. So the next time you think about asking, “can I touch it?” ….just don’t, please. The natural hair world and your natural-haired friends will thank you immensely.