British people pride themselves on their love for personal space. If there is a bench that seats 3 people, you are likely to find two people sitting on the edge, and no one sitting in the middle. We do not like people in such close proximity to us. Unless you’re on the London Underground, then all bets are off. Therefore, you can understand my confusion and frustrated when people feel that it is acceptable to touch my hair.
It is the year of our Lord, 2019. Why is this a conversation we are still having? Why do people think it is okay to touch someone’s scalp without their approval? Even worse when you are a stranger. Yet I have seen people in this country get annoyed when strangers touch their dogs without their permission, so how have you rationalised touching me without mine?
Clearly this is an international problem because there are scenes on How To Get Away With Murder regarding this issue. Solange has even written a song with this statement as the title: DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR! Black women are fed up! Do we need to start screaming “assault” or “unwanted bodily contact” every time Sally from HR thinks our hair is fascinating?
In case some of you are fixing your fingers to tell me that I am exaggerating, I am going to share 4 incidents of the most memorable times that someone has touched my hair and made me uncomfortable.
1. At The Dead Sea
I had been swimming in the Dead Sea in Israel. It was awesome. I had covered myself in mud and done all the things that tourists do while there. Tell me why one of the women, who was in charge of cleaning the toilets, felt it was okay to start lifting up my braids and calling them beautiful? Let me make this clear, she had literally just come from cleaning a toilet when she touched my hair! Think of the germs and bacteria that had come from that public toilet! I wanted to die.
2. At Work
Work is probably one of the worst, yet most common place that this can happen. I remember when I worked in Sales, one of my male colleagues closed in on me while I in the corridor alone. He told me that he was going to touch my hair whether I liked it or not. That was disgusting and upsetting. Before you start to unpack this inappropriate behaviour, there was no HR department, he was fired for others reasons (sleeping with the director’s girlfriend, who was also an employee there) and the company closed down. I wish I was making this up.
3. Another fun work story. When a colleague of mine felt very pleased in telling me that he was married to a Zimbabwean lady and had forbidden her from braiding her hair. Why do you ask? He was worried for her edges. Without warning, he proceeded to lift up my braids, trying to see if my edges were in tact. After I told him it was so unacceptable to touch my hair without my consent, he told me that he had nothing but respect for Africans. 😒
3. At The Post Office
Can you imagine trying to send a parcel and an old lady interrupts your transaction. Then proceeds to tell you that you have hair like her granddaughter (who I can only assume is mixed raced), and then inserts her hand in your hair with no warning. Yes, this happened to me and I had no clue who that lady was.
As you can tell, I am over this insensitive behaviour. It is not a compliment to touch our hair without our say so even if you think the hair looks pretty. Yet if we call out this problematic, entitled behaviour, some of you want to act like we called for the execution of your pets. Is it too much to ask for you to simply admire our hair from a distance or do like Michael Jackson said and leave us alone?
Please comment and share any of your hair horror stories.