“Don’t Touch My Hair,” Means You Too

It doesn’t matter what time it is,
When sitting face to face
Legs wrapped ‘round your waist
Even when nobody’s around

We’ve reached the point of removing fallen eyelashes
And touching in public
The question phase,
When two sparks are trying to figure out if they could burn a fire that would last forever
And you start with telling me about my perfect curves
Working your way up to my lips
And how you could spend all day between them
How my eyes remind you of mirrors
And what a beautiful mind I have
And then,
You’re quiet.
Comfortable enough in silence that I know exactly what question is coming

“Baby, why do you wear fake hair?”

And just like that
Reality stomps its way into this movie
And I have the nerve to get flustered every time

“It’s not that I don’t like it, but, what’s your real hair look like??”

And immediately,
Here come the war flashbacks to 6 year old me
Crying on a stack of phone books
While this bitch with the hot comb takes no mercy on my scalp
Feeling like I’ve been there for days
Tired, hungry, and my first real taste of misery
So that on picture day,
I can smile into the camera and look just like the little girl on the envelope

My best friend’s pool party
Where I learned to crack my first nappy joke
While everyone gathered to pull on my roots
Like my skin wouldn’t have turned bright red if it could
The first three years of high school
Behind glasses and a “black girl ponytail”
So I got my first extensions just so people could stop walking into me

Freshman year
At Binghamton University
When my door was knocked on 3 times
In 2 hours
Because they could smell something burning from the hallway

Right now,
When you can’t stop complaining about my “ratchet weave” getting in your mouth
And you have no idea that it’s hurting

I know you didn’t mean it that way
And that you think we’re the only two things here
But you’ve just kicked the giant elephant in the room that’s been staring me down for the past 20 years
And I kind of want to mush you

The one that says I’m not Asatta Shakur
Or Eryka Badu
Or as Lauryn Hill as I wanna be
And the “good haired” girls can still make me feel small
Forehead deep in insecurity
Hoping maybe one day, I’ll know a crumpled crown still makes a queen
And it won’t threaten to snap my neck under the weight of it

So the next time you get curious
About what she looks like completely naked
Be patient
Tell her
She is beautiful no matter what she has on
And maybe
She’ll get comfortable enough to undress her scalp for you

Lindsay Young

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