Yes, You Can Touch My Hair

03/01/19 | share:

By Shasha Mason

Is that your real hair? Why do you wear wigs so much? Can I touch your hair?

These are questions that I constantly get bombarded with as an African-American female. The questions don’t surprise me, and I never get upset when asked. The truth is that you can touch my hair — as long as we can have a conversation about it.

I’m going to pause because I know you’re probably confused after reading that. If you’re into R&B (or just good music) then you probably know that Solange shook the charts in 2016 with the release of A Seat at the Table. The song “Don’t Touch My Hair” became an anthem and was relatable to so many women like myself. The album’s meaning and message touched and caressed my soul. Social movements and discussions surrounding female empowerment, body image, and other important issues reached new depths because of this harmonious work. Plus, the music video visuals that accompanied this sonic adventure served up all sorts of feminine realness.

I love Solange, and I totally agree that my hair is my crown of glory. During my 31 years of existence on this planet I’ve had many conversations surrounding the follicles emerging from my head.  As a black woman who constantly switches her hair up—I might come into the office on Monday with a Rihanna bob, but by Friday I’m walking out with Lemonade braids—my locks often become a topic of conversation.

I vividly remember the first time my hair started a discussion. I grew up in a predominantly white area and I was one of only five black kids in my entire elementary school. I was always aware that I was part of the minority, and at times it made me uncomfortable. However, my peers were mostly accepting and inquisitive. When I got to middle school the student demographic was more diverse, but I was still the go-to black girl for questions related to the culture. One morning I walked into class looking *fresh*. It was the first time I had ever worn box braids and I was feeling like a mini Janet Jackson serving up my own version of Poetic Justice. My head ached from the tightness, but I put that thought to the side as I prepared myself for a barrage of questions.

Before I knew it, a small group of girls gathered around me. A flood of questions and comments washed over:  Can I touch your hair? How long did it take? Is your real hair going to fall out? How long will it last? Your hair looks so cool!

“Yes, you can touch my hair, but let me tell you about these braids first.” I took my time explaining the amount of skill, work, and patience my braider needed to give me such an iconic look. For me, this explanation was much more than schooling a couple of teenage white girls about black hair; I was letting them in on why my crown was so unique.

Every new hairstyle became a new opportunity for me to educate someone on my black girl magic. If you wanted to touch my hair it was going to come at a cost, and the price you had to pay was a lesson in history and artistry.

As I got older I continued to carry this principle with me. The conversations remained the same, yet the locations changed. I’ve taught women about the differences between synthetic and human hair in the aisles of a grocery store. I’ve given monologues to coworkers in the office bathroom on why I choose to wear wigs as a protective style. I’ve answered questions from women of all backgrounds who are genuinely curious about my hair but have been too afraid to ask.

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with giving someone the Solange and saying, “Don’t touch my hair,” but there’s a unique power in allowing someone to do so. We have the ability to start a dialogue that breaks down stereotypes and provides insight into the beauty, significance, and talent that lies on and beyond our heads.

I am all about serving up black girl magic on a platter, and starting dynamic conversations is an important aspect of that. Yes, you can touch my hair, but first you need to listen to my story.

Shasha is an epic foodie, wanderluster, and professional napper. She enjoys writing and sharing adventures on her blog, Busy Being Shasha.

This blog originally appeared in Periodical.

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