Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Fiore Scott Files: When You Touch My Hair (Part 1)

I had already planned on writing this piece because of my recent and past experiences with hair touching, but my sis lemonswithsalt sealed the deal for me when we got into a conversation about people touching our hair. We are both natural haired sisters (as are Zipporah and Le Chele) and with the diverse styles we craft for our coiffure, it isn't unusual for us to get asked about our hair or for it to be touched.

Now everyone knows that many black sisters, no matter how their hair is coiffed, have issues with random people touching their hair. Of course, there are some who are of the school of thought that it isn't that big a deal. But lemonswithsalt and I agreed that it's an invasion of personal space for people you don't know or people who don't ask, to just touch our hair. For her, "it's not about race. Or exoticism. It's about sitting on the train, and someone sitting next to you, reaching over and touching your hair without even speaking". And as someone who's had these very same experiences, I couldn't but help agree.

When I visited some friends who were living and studying in Paris back in 2009, I first really experienced this hair touching phenomenon. My friend Katy and I were staying in Paris for a long weekend and though we had walked everywhere in the city for the first day we were there, the first night we went out we decided to try the trains. While sitting on the train a group of older drunk white men sat down catty corner to us. And the one closest to me automatically started speaking French to me and touching my hair. I immediately started shrugging his hands off and replying in Greek to "not touch me" and to basically leave me alone. Of course, him not knowing Greek and me knowing only a little French, there was a language barrier [1]. But he continued petting me and I staunchly ignored it. My friend wondered why I didn't get up and move and I responded that I didn't want to attract anymore attention or have the group of men following us.  

When we finally met up with my guy friend who was staying in Paris, I immediately told him the story and he refused to believe me. He had been living there for over 6 months by that point and had never witnessed or heard of such a situation, so it was definitely beyond his scope that a random man who just start touching my hair. However later in the night when we had stopped along a street to try to figure out what to do before the end of our night, I had a run in with another random Parisian who was enamoured with my hair. As we stood on the sidewalk I watched from the corner of my eye as a drunk couple came up the street arguing. However I was totally caught off guard when the man stopped behind me and just stuck his hand in my afro and started basically feeling my hair up. He was drunkenly staring at his girlfriend who was staring wide-eyed and annoyed back at him, while I stared wide-eyed back at my friends. And my guy friend was flabergasted. He had never seen such a thing and finally believed me. 

Since then I've had other situations where my hair has been touched by random people and I usually just shrug it off. Sometimes I find it annoying, sometimes I find it humorous. I don't make too much of a big deal, but at the same time, people need to learn that it is an invasion of space to just go up and touch someone's hair. You wouldn't want someone just going up and touching your face or your purse. In the same way it's really not okay for random people to just approach a girl or guy and feel up their hair. Sure you can fully appreciate the beauty of the coiffure but if you want to touch, at least ask. You'll find that many of us don't really mind, especially if you ask.   

But then again, if you approach me the right way, you can touch my hair all you want. But that's a story for part 2. 

But ladies and gents, tell me the deal: How do you feel about random people touching your hair? Does it matter if they ask or not? 

[1] For some reason I didn't use English, but maybe that was because I didn't want to fully showcase my identity.

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