I've had relaxed hair for almost 20 years. For my sisters that don't know what a relaxer is, it's the chemical process that mostly Black women go through to straighten our hair. I've always had super thick, long hair. Damn near unmanageable hair. I got my first relaxer at about 8 years old, and I've been on the creamy crack ever since. My hair would stay perfectly thinned and straight for about a month, and then poof, back to the thickness until the next touch up several months down the road. Because of this, I've never had the experience of white people coming up to me, and trying to pet me to examine my hair. But, good Lord, have I dealt with endless questions. I don't mind answering the relaxer question, that's fine. I've answered it a million times. But, once people find out I only wash my hair every 2 to 3 weeks, then it's the kinda rude questions. "Isn't your hair filthy?!" Followed up with a disgusted/perplexed look. Errrr....no....There's no such thing as "wash and go" with a relaxer. You have to blow it out, flat iron it, or set it in rollers. It's a process. I duck the rain and I haven't been swimming in 15 years, even though I love water. Water and moisture is relaxed hair's natural enemy. The past two years, as I've gotten more into the social justice and feminist movements, I really started to examine why I have relaxed hair in the first place. It's a pain in the fucking ass to keep up with European beauty standards. I can't enjoy certain activities. I can't tell you how many times I've had to tell men "my hair is a fucking decoration. You are to look and not touch". I have a couple clip on ponytails and wigs for when I want to switch it up, but even that takes work and maintenance. (Sidebar: the only funny part about White people quizzing me about my hair is the shock and awe when they see me with my hair pieces or wigs. "Omg, did you straighten it? I didn't realize you had so much!" And I'm all like "girl, I didn't grow all this since you saw me last week!"). So, at the ripe old age of 26, I decided enough is enough. I don't even remember my real hair that much. When I look at old pictures of myself, I see a little chubby mixed girl, with the thickest, slightly kinky, but unbelievably straight hair in a halo around a cute little face. I want that back. So, it's been about 6 months since my last relaxer. The transition is a killer. I'm too much of a punk to do the big chop, so I'm letting it grow out on its own. So, like 40% of my hair is the natural texture and the other part is still relaxed. It's God awful. Since July, I've been rocking long box braids, down to my waist (obviously with the help of extenstions). It's a bold and dramtic look with two different colors, and I adore them. Buuuuuut, now I'm having my first experiences with having white people touch them and coo about how soft they are. I hate being put on the spot, so I always say yes, even when I don't want to. (Full disclosure: I'm a rape survivor, and sometimes I don't even want family and friends touching me, never mind strangers.) I'm getting my first doses of what it'll be like once my transition is complete, and I don't like it. So, I sincerely urge my curious sisters to take this into account when asking to touch our hair. I am not Sarah Baartman. I don't mind honest and polite questions about my hair, but it makes me feel bad. Like, I'm an alien in my own country. I know you mean well, but google is your friend. There's so much information about black hair online, I encourage you to gorge yourself on it. Learn whatever you want. But don't make us feel like zoo animals.
ETA: Thank all of you lovely ladies for your great comments and feedback! You rock! :D