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When Your Natural Hair Becomes a Game of 21 Questions

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I thought that by choosing to stop relaxing my hair, my life would be easier. No more worrying about chemicals burning my scalp, no more breaking and shedding. Little did I know that by not processing my tresses, things would get even more complicated for my hair.

The other night, I was invited to attend a small get-together at a friend’s house and out of nowhere it seemed, the main topic of discussion quickly turned to my hair. The fact that I was wearing it out and in curls was a source of such curiosity to my white peers, all of whom had seen me with my hair like this before. But one bold young man in a particularly inquisitive mood took it upon himself to barrage me with questions about my ‘do — questions he’d asked before, mind you — opening up a Pandora’s box of a real life #AskJihanAnything session.

I have no problem explaining what I do with my hair — when it’s appropriate. I am something of a product junkie and I stalk natural-hair girls on Instagram, seeking out reviews on different products and images of hairstyles I can try out. I guess for some people, seeing someone with curly hair and then straight hair can be jarring. Hairstyles, so confusing! Still, I couldn’t help but feel like some kind of alien with all the questions they were asking me.

“So…is it curly, or is it straight?” the same guy asked, looking at the obviously curly hair springing from my head. With due shade, I explained that black hair tends to be curly and coily. “Did you do something to it?” another asked. “Is it yours?” “Wait, wasn’t your hair different from last time I saw you?” a friend of mine who recently saw me inquired. It was — I had it in a bun before. What was so difficult to understand? “My hair works, grows and can be manipulated like how your hair can — just in a different way,” I said, as my exasperation crept up in my chest until it became a sigh.

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