I’m guilty of it, too. Yes, I—a black woman—am guilty of doing the “hair touching dance.” When one of my colleagues began working with me, I was fascinated by her hair. It was just above her shoulders, and it had beautiful corkscrew curls—just like I’d always wanted. Led by impulse, rather than good manners, I reached out and stroked her hair.

Thankfully, she didn’t mind.

In fact, I did it several times, until it occurred to me that it was inappropriate, though she didn’t mind. Did I do it because she had “good hair”? Did I do it because she had curly hair (like I later learned that I have)? Was it because she is black and has curly hair? I don’t know why I did it. It seemed like an innocent thing to do, though now, I realize I used poor judgment.

Few people have willingly reached out and touched my hair; after all, it was a burden to bear, not something of which to be glad. I grew up with all the old good hair/bad hair myths, and I had “bad hair.” Of course. As a matter of fact, about two weeks ago, my father even mentioned a family member who “has that good hair!” I cringed and held my tongue. (I know my family gets tired of my soap box rants.) Still, it hurt a bit knowing that my father hasn’t come to view our hair as beautiful, which also explains why he thinks I should relax my hair again.

Now, let’s flip the tables. I don’t know how I’d feel about someone wanting to touch my hair. If someone asked, rather than being caught unawares by it, I might not mind. It may also depend on who’s asking and why. I was shocked when one day, during my relaxed days, a dear friend of mine tugged at my hair and told me it was “pretty.” No one had ever said that before.

I’m intrigued by the touching dance, and how differently people feel about it and their reasons. I’m looking forward to the You Can Touch My Hair film that furthers the discussion; it will be released in the next weeks.

What do you think?