I don’t actually do my hair. My hair does what it wants, no matter how hard I may try to control it. Some days it will decide to form shining, crinkly curls that rest on my shoulders. Another day, it will form a tight, kinky halo around my head.
There are lots of things I don’t understand about my hair that I’m still learning about, but I’m happy to let my hair do whatever it’s going to do. Other people, however, have a curiosity about my curls that never seems to be satisfied. I’m constantly barraged with hair questions (from black and white women alike) and there are certainly some questions that I’m sick of answering.
Can I touch your hair?
Let’s get this obvious no-no out of the way. Articles have been written about this. Songs have been sung about this. An entire video game was created around this question and its answer. And yet, it’s probably a question black girls get asked the most, and that’s if they’re lucky ― some black women aren’t even given the courtesy of being asked before having their follicles felt up by a stranger.
It’s OK to be curious, but it’s not OK to treat black women like a curiosity on display. If ever you feel the urge to ask this question of a black woman, especially if it’s a black woman you don’t know, just go ahead and assume the answer will be “no.”
Is that all your hair?
Black hair is versatile and can easily go through numerous changes. From short to long, from wigged to weaved, from braided to beachy waves, from a blunt bob to waist-length ponytails, black women have been innovating hair and style for centuries. And all of that invention and flair absolutely belongs to us, whether we bought it from a store or grew it from our scalps.
Do you ever straighten your hair?
Like I said, black hair can go through numerous chameleon-like changes, yet some women are perfectly content to keep their hair the way it comes out of their scalps naturally, in a variety of curls. It’s perfectly natural to be curious about what a fro may look like when it’s straight, but asking a woman to straighten her hair can have some problematic implications.
Straighter, longer hair is historically and currently seen as more beautiful than kinky hair styles. Straight hair has long been considered more professional and less intimidating, and black women with natural ’dos are still finding themselves rejected in jobs, school and dating because they choose not to wear their hair straight. While many black girls are rebelling against this beauty standard by keeping their hair curly, it can still be hurtful when someone implies they may look better when their hair is straight.