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Early Childhood
When you were a baby, your hair grew in layers
You have fine hair
Look at all that hair!
Don’t ever cut your hair, child
What a beautiful girl, all that thick hair
Wow! Her hair is so looong
Bushy
Dookie braids
That nappy head

Middle School
Bushy
Nappy head
You tender-headed?
How come she don’t straighten it?
You got too much hair
Stuck up about her hair

Baby Pho with undone hair

High School
She got naps at the back of her neck
I like your braids
Can I touch your hair?
Did you cut off all your hair and get extensions?
Please shut the bus window, girl who doesn’t have hair that blows in the wind

College
I like your hair
You only wash it how often? Is that normal?
Your hair has beautiful texture
Can I touch it?
I don’t know why you don’t always wear it like that
You cut off all your hair???!!!
Wow
I love your hair short
Excuse me, sir

Museum Cafe Steps

Post College
Your nappy head
I love your hair
Mom, that’s not a boy!
And who is this new young man?
Are you growing it out? (Please grow it out)
Great ‘fro
Oh, you say ‘natural’?
Aye mama, your hair is mucho BOOM!
Can I take your picture?
Can I interview you about black hair?
What do you do to your hair to make it look like that?
What products do you use?
How long have you been natural?

Context and Subtext
Nonexhaustive. No particular order. Check one or all that apply.

  • You’re the only person of color in the room and I want to somehow connect and validate your humanity.
  • I’m intimidated because your hair expresses a degree of non-assimilation and that’s not the social contract I agreed to.
  • I think kids are adorable.
  • I exist mostly in an all-white space and find black children especially unique and adorable.
  • You’d look better if you straightened your hair.
  • You are our daughter and everything about you is special, including your hair.
  • You’re unusual. I want a photo to remember you by, but I might not ask before taking it.
  • I like to look at people because I find them intriguing and beautiful.
  • After a lifetime of perms, I’m following the new trends and trying to wear my hair as God/Goddess/the unnamed or science made it. I’m scared. I see you and I want your support.
  • I’m growing my hair out and the texture looks more African-heritage than I’m comfortable with. Maybe the products you use will make my hair more curly than kinky, and thus more acceptable to me and everyone else.
  • If a woman has short or nearly-no hair, she’s not a real woman.
  • I’m not really paying attention.
  • I’m an eight year old and while being black is kinda okay, looking ‘African’ definitely isn’t. By insulting your hair and skin color, I can create psychological distance between me and you.
  • Because the world you inherited will put you down, I’ll keep trying to build you up. Ps. I like your hair.

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