“Natural Hair” is the label given to the movement that many black women have taken up. Black as in, with African descent, African being peoples with kinky or curly hair types.
For a lot of women, it wasn’t an easy decision and that’s why it’s seen as a movement by many, because disliking your own hair and appearance has been normalised for black girls. It’s why when my five year old cousin said I was ugly because of my black skin and my brother and his white girlfriend were pretty, because they were fairer. It’s why Princess Tiana, the only black Disney princess is seen with her hair tied up in the short time she is portrayed as a human.
While natural hairstyles have never been completely out of style it has returned with a force that has received a lot of attention. Yet, in the vanilla-mayonaise-87% white Britain, black fashion and culture is fetishized and appropriated to the point where it’s normal for a random stranger to molest your hair from behind without the usual introductions one would assume necessary for such an intimate act. I get it, a lot of folks think black culture is cool, but dehumanising a person just for curiosity’s sake is shitty.
Anyway I just wanted to give a breakdown of all the boring and naive questions that one faces if one has “natural hair” – questions that have answers available on this cool thing called the internet. But anyway, they will be asked because some people feel entitled to reduce you to a physical trait.
- I love your hair
Not exactly a question but most often said and hard to respond to. I usually say thank you, feel awkward, try and find something to compliment about the giver, give up and walk away.
- Is that your real hair/Is it real?
Yes, and if it wasn’t, why are you asking? Do you go up to a bald Iranian man wearing a tupee and ask if it’s a wig? I would hope not, I mean hair and self esteem are intricately linked in our shittyshitshity society.
- how did you get it like that/how long did it take you/ what did you put in it because mine is just “flat and stringy”*?
I grew it, from my head, like how yours grows from yours. I know diversity and variation is a hard thing to wrap your mind around but evolution is a thing. I am not an alien and all I do is moisturise, wash and comb it. Moisturising is a new concept to non-curly folks; whilst straight hair is inclined to get greasy, curly and kinky hair goes dry especially in shitty weather conditions in the UK. My only solution to your desire for an afro is to get a ‘perm’, like what your ma and pa did a few decades ago. But I know you don’t want my hair, and really is it worth chemically treating it, in the end it’s up to you and you have the internet at your disposal so use it fooool.
- It’s like a cloud/is it like a pillow/how is it so soft?
It isn’t like a cloud – clouds are made up of water vapour, my hair is not. It isn’t like a pillow, I still need a pillow, can I have a pillow? I don’t know, magic, why do you ask me questions that are redundant? And maybe coconut oil.
I’m not targeting anyone, or trying to affect some white guilt sensors, but if you’re curious about afro hair don’t be a dickhead and molest a person before talking to them. Ahh fuck it, I’m bad at advice, do what you want but you know don’t piss anyone off, I won’t be there when people get angry about mayonnaise and vanilla ice cream getting in some Jamaican’s dreadlocks.
So I will part with you in peace and love with Meklit’s ‘I Like Your Afro’:
and this short documentary for those still curious and now prepared for the big bad world of investigating others’ experiences:
P.S. Fake afro wigs are shit. Stop wearing them. Or I will perm your real hair into an afro and then burn it. Sorry.
*This is a direct quote from a stranger. I know that straight hair can be voluminous and thick. I know many things.