Black Hair and Intimacy by Karen Gary

Karen GaryBlog Series Vol. 1, Karen Gary

Natural Hair CoupleSome of the most striking moments of intimacy we’ve seen in Black media recently are of those that involve Black women and their hair. These brief, powerful spotlights touch on something that is joked about and lamented – touching a Black woman’s hair.

Social media lit up when Analise Keating, powerful professor and attorney on television’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” sat between her mother’s legs while her mother combed her natural hair. It was a glimpse into a sacred ritual repeated again in a scene from the hit movie Creed. This time, Adonis Creed shared a beautiful moment with his lover Bianca. He sat behind her in bed, rat tail comb in hand and helped her take down her long twists. It was a level of intimacy shared by Black couples that is not often shown on TV or in movies. The implicit trust and selflessness shown was amazing to watch.

And it is that moment of intimacy that escapes many Black women in loving relationships.

“Don’t touch a Black woman’s hair” has become a mantra, a directive and a threat and often for good reason. It’s a defense mechanism to keep curious hands out of your curls and coils – so the owners of those hands don’t decide to treat your hair like a sideshow attraction. It’s also a slight-of-hand maneuver to keep folks from feeling those tracks, thus dispelling the aura around your flawless, 20-inch Remi look.

“Don’t touch” also serves a practical purpose – after hours of washing, twisting and conditioning to get the perfect look you don’t want anyone messing up all that hard work.

But, if you wouldn’t dream of letting your lover in your “hairspace” you may be missing out on next level intimacy. Many of us began our natural hair journey to ease our dependence on chemicals and to increase our ability to seize life without worrying about our ‘do – but old habits die hard. Running from the rain to protect our relaxer has turned into running from the rain to protect our fluffy ‘fro. “Don’t touch my freshly relaxed hair because I spent 4 hours in the salon for it” has turned into “don’t touch my fresh twist out.”

This is why I am so committed to teaching black women to think differently about their hair.

You don’t have to close yourself (and your hair) off. Wash day doesn’t have to be an odyssey and maintaining your own natural hair doesn’t take a Ph.D in YouTube-led black hair physics. Getting a good routine down, regular pro care and some easy tips on maintenance will take the horror out of the thought of someone running their fingers through your tresses.

To learn more about Karen, check out her bio.

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