The show airs today, September 30th (set your DVRs!). But before it does, I’d like to comment
on an issue that Rock discusses both in the film and during his visit with
Oprah: the “no touch” rule when it comes to Black women’s hair (i.e. if you’re
dating a Black woman, don’t even try to get near her head). According to Rock,
Black men are “thirsty” to touch a head of hair, and Black women’s "keep away"
policy causes intimacy issues.
Deeper than the “my hair will get messed up” mantra, I think
the root of the problem lies in insecurity. And why not? Us women of color have
always been taught that, in its natural state, our hair is not beautiful. So we
hide behind weaves and wigs and relaxers, quite literally putting up a
barriers between our scalps and the hands of others.
At least in my experience, the fake-ification of my hair promoted
my own hair insecurity. When I had a relaxer, my hair was never normal - but instead “oily” or “brittle” or “damaged”. It couldn’t get wet. It would
break if I was – forced to – swim during PE. And oh, the lies I told my White
friends back then! They’d ask, “How long does it take you to straighten your
hair every morning?” I’d reply, “Oh, awhile.” Never letting on that I actually
hadn’t washed it for 2 weeks. Because, in my mind, telling them that would make them think I was dirty
(when in reality, it’s just not good to wash, blow dry, and hot iron relaxed
hair very often). And so, when my first serious boyfriend didn’t want to rub my
scalp because my hair was “too greasy”, I pretty much deemed my hair
off-limits. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my head rubbed; it was more that I was
ashamed. And, quite honestly,
having someone you care about halfheartedly rub your head for a second and
then wipe off his hand on his jeans burns more than any relaxer on the shelf.
Of course, these stories are from high school. I don’t have
a relaxer anymore and I’m proud of my hair now, but I’ll be honest – the
insecurity lingers. That’s why, even today, there are only a handful of people
who I allow near my head. They’re the ones who I know are actually enjoying my hair. The ones I trust with all my insecurities. Because, as a woman of color, when someone rubs your head you’re completely dropping your guard, thus
putting your complete SELF into their hands. It can be sensual, but definitely not by definition. It’s love (think Celie "scratching the song" out of Shug's head in "The Color Purple").
So back to Chris Rock and men not being allowed to touch Black women’s hair. My advice: If you’re a man and you’re with a Black woman, offer to give her a legit scalp massage. Say you’ll be careful not to mess up her hair – all you want is for her to lay down and close her eyes and relax. She may turn you down, but believe me, the offer will light her up.