Don’t Touch My Hair
By Taylor Williams
I have struggled to love my hair, let alone respect it. I am ashamed to admit that I have viewed my hair as distasteful. Caught up in the African American community’s obsession with the concept of good and bad hair, I would go into depression when the edges of my dense, tightly coiled, and coarse hair would not lay down or straighten.
In middle school, I joined the majorette team. Although I felt pretty in my two-puff ponytails, I was enamored by girls with long, loosely curled hair that straightened with ease. That was good hair to me. A straight ponytail was the required style to be on the majorette team and my hair was too unruly to cooperate. I knew if I did not change my hair I would not fit in, so I resorted to straightening my hair chemically. I hated having a perm. I did not have the skill to do any other hairstyle aside from a ponytail. I missed my kinky curls. I did not feel more beautiful or attractive. I ended up cutting my hair into a stunning pixie and I wore short hair until I reached high school.
In high school, I transitioned back to my natural hair, experimenting with afros, Bantu knots, fro-hawks, and of course, two puff ponytails. I began to adore my hair; it always creatively made a statement.
My hair is not a temporary fashion statement; it is a part of my heritage. I am proud of my hair, but being told by other black people that I have “black people hair” in reaction to its kinky texture baffles me, because the loosely curled hair I was enamored with in middle school is also the crown of many black women. Many of these women have darker skin than me. I watch black men fetishize over fair-skinned black women daily, yet disrespect and reject beautiful dark-skinned women because they want their future child to have “good hair”.
The brown paper bag test and the comb test during the Jim Crow era created animosity and intra-racial discrimination within the black community. If a small–tooth-comb could not pass through her hair or if her skin was darker than a paper sack, society rejected them for not having enough European features. I remember being young and watching the Spike Lee film “School Daze”. I hated how the light-skinned women with perms and weaved hair poorly treated the women rocking their natural hair, who I thought were beautiful and powerful. Having a mix of European features has become a fetish. And although I am shunned for wearing hairstyles that originate from my ancestors, white women like Kim Kardashian wear these styles and it becomes a fad.
I share the same hair as many women of color, yet it is unique and individual to me. Honestly, my hair has a life of its own. It is funny how I can feel beautiful and stylish yet upset because my hair will not cooperate with my vision. On the other hand, I have days where my hair looks extravagant, while I am dressed lazily. However, no matter if I am having a bad hair day or not, I have learned to love and appreciate it as a flourishing entity with its own unique energy. My hair is empathic to the manner in which I treat it and myself. My hair is at its healthiest when I am fueled by self-love and self-respect, taking care of not only my hair and body, but also my mental health. My hair is sensitive to the shifts in my energy and it too becomes in distress when I neglect my physical or emotional needs.
My black hair must be loved.
My hair sheds like my tears when I am depressed and breaks like my heart when I forget to love myself. I am currently going through the process of re-growing my hair after months of neglecting it. With the setbacks brought on by Covid-19, adjusting to college online, working, and trying to maintain a semblance of a social life, I have spiraled into an abyss of stress! Being in such a dark place mentally, I was not able to give my hair the energy and nourishment it needed to flourish. I did not have patience with my hair. I would not wash it often, I would not take precautions when detangling my kinks, and I allowed heat to become my best friend causing my hair to become my worst enemy. Even in doing protective styles, I was just too overwhelmed to take proper care of my hair. Nevertheless, one day, I decided I wanted to nurture my hair and wear my afro; however, my hair rejected me from all the neglect it endured. In staring at my distasteful reflection in the mirror, I became as sad as my hair because I realized that, in not taking care of my crown, I was not taking care of myself. I have learned that to truly practice self-love, I must engage in loving all aspects of myself.
“Black people hair” is as diverse as our skin tones, and that makes it GREAT hair. Yes, black hair is high maintenance, but only because it is high in value. My hair requires watering, nurturing, and grows toward the sun like a sunflower. Though washing and styling my hair may take seven hours, I consider it my self-care time, instead of a nuisance in my schedule. I now take pride in the patience my afro needs in order to flourish.
I scream “DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR” because my black hair is living. It is art personified that deserves the utmost respect.
This article was written by Taylor Williams for LOVE Girls Magazine and has been archived onto our Medium for easier online reading. Please consider supporting the magazine through financial or volunteer donations.