I recently discovered a two-part video series called “You Can Touch My Hair” (via Design Mom), and it struck a chord: Two days before seeing it, I happened to be standing in line at a store with my daughters when a woman behind us starting asking lots of questions. Are they twins? How old are they? Where do they go to school? Are they yours? I kept my answers short and polite, and then came the last question: Can I touch their hair?
The woman had some boundary issues, but the hair question got me thinking… On one hand, curiosity is part of the human condition, and hair is a feature that stands out about people. I know that when I see people with radically different hair from mine, I often wonder what it’s like to care for, how they style it, what it feels like, etc. I also know friends with hair like mine who’ve traveled in parts of Asia and Africa and had people constantly wanting to touch their hair. So it’s universally true that unfamiliar locks captivate our interest.
On the other hand, nobody likes to feel like an object, and hair is personal. Perhaps even more to the point, we live in a pluralistic society where it’s not unusual to encounter people with different hair types and styles. Why is hair like my daughters’ such a fascination to random strangers in modern American culture? I know the topic of “natural hair” is a big one, but I think it’s odd that their hair is such a novelty.
If you’re curious about the video project I mentioned above, you can watch it here and here. I’m not quite sure what I think of the actual event, but I’m hoping that by the time my daughters are grown, natural hair of all types will be more familiar and accepted and not such a big deal.
By the way, if you’re wondering how I answered the stranger in line, I was saved just in time: The cashier called us over before I had time to respond. But I probably would have said, “What is you want to know about their hair?” to avoid having her actually touch my daughters’ heads.
Have you ever had a stranger ask to touch your hair — or just reach out and do it? If someone asked to touch your child’s hair, what would you say?
Image: Zoe Saint-Paul