Before You Touch My Hair
An open letter to the Curious.
I noticed you noticing me when I walked in, and I could not fathom your sense of bewilderment at my appearance. I think I dress appropriately, conservative at best, and I am quite sure I harbour no bodily odour as you uneasily gazed at my passing in the aisle . One would have thought I rode in on a unicycle accompanied by a juggling dog, yet I bore only my handbag and cellphone upon my person.
I see you whisper and avoid eye contact with me, and I begin to wonder what may be the cause of your mild distress, while feigning ignorance to your obvious discomfort as I perused the shelves of the jeans section, hoping to find something that will finally accommodate my African proportions. Did my choice in fashion upset you, perhaps? I moved on, hoping to avoid you.
We finally meet, as I was trying on a new perfume, feeling the need for a change. I’m not one for being conventional nor generic, but I doubt my choice in fragrance would warrant such a stare. And I become aware of what it is that has drawn your attention to me, or rather a part of me. I feel your tentative steps behind me as I tense, not knowing if I have unwittingly earned your ire, but the question bursts forth from your lips before I can escape.
“Excuse me?” I hear you say, but I ignore you, hoping you will think of me as rude and impolite and leave me be. The attendant has noticed you and catches my eye as I avoid it, but again it comes, “Excuse me?”, just as tentatively as the first. And drawing all my strength I swing my handbag at you as I turn to flee, but only in my imagination. “Yes?” I say politely, suddenly feeling the weight of this deja vu. But I am caught before I can steel myself to this moment when, suddenly, “Is that your own hair?” is rapidly produced.
I meant not offend you by my initial haughty expression, nor the look of indignation you saw on my face, but I am indeed quite offended. But I smile, as of right now, I represent others like myself and you will judge us based on my reaction. Forgive me, I am not used to it. This is how people think, you see? It’s not my fault.
My reply is short enough to register that I do not wish to have a conversation with you, as I respond simply with a placid, “Yes, it is”, wishing no further contact with you. My heart begins to race, as I return to being unusually engrossed in selecting a perfume, hoping you “catch my drift”, but you press on with the ever-so-alarming “May I touch it?”. It is at this point that I would like to educate you, the Curious, as I have named you collectively to not divide you nor generalise. I am mildly insulted but this is not your fault. You see, this hair I wear does not conform to what you believe hair normally would. At this point I would most likely have at least two natural oils, a butter to seal in moisture and keep my hair hydrated, and if I was feeling up to it that day, a little something I whipped up myself to make these curls come alive. All you wore was a hair band. I must admit, I slightly envy you. Not because I want what you have, but for the ease at which it can be handled. It’s not your fault that you are unaware, but this will aid you in understanding my initial hesitance to your request.
Please note, it is at this point that you should not already have your hand reaching towards me. I understand now, that you are merely curious, but I assure you, my hair is not as… nimble… as you believe it to be. I moved my lips to mouth the words, “No, you may not” but was interrupted. You do not repulse me, I know I ducked as you moved towards my “crown” with the alacrity of a child, but do not be hurt by my rejection of your request. Yes, my crown is what it is called. Hair is too plain, scientific, layman almost. It is something far more than strands joyfully erupting from the top of my head. To me, at least. This is my pride and joy, which I love more than you know. The time it takes me to prepare what stirred your amazement that day, would undoubtedly shock you. But your ignorance is what shields you from my judgement. You would not have me sit in your Porsche nor walk into your home without your permission, would you? I know this is a vast comparison, and my ego may seem inflated, but do you not feel the gravity of my words, by now?
I noticed your embarrassment, but this was your own fault. I sincerely did not mean to offend you, yet unknowingly, we offended each other. It is quite sad that so much communication passed between us yet we were oblivious to its voice. Curious, I call you. Not rude, nor jealous, but curious. I am only beginning to understand that I am a novelty to you. But you should understand that I am only human, and this is my space. Maybe another, like myself, would permit you to stroke her crown, but today, mine will stay firmly set. Please respect my decision, as I have respected you. I am not obligated to grant you anything, nor are you at liberty to take it. But I am not angry with you, which is why I address you, the Curious, as I do today. I thank you for the attention, but hear my kind words and understand, it is more than hair to me. It is who I am.
Just Another Natural
Talk Natty To Me, Baby ?