Do Not Touch

I knew it was bound to happen, I just didn’t know when. If you’re a black girl, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Yup, someone touched my hair.

Let me set the scene. I decided to finally check out a new library to unwind and get some work done after school. The outside of the building didn’t look like a library… at all. The building was old and beige and the library sat on top of a convenience store and a nail salon, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked it. Inside, was a beautiful, modern space with everything I needed to zone out on my computer for a few hours and enjoy a new space that wasn’t my apartment or school.

When I decided to leave and pack up my stuff, I heard two little voices behind me speaking in Czech. The only word I could understand was “Prosím!” which means “please”. I thought they wanted the desk I was at because they could tell I was getting ready to leave and the library was packed, so in response, I said “Ano” which means “yes” and before I knew it, I felt HANDS. IN. MY. HAIR.

I felt my shoulders automatically raise in response and slowly turned around. I saw two very excited girls that were about 7 and 10 years old smiling at me. They continued to chatter in Czech while I packed up my stuff and left as quickly as possible. All I could think about was how much I loved this library and how I couldn’t go back there. It’s hard being in another country where the culture is different, you aren’t fluent in the language and you don’t look like the majority of people you’re surrounded by.

Having my hair touched by random people isn’t something I like, especially with freshly washed hair. I hated feeling like I didn’t have control over what was happening to me and was angry with myself for accidentally giving them permission to do that. Something I had to remember was that everything can be a learning experience if you look at it through the right lens.

Let’s be honest, it’ll probably happen again. Next time it does, I’ll be a little more prepared. I taught myself a new Czech phrase that I can say with confidence, “nedotýkejte” or do not touch.

 

-Jelani

Travel Writer and Contributor

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