“Can I touch it?”

He could barely get the question out before his hands went right into my hair. He wanted to touch it. He wanted to pet it. He wanted to put it into a ponytail with a dirty rubber band he found on the marble top of the bar.

“I could fall in love with this,” he said as he scratched my roots. By the time I freed myself from his hair molestation my blow out was frizzy and wild. Not that he cared. I gave him the look. The John McEnroe “Are You SERIOUS?” look and he tried to cover his painfully obvious fetish.

“I just love that your hair is real. I don’t care what a woman’s hair is like as long as it’s real.”

Yet he wasn’t attacking the sister rocking the TWA two stools down even though she was incredibly fierce in her own right. No. It was me and the ten pounds of clothes I had on in the summertime. I believe that everyone is entitled to love who they want to love, but I think people should be honest with themselves.

Black men have just as many hair issues about black women’s hair as black women do.

We’re not crazy by ourselves. We aren’t imagining things. We aren’t making it up. I’ve heard the words come out of a many fellows’ mouths and seen their actions scream at me in stereo — I love all black women, just ignore me as I break my neck to talk to that light skinned girl with the long hair.

I know this because I’m the light skinned girl with the long hair and I’ve seen it over and over and over again.

Recently I started dating again to mixed results, revisiting an old problem that just won’t die no matter what I do. But the reality of people treating my hair and skin tone as a fetish object is painfully real.

I don’t like being treated like a fetish. If you think I’m beautiful, great. If you fall in love with me for me, wonderful. But I freeze up with aphrension when a man gets stuck in my hair and can’t get out of it. There’s a difference between saying, “Your hair looks nice today” and saying “Your hair looks so much better than all these other sisters who be wearing weaves.” One) Why do you think it will turn me on to dissrespect other black women in your pursuit of me? Two) What?!

It all gives me flashbacks to an ex who would talk about how gorgeous India.Arie was, but married me. Who would bash Halle Berry and other light skinned people, but would admit that it had been his dream since he was a child to marry a girl with light skin and long hair. That he hated the perm I had then, but then bemoaned my TWA when I cut my hair off.

“I wish I never told you to cut your hair,” he said, wrongly assuming that I’d gone natural because of his constant psuedo black militant, intellectual banter. I’d cut it because I’d wrongly thought he was the first guy I’d dated who didn’t care about my hair. That I could cut it without fears I’d be loved less or ridiculed as unattractive. After all, the man before him used to sing Hakuna Matada and call me “Mustafa” whenever I wore my hair just wavy. He was so hostile towards unstraightened hair that even an unstraightened perm was offensive. But he managed to outdo the jerk before him with his hair 360 degree turn,I’m no longer attracted to you, garbage.

“Just date the white girl already,” I used to say when I was frustrated. It made no sense to expect straight hair perfection out of me when my straight hair was a pressing comb illusion.

I am not my hair, as the song goes, but it seems that if you have a lot of hair and you don’t mind dating the occasional completely superficial fetishist you TOO can wallow in the shallow love of the impossible beauty standard.

There is nothing wrong with being an admirer of a particular type of woman, but you shouldn’t disparage other women or berate the woman you claim to love for not living up to your video girl fantasies. Women have enough insecurity issues. We honestly don’t need the help in getting better in touch with our inner crazy.

Has a man every complimented you by putting other sisters down? How did you handle it? 

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  • AD

    I’m gonna need the author to not speak on behalf of EVERYONE in this article, especially black men. So she’s had contact with a few jerks? Men, women, hell, human beings, can and will fetishize everything! For every guy who secretly detested my size 16 frame, I’ve been told I have the body of a video chick- why go to the gym? Ooh you so thick, so you must have a fat box… or you must be a better sex partner.. or “big girls feel different during sex.” I also have long hair, and I get black WOMEN threatening to cut me if I even so much as mention I want to cut my hair. When I try (keyword: try) to style my hair sans heat, not only do I feel “less than,” but my own father who calls me beautiful all the time says my hair’s “looking a little messy.”

    My examples are only used to show that I have some mainstream and some non-mainstream qualities but they are fetishized by people who want to fetishize them. The article is a little narrow-minded and I wish the author would 1) ground her analysis in history (ie, kinky hair and African features were and are not universally disparaged; a particular historical context led to this…) and 2) recognize that her partners were not only products of this historical trajectory but also just generally lame ass people.

    I appreciate the article though. Clutch always gets us talking, no matter how we feel about the quality of the article. Kudos to the author for broaching a topic that’s hard to discuss.

  • Daz

    great article =D

  • cocochanel31

    My mother and grandmother had “good hair” but I ws never allowed to use the term., My mom said any hair that grows out of your hair is good hair. My grandmother haaaated her bone straight hair and even bought wigs to cover it, even though the wigs were the same texture as her hair smh,
    Ive rocked a short cut the majority of my life and black men surprisingly love it! Never had one complaint. Im just now trying to grow it out and hate it thus far. Short hair gives so much freedom imo..just too expensive to maintain