My Coworker Pulled My Hair at Work And I Saw Red
My HAIRstory has allowed my acceptance and understanding of the cultural relevance our hair has, and these days I mostly take anything hair-related with a shrug.
Good hair? Don’t care. Natural hair? Don’t care! Curly hair? Don’t care! Hell, kinky hair? Don’t care! I worry about my hair, and that’s that.
For more than 40 years I have been on the receiving end of all sorts of comments and actions related to my hair. The truth is, these have mostly come from other woman and girls of color.
If I had a dollar for every time I was told “You think you’re white with your long hair,” on the schoolyard I would be rich. Let’s not talk, “you got Indian in your family” or “girl you got some good hair” and one of the worse… “you must be adopted.” That last one cut deep…little did they know…I was adopted. But (spoiler alert) my biological parents were just as black as the ones that adopted me.
Of course mean girls are nothing new--nor are their terrible jabs. But sometimes the hair battle heated up to an unbearable temp; yep, like the time the brown girl sitting behind me brought in some matches and lit my ponytail up!
The roof wasn’t on fire but my hair sure was!
Or when everyone put the bus windows down on the first day of school to blow out my blow out! I started the morning looking light and lovely and landed in my class looking wild and crazy! Charge it to the game. It seemed to be the cross I had to bear. Everybody has one. So, for most of my childhood me and my ponytail kept it moving.
Lately there has been a resurgence of natural styles. Better products, more confidant women, more natural hair. But wait--why the side eye for those that don’t choose this option? Do you lose your black card if you are not rocking twists?
Whose definition of natural are we using? Oh boy…deja vu to the school bus days. While some see it as a cultural statement some just view it as a beauty regimen and me…well I am just trying to look presentable when I leave the house at 5 in the morning.
So I was surprised with my outrage when I was greeted at the start of my workday by a vaguely familiar co-worker. I recently had a blow dry at the salon and on this rare occasion my hair was out of its much beloved elastic band.
She pulled my hair--yes, pulled my hair with her hand--and then she asked me: “Is this your real hair?”
I literally saw red. YOU. CAN. NOT. BE. SERIOUS! Do I know you? Am I on candid camera? Clench fist. Bite tongue. Remind yourself….you are entering the workplace!
This small interaction by someone not of my race outraged me more than anything hair-related I had experienced in my lifetime. I felt it deep in my pores for days. I posted about it on social media. And what I concluded after I calmed myself down is that it’s not any kind of hair that “don’t care.” It’s GROWN WOMEN that don’t care.
Grown women know that people make choices based on their lifestyles, tastes and personalities. What works for one won’t work for another. Grown women know that locs, weave, cropped, dyed, and yep, even my blow out or ponytail can come together and change the world….we can save a child, climb the corporate ladder, sweat it out and put it together for a new day of doing whatever it takes to get things done.
And finally, grown women know that whatever hair you see someone rockin’ keep your damn hands and comments to yourself! Unless, .it’s to say, “Hey beautiful, great hair!” and that is Real Talk!!
Nicole Harding is an expert in leadership development, wife, and mother focused on spreading positivity one conversation, one home project, and one dynamite deal at a time. Follow Nicole on Twitter @RealTalkNic.
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