Recently I was on a flight sitting in a middle seat when a flight attendant suddenly reached over and tugged on my hair. I thought it was bizarre and quite annoying because I spend a lot of time caring for my curls. The encounter left me unsettled, mostly because I wished that I had had a different response other than smiling to hide my discomfort. To that end, I want to be more prepared with a response the next time this situation inevitably happens. Here are some perfectly acceptable reactions when someone unexpectedly touches your hair.
Play it cool
There are many possible reactions to have if someone touches your hair, starting with playing it cool. If the person asks first and it doesn’t bother you, you can smile and show them where and how (gently) to touch your hair, so they don’t mess up your curls. If it does bother you, you can wear a “Don’t touch my hair” pin everywhere. Point to that pin. Problem solved.
If the person doesn’t have the courtesy to ask first, you can step back to remove yourself from his or her reach or smile and put your hand in between his or her hand and your hair. You can get your point across without having to say anything.
When playing it cool is not working for you, be a bit firmer in your reaction. If the person asks before touching your hair, you can simply say that it would make you uncomfortable. If that person lacks the perception to understand that invading a stranger’s space could cause discomfort, tell him or her. Don’t be nervous about the awkwardness; that person created the situation, not you.
If the person doesn’t ask first, say, “Please don’t touch my hair.” You’re still being courteous but it will get your point across.
If today is just not the day for you, don’t be afraid to let your true feelings show. If the person asks before attempting to touch your hair, put the discomfort back on her. Say, “Only if I can touch your hair first.” It will become evident how strange it is to do such a thing. Otherwise, you can just say, “No” and turn away. It’s simple and effective. You don’t need to feel like you’re being rude, because you don’t owe this stranger anything.
If the person doesn’t ask first, and you’re just not in the mood, all bets are off. The times when I have felt most uncomfortable with a stranger touching my hair, I have had visions of grabbing a spray bottle, and spraying the offending stranger like you would a misbehaving cat until he steps away from my curls. If that person is going to treat me like a pet, I should be able to do the same. Unfortunately, I don’t usually have spray bottles handy, so another perfectly fine reaction would be to just start messing up that person’s hair too. They will be shocked by how creepy it is and hopefully back off.
At the end of the day, any reaction you have to someone unexpectedly touching your hair is perfectly acceptable. It’s your hair, so you are the one who decides whose hands can touch it or not!
Has anyone ever touched your hair unexpectedly? How did you react?