Beauty is pain. Especially for us black girls. Our hairthrough a variety of styles is an outlet for our creativity and originality.

My box braids, in particular, are a conversation starter whether I want them to be or not. So allow me to briefly explain. They’re simply the application of synthetic or human hair to a person’s natural hair after making a box-shaped part, then maintaining the usual three-strand braid from root to tip. To properly conceal it, beauticians, or aunties, use the power of mild boiling water in a pot or a lighter so the tips are sealed tight. The key product afterwards? Say it with me, coconut oil.

So, what’s a weave, then? Valid question. I always use a football analogy to explain the difference. To someone unfamiliar with the sport, a field goal and a punt are synonymous. They sound very similar, but have completely different functions on the field, just like box braids, weaves and dreadlocks have different functions on the scalp.

Recently, Solange, Beyoncé’s younger sister, released an album that epitomizes the term “unapologetically black.” The ninth track of this candid album is beautifully titled “Don’t Touch My Hair” and has become my new anthem. If you aren’t familiar with it, now you are.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fashion Googled

I feel as though there’s a 50-50 reaction to this video: you either get it or you don’t. I want to explain to those who don’t know what this song means to us, from our perspective.

Here are our stories:

Ricky Franklin

“Having had natural hair my whole life, I am so used to people touching it without permission. My favorite is one time I was sitting in a conference-style class when I was younger and whoever was sitting behind me found my hair curious enough that they reached out to touch it. I’m a good sport so when I turned around and told them I felt that, I had a smile on my face. I guess their embarrassment caused them to go temporarily insane because they tried to argue with me that I couldn’t have felt them touching my hair. Still makes me laugh.”

Maddie Gee

“Senior year, my pre-cal teacher went up to me and asked how my hair grew so fast because I went from natural hair to braids and then a girl in my class went up to me, pulled on my braids and said ‘Wow, they are really attached to your head.’ C’mon now.”

Brashon Ford

“When I was a freshman in high school, this girl in my home economics class kept on asking me if my hair was real, or if it was a weave. I constantly told her that it was my hair but she didn’t believe me. So she actually grabbed a piece of my hair and pulled at it, and after she did that she asked me if it hurt when she did it. I was so shocked because she had no business touching my hair.”

Serena McArthur

“I was sitting in class with my long braids. I guess that girl sitting behind me thought that one of my braids was unraveling but that’s just how it appeared. I didn’t notice as she halfway unraveled the braid and tried re-braiding my hair until she said, ‘Look, I redid your braid.’ I quickly pulled my braid back and said, ‘No, it just looks like that.’ So I had to go home that afternoon and put it in hot water again.”

Yours Truly, Savvy Cooper

Every fall semester, my high school hosted a parent/teacher meet-and-greet, which my hyperactive mother marveled at year after year. While we were meeting my junior year AP U.S. History teacher, his colleague, let’s call him Mr. Jones, saw an opportunity to touch my luxurious braids and took it. While signing up for text/email alerts from class throughout the year, in that brief moment, his fingers found my scalp. Unfortunately, for him, he wasn’t swift enough because as I lifted my head up he was caught. He tried to play it off with patting my head like I was a dog or something, but it was too late. I will never forget.

To quote the lyrical genius Biggie, with heavy censorship and paraphrasing, “If you don’t know about black hair before, now you know my friend.”

Cover Photo – Photo Credit: Michaela Schirra