Can I Touch It?

Can I Touch It?

Mom Jeanine
May 15, 2012


Good Question, hot topic, Jeanine Edwards

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On Saturday, while enjoying a Mother’s Day pedicure with my mother and my daughter, it happened to me. I’ve read countless articles about other mom’s experiences, but I’d yet to experience it myself. Being that I live in the New York City and it’s so culturally diverse, I actually thought it wouldn’t happen to me. But it did.

As I was sitting waiting for my nails to dry, one of the nail technician’s who didn’t have a client came over and told me how cute my daughter was. I thanked her and then she asked, “Can I touch it?” Huh? I thought to myself. “Her hair,” the woman said. “Can I touch her hair?” Before long, there was a small gathering of three woman running their fingers over my daughter’s braided hair.

Now part of me wants to see the good in this. I get that cornrows look “cool” if you’re not accustomed to seeing them every day. I get the very rudimentary feeling of wanting to get a closer look at something that’s unfamiliar. I know, well at least I hope, these women didn’t intend to make me or my daughter feel ostracized.

Problem is, while they were gawking over my daughter’s hair, there was another part of me that wanted to say she isn’t a freak. Her hair isn’t some strange thing that should be behind glass for people to peer upon like an exhibit. It’s hair for goodness sake! And I’d rather you not have your fingers in it!

In retrospect, I probably should have said something, but I thought it would make an even bigger scene. And I didn’t realize how much it bothered me until my daughter asked yesterday why they were touching her hair. I told her it was because they thought her braids were cool, but part of me was wondering the exact same thing. “Yeah, why were they touching your hair?”

What’s crazy is, I have a friend whose son has gorgeous red hair. And she gets the same thing! Complete strangers coming up to her asking if they can touch his hair.

But I’m wondering, as moms should we embrace these opportunities and allow people to touch our children’s hair so they realize it’s really not that different? Or should we put our foot down say, “Heck no! No you may not touch my child. He/she isn’t some circus act and I will not allow you to ogle.” If you’ve ever been in this position, how did you handle it? If not, how would you handle it? Share in the comments.

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  • Carolyn
    May 15, 2012

  • I don’t think it’s all that weird. I am a blonde Caucasian woman who years ago took a trip by myself all around sub-Saharan Africa for a couple of months. Teenage Masai boys used to approach and ask me if they could touch my hair. They said it looked like the sun and they liked the texture. They whispered “safi” in Swahili, which means “nice”, and seemed amazed. It was all innocent and sweet, and of course, their hair was much thicker than mine and more coarse in texture. It’s all about appreciating differences but realizing we are all human beings.

  • cc
    May 15, 2012

  • I figure it’s no different with people who have this tendency to touch pregnant women’s bellies.

  • Y. Wong
    May 15, 2012

  • It should depend on the child’s individual comfort level. Besides asking the parent, the child should be asked also. This is his/her personal space that is being trespassed on.

  • Kristi
    May 15, 2012

  • In some cultures it’s common to touch something that has caught your eye to prevent accidentally giving someone the “evil eye” I wouldn’t let them do it though unless my daughter was comfortable and it wasn’t creepy or disrespectful.

  • LLF
    May 15, 2012

  • some people like to feel it to get a sense of how it was braided to do it themselves. i braid hair, and often get a better of idea how to do things by feeling. something you can’t just get by seeing.

  • china
    May 15, 2012

  • Safi is “clean” …”fresh”
    I’m guessing you washed your hair recently before the boys touched your hair.

  • Candice
    May 15, 2012

  • My brother had red hair and every time we would go to Mexico, they would rub his head. They believed it was good luck. With both my boys, I had people coming up asking if they could hold them! I get it, they are adorable, but I didn’t want my kids to be held by random strangers. I also didn’t want them to get that used to being touched by strangers, I wanted it to be something out of the ordinary so they would tell me if it ever happened when I wasn’t there. I just say something like “sorry, he really doesn’t like other people holding him”. People used to ask if they could rub my belly while pregnant and I would ask if I could rub theirs….that could have been part hormone too.

  • Anon
    May 15, 2012

  • I get this all the time too. I have long thick blonde hair-my husband owns salons so my hair pretty much always looks great. Mostly because it’s shiny and long and mostly the attention comed from Asian, Polynesian and latin women in the beauty business. Ie; nail salons, hair salons, bath houses etc. I take it as a compliment. I let a homeless guy on 6th ave touch my hair the other day, he was so fascinated by it and harmless. (not a lot going on upstairs..) I think if it brings someone else so much joy and wonder and it costs me nothing-why not??

  • Anon
    May 15, 2012

  • Ack! Comes not comed!! (from above) that’s what I get for not proofing!

  • stephanie H
    May 15, 2012

  • It all depends:

    In this situation, I praise the woman for asking the parent rather than just dive right in on touching; however, the child was not noted to be asked. That violated her personal body and space. Whether it was hair, clothes or private areas, the child has a choice regaurdless of the parent’s say.

    The mom was caught off gaurd and nonetheless, we all have too. Now she can gather her own feelings now an innocent situation occured to find it as a learning experience. Next time she can discuss this with her child about how child feels to allow the child to express her own opinion. The mom can allow the child to answer respectfully in such situations. A simple honest “I honestly don’t like my hair touched but you may look at it!” (Gives oppurtunity to still give verbal dialog and visual appeal) or fib a little (I don’t like hair touched and boy I give my mom fits daily *chuckles with laughter) in such situation can ease awkwardness or tension by comical humor.

    As far as my own long hair (butt), I had people touch it, which is okay at first, but after watching them cough, wipe food with, scratch their butts and smoke, i DO NOT want that in my hair.

    People would put my hair on their shoulder to see how it “would look” on them. I do not want risk of lice.

    So all preference but caution. At the end of the day, your hair, your body, your say.

  • Roxy
    May 17, 2012

  • I think you’re over-reacting. Clearly they think it’s cool and beautiful. It’s an opportunity to embrace the meaning of different and explain to your child how wonderful differences are.