I think curly hair is pretty fantastic. Curls are springy and soft. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, long and short. Everyone’s curls are a little different, and many of us find that our hair never falls in the same way twice.
It’s not surprising that people love to touch curly hair.
In my last column, I mentioned an experience most curly girls share — having their hair “boinged.” People are fascinated with the springy nature of our hair. A few of my friends have been known pull gently on one of my curls, watching it lengthen as it straightens. They delight in letting it go and watching it bounce back to (more or less) its original twist. The sound effects, of course, complete the experience.
“Boinging” isn’t the only time people play with my hair. Friends often try, with the best intentions, to pluck away “stray strands” that they notice. Those hairs, unfortunately for my scalp, are usually still attached to my head.
“Sorry,” they’ll say, as they meet resistance, “I thought it was a stray!”
My hair is known for doing its own thing; renegade strands are the norm. If I feel the need to rein in my hair, I’ll do it myself.
I’ll never forget the guy who sat behind me in math sophomore year. He used to rip up sheets of paper into tiny balls, which he would flick into my ponytail. The bits of paper usually went unnoticed until I stood up, sending them cascading around my shoulders onto the floor. This inevitably ended in the girls bathroom, where I would take my hair down and shake out any stray paper that remained.
Despite my anecdotes, most of the time when people close to me play with my hair, I don’t mind a bit. I will occasionally remind people I am less familiar with that just because I have a lot of hair doesn’t mean it’s public property. My sister, Lilly, has mastered the art of politely and firmly asking people to respect her personal space when they play with her hair. Since she keeps it short, it’s more vulnerable to frizz and she can’t throw it up in a bun when it begins to look unkempt. She finds it frustrating to carefully wash and condition it, only to have a friendly stranger run their fingers through her curls.
I’m enthusiastic about my curly hair, and I appreciate it when others appreciate it. However I’ve learned to draw boundaries, whether I’m telling a classmate that paper is for taking notes or a friend that hair on my shoulders can stay there.