Don’t touch me

It’s another hot day up here (when will they end?) and I have a long day since I will be taking part in a community forum as part of my job this evening. So I suggested to the Spousal Unit and son, that we have lunch at Pizza Hut since I am in no mood to cook, thanks to a summer cold, oppressive heat and work. So the family came to pick me up from the office and we hit the local Pizza Hut.

It was a good time despite the lousy food, when I suddenly feel someone touching my hair. I look up and see an elderly white woman muttering something about nice, beautiful and I just wanted to touch your hair. Wait! What the fuck are you doing? I start trying to avoid her gnarled hands like I was Neo in the Matrix, moving closer to my daughter in the booth and even putting my hand up saying “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR

It’s not the first time in my 8 years in Maine I have had a white person reach out and attempt to touch my hair, after all I did have dreadlocks for 5 years but this was the first time I have ever encountered someone who did not respect my desire to stop trying to touch me. For a millisecond I felt reduced to less than human status and even my husband who is a laid back man told the woman “Please don’t touch my wife’s hair” There was a second when I thought he was about to lay hands on Granny. Eventually she and her party mosey’d on with her no doubt wondering what the issue was, but damn it, don’t touch my hair.

Look, I realize seeing a Black woman with braids may be a novelty  but reaching out to touch one is just a bad idea and frankly the only thing that stopped Granny from getting her fingers broke was the fact that she was elderly.  I am still not sure if that was a great idea but hey, I was raised to treat folks with respect even when its questionable if they deserve it.

So to my fellow humans of the white hue, don’t ever reach out and try to touch a Black woman’s hair…it could be hazardous to your health.

14 thoughts on “Don’t touch me

  1. Oh how I hate that! It doesn’t happen to me much these days but there’s been a time or two when I’ve had to ask someone to keep their hands to themself.

  2. Oh, god, I am so sorry you have to deal with that shit. Can you imagine if someone did that to me? Like, reached out and said I’ve got nice hair and touched it?

    Now, as someone absolutely and utterly compelled to touch your hair (and I would be even if I didn’t know you, but I’d CHECK THAT IMPULSE and not act on it), I understand. I don’t excuse it, though.

    From the point of view of the whitest among us, I’ll just say that rather than the infantilizing that it seems like gets directed at you a lot there’s something almost like art about your hair (any Black person’s hair, no kidding). How nauseating it must be when you just want to be a person, not an object.

    I hate that I can see both sides of this so clearly. And, I wish it was something I could change for both of our sakes.

  3. Sorry you had to go through that. The lady is old enough to know better. It goes with any body part and even a child for that matter. I know a few times I have been really tempted to squeeze an older ladies cheek after they go squeeze the cheek of my newborn. Two wrongs don’t make a right though- so that is mostly what kept me in check.
    I think ‘pigment deficient’ humans with long hair have this issue at times as well. People in general at times forget their manners when they are enamored.
    I do like long hair- and there is something about lengthy long rows of braiding that is visually fascinating. If I could keep it from fraying 5 minutes after it was done I would try it for myself.
    Best-

  4. Ah, thanks for this one. Made me laugh and cringe. I laughed at the elderly. They can get away with saying or doing anything, even murder. It’s always the old people mowing down a crowd at the farmers market or crashing through a Starbucks window. That’s an “accident” every time. If the perpetrator was 40 years young, the DA would charge manslaughter.

    I frequently travel internationally and the locals (save Africans) are GOBSMACKED by the sight of black hair. Folks often have very loose ideas on personal space compared to our puritanical antiseptic nation. So I get lots of touching hair, skin, and it’s always unsettling. Normally no one asks permission, but if they do I say “No”.
    Also hang out with a buncha white folks and my boyfriend is white. So, friends of friends will ask to touch my hair after making my acquaintance. Or, they’ll just touch it freely riding a wave of liquid courage.

    In either case, if a stranger or loose acquaintance is touching me and it’s unwelcome, I pull back and exclaim, “Stop, your hands are filthy!”. I have learned this phrase in Spanish, Arabic, Thai, and German. For the US it’s, “Gross, I dunno where your hands have been!”.

    Flip the script(!) It is my duty to embarrass, shame, and make self conscious the Hansdy, Curious and Clueless among us. I know this is fair because I learned in preschool to Keep My Grubby Little Hands to Myself. That is good manners. It demonstrates respect.

    That said, can’t bring myself to call out old folks. It’s like they’ve been waiting their entire lives to get close to a real live black person….. and molest the hell out of her. Old people get the Dodge, Bob and Swivel; a complicated move.

    So don’t you dare go about your day opening your car door, wiping your kid’s nose, handling dirty money and try to touch my ANYTHING. Bet.

    (Just be patient, get old….. and go buck nutty).

  5. Honestly I just gravitate towards hair. Especially if it’s in a pouf loves it! Ad I really just wanna touch it. But I don’t do it without permission. Okay except for this one time. I saw a sister with dreads and I was so happy to see her and I touched her dreads. And there was one time at my son’s school-it was a Christian school-and one of the Mothers I know came up behind me and ran her fingers thru my hair. I have a very expressive face and I know I was frowning and I know that the other Mothers in the group I was talking to were probably thinking what’s what me. lol The only reason why I didn’t get mad at the woman was because she was nice and I think some people including myself and I am rocking my own fluff and go fro just can’t help but to touch.

  6. It’s such an invasion of personal space! Sorry you had to deal with it. My hair is really short now so it doesn’t happen but it does happen to my boys. Before I can even stop it, someone is playing in their hair talking about “how cool” it is. It’s very frustrating.

  7. I love raka’s answer! You are sooo good because ole’ grandma would have gotten a what the “you know the rest” are you doing from me.

  8. holy shit, this is ridiculous. kind of hilarious, but i’m so sorry it happened to you! i think that pregnant women get the same treatment- like everyone thinks it’s ok to touch your belly just because you’re knocked up! i guess some people just have more flexible ideas about personal space. you should have started tugging on her hair and asking if it was a wig.

  9. Girl, I could tell you some stuff about people putting their dirty-ass hands all up in my hair and making racist or just plain rude comments about it. 🙁

    I’m biracial, very light-skinned, with white features. But my hair is thick and kinky even with a relaxer. Some people think that’s weird (not sure why), and they want to touch my hair and make fucked-up comments about its texture.

    To me, it is rudeness and it is racism. Period. There is no excuse. Curiosity is not an excuse. Do. Not. Touch. Me.

    I’ve also been asked by people of all races (mostly black folks) if my hair is real. WTF? I never could figure that one out.

  10. That one I understand, but the other day at Walmart a black guy with a cart suddenly started backing out of a check-out lane into the main aisle without looking. Out of reflex I reached up and put my hand on his back so he wouldn’t fall over my cart and said, “OOps, excuse me, sir”. He turned around and I expected something like, “Sorry, I didn’t see you” which is what I typically get when a white person does this. Instead I got, “Don’t touch me. Next time don’t touch me.”. I said, “I just didn’t want you to hurt yourself.”. He paused and said, “You can say ‘excuse me’, but next time don’t touch me”. I just walked on. Obviously if someone is about to back over your cart, by the time you got out “excuse me” he wouldn’t have time to react. So my question for the black reader is, is this some kind of macho boys-in-the-hood attitude or was this bozo just a little unhinged? What I took away was the next time a black guy starts backing into my cart, let him fall over it. Wonder if I had been a black guy if his response would have been the same, or is it rudeness and racism on his part?

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