On a recent trip to Orlando, Florida, a friend and I decided to spend a day at Walt Disney World. In the beginning, everything was Disney-as-usual once we entered the parking lot. There were happy families, kids running around nearly tripping us over, and highly committed cast members directing traffic like Mr. Disney himself was watching.
We made our way out of the parking lot and my friend and I sat down in the trolley (one that would take us to the park gates) and moved over for the people next to us to have a seat.
And that’s when it happened.
An older Caucasian woman (looked to be in her mid-60s) sits down next to me, turns toward my direction and immediately grabs my hair.
My 1B Havana Mambo Crochet 2x Twists I’d been stalking every beauty supply store and suspicious website to find. Oh. No. She. Didn’t.
Alas, she did.
“Oh cool!” she said as she examined the strands, flipping them around to indulge her fascination.
In shock, I silently grabbed my hair and started to tug them away, but she didn’t quite get the hint until the girl next to her said “Grandma! You’re not supposed to touch it!”. “Oh I’m sorry,” was her response- like she honestly wasn’t aware that touching a person without permission is never appropriate.
“You’re not supposed to touch people,” her granddaughter added. I was happy to know that it wasn’t just me who had this “progressive” idea that you pet pets, not people.
That was one of the most awkward Black Hair-Meets-White Curiosity experiences of my life. As my friend put it: “this stuff is only supposed to happen in Buzzfeed videos, not real life.”
Of course I knew this stuff did happen in real life, I just didn’t think it’d happen to me because I assumed it couldn’t happen that often. I figured that most people aren’t 15 year old boys from Idaho and have at least some introductory knowledge on the proper way to show appreciation for something- especially Black hair.
Now this is not an accusation of racism, but a proclamation of confusion. How do people really not get that it’s not okay to just touch someone’s hair without permission? Again, I’m not trying to be the Girl Who Cried Racism, but I do wonder if she, and others with an admiration for beautiful hairstyles, would have felt it appropriate to grab someone else’s hair that didn’t have a kink/curly natural hair texture that transforms into not-so-everyday hairstyles.
I’d assume not since other hair types tend not to cause such wonder and evoke questions like “how does it stay up like that?” “What does it feel like?” “Does it grow?” “Can you wash it?”
So let’s play it safe. Just keep your hands off my hair.
Nicole is a contributing writer for African Girls Killing it. Follow her on Twitter @NcolAlexandria.