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Is It Okay for Strangers to Touch Your Natural Hair?

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touch my hair image
ESSENCE.com Beauty Editor, Nicole Marie Melton and her big, fluffy 'fro.

I have big, fluffy, type 4 hair, so when I read about the "You Can Touch My Hair" exhibit in New York City, I wasn't particularly shocked by the motives behind the topic.  It appears I'm part of a small minority. Since its debut last week, the exhibit has actually become a hot-button issue and come under fire as a "petting zoo" of sorts.  To be honest, I don't see it that way at all.  In fact, I can easily relate to people wanting and asking to touch my hair. All. The. Time.

I've had my hair stroked by complete strangers, Black and White, wishing to cop a feel of my kinky halo. And every time this happens, the gesture is accompanied by compliments on my hair's soft texture and unique style.

While I get that having your hair touched is annoying to many Black women, the act shouldn’t be a total turn-off. When women of any race touch and ask questions about my hair, I flash a warm smile, graciously accept their kind words and usually spend a few minutes answering questions about my hair care routine. I've talked to sistas in the grocery store about the power of protective styling and I've talked to White women in the office cafeteria about how I achieve the perfect twist-out.

The reality is that historically, Black women haven't sported natural hair en masse, so it's only natural (no pun intended) for people to be a bit curious about my fluffy fro. I actually welcome people to feel my hair and talk openly about their curiosity.

My stance on the touching issue remains that it's not that deep. If you really don't want your hair touched, politely say so. But walking away silently and giving the side eye gets you -- and your "hair intruder" -- nowhere. When folks put their hands in my hair, I take it as a compliment and a chance to educate them about my curly tresses. The more people I can encourage to talk openly about my mane, the more I can further the dialogue about the uniqueness of natural hair.

Naturalistas, how do you feel when strangers touch your hair?


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