Don't Touch My Hair! It's the name of Solange's banger on her new album A Seat at the Table, and something so much more. Thank you Solange for unapologetically putting something so beautiful into words.
Don't touch my hair
When it's the feelings I wear
Don't touch my soul
When it's the rhythm I know
Don't touch my crown
They say the vision I've found
Don't touch what's there
When it's the feelings I wear
I rock an afro and I love it. But there are so many days when I'm not allowed to love it, wear it, touch it, swing it, adorn it and roll its curls between my fingers in peace. There is a small group of people that insist on touching my hair with and without permission (both can be just as bad, truss me). Strangers taking advantage of being just that, acquaintances getting too cosy and colleagues crossing unprofessional lines. In all situations I'm the one made to feel awkward when I flinch, catch their hand, or say "please... don't touch my hair". It seems like people want to make me feel bad for not reacting in a way that they would like me to. And most of the time I don't even want to be polite about it. But I'm trying to be nice, innit. I'm trying not to be that girl.
I know to some, hair is just hair. But not for me and so many of my home girls, it's really NOT. To us it's a topic worthy enough to make films about, put on stages around the world and devote your whole bathroom to black hair products. We have sat in salon chairs, on floors, scatter cushions and gone hungry for up to a day just to get our hair did. My passion for my hair is never ending and there's hundreds of reasons why, but here's a little starter.
Dear hair toucher,
My hair sits on my head like a crown and that's pretty much what it is. My crown. It holds years of wisdom from the women in my blood line that have spent hours running their fingers through it. It carries the strength and tears of my Marmali. It coils out of my head like daddy's locks used to. It holds pints of warmed olive oil from the root to it's tip, as I obediently bent over the bath on my knees from childhood. It's kept secrets and holds memories, and it has finally forgiven me for the years of 59p green, blue and bubblegum pink hair gel from the corner shop 'cos my hands were too small and inexperienced to deal with it before school everyday, and as much I liked to stand out, I needed to fit in with my clique too. When Mama handed over that comb to me, it was like a rite of passage. I had big shoes to fill and dreadlocks to avoid.
My Afro is as badass as it looks. Every day it's a little bit different from the last. It reacts to the weather like my mood and demands I change up the products I apply and the food that I eat like my digestive system.
It, my 'fro, has handled it's business through hundreds of hours of sweat, chlorine, sunshine, commuting, flat ironing and steaming. From weddings to raving, job interviews to dating. It has been my homie through every phase of my life. The days where I found broken pieces of a combs teeth, when lip liner was my saviour and a side parting was my signature look, when I fell in love and fell in heartache too, when I went copper and promised my grandma it would grow out. My hair makes the best days even better, and to the trying days it brings a bit more pleasure. I've created a million characters and plan to make a million more.
My hair is part of a community. It induces smiles from familiar strangers, conversations with randoms and knowing looks of growing up the same but different.
And to those of you that are in love with the 'fro just as much as I am. I do thank you, I swear, but those other people can sometimes take my energy from me and make deep sighs escape from my mouth. You see, I've had bosses stare at the 13 inch space above my hairline with a face like a slapped arse. Told I look "smart" when my hair has been tamed and endured ridiculous and offensive comments and questions like "did you put your finger in a plug socket" and "you obviously don't comb your hair do you?".
When you touch my hair uninvited it invades my personal space. You're that annoying person that turns up to the house party without knowing the owner and empty handed too.
Just imagine. A firm tug, perhaps through to your scalp, a patting motion, scrunching, a flattening down motion and often doing from behind, although a looming hand before your very eyes is just as unnerving. Unless invited to do so, Don't Touch my Hair. That sh*t is just freaky. Please and thank you.
With love, Sanchia. x
If you feel me on this one, holla at your girl and let's talk. After all, isn't that how this love affair with hair started in the first place? *resumes cross legged position, sat between best mates legs*