HAIR-Brained Comments in the Workplace

Now I’ve heard many eyebrow-raising comments while sitting in my cubicle, but by far the most have been about my hair. As a Black woman, I choose to wear my hair “natural”. And for those who may not understand that term, “natural” is when you do not have a relaxer/perm and you don’t use products that alter the chemical makeup of your hair.

Anyone who knows me knows that my hair (whom I have affectionately named Chaka), is rebellious, yet versatile. Sometimes I wear my hair straight, sometimes I wear it curly. But, however I choose to wear it, it never fails to draw spectators in the office. Here are a few comments that have given me pause in the workplace.

“How do they stick to your head?”

This was said to me when I sported the cornrow style you see above. I thought I lived in a world where everyone knew what these were but alas, I was wrong. For the record, cornrows are a style of braid (originated in Africa) that are plaited tightly to your scalp. They’re like mini French braids. But when I wear them I am mistaken for a magician who has somehow abracadabra-ed my hair into sticking to my head. But that’s OK, I don’t mind appearing mysterious.

 

“They look like snakes!”

In the summer, I rarely wear my hair straight because the second a drop of perspiration touches my scalp, it’s over. Two-strand twists are the easiest thing for me to do on my own. I wash my hair, put in some conditioner and a soft gel, twist it, roll it up at night to let it dry, and voilà. I’ve had a range of reactions to these but the most memorable has to be this comparison to snakes (to which I was quick on my feet with “Don’t touch or they’ll bite!”…which wasn’t totally an empty threat).

 

“Oh my God! What happened?”

Just what every woman wants to hear when someone sees her with a new hairstyle. This was the reaction I received from one of the higher ups at my current job. My hair had been straight the day before so I guess I took her by surprise. She literally stopped in her tracks and threw her hands up like she had just encountered a tiger (to be fair, my hair CAN be a beast sometimes). I just didn’t think the change was drastic enough to warrant a surrender stance.

 

“Your hair looks so much better like this”

If you need an example of a backhanded compliment, here you go. I’m willing to bet that every “natural” has heard this. I’ve been told by several hairdressers that I should get it relaxed because it would be so much easier. (I’ve even been banned from two Dominican salons.) And maybe they’re right, but I like my hair in its natural state (difficult she may be) and I still have the option to use a hot comb or flat iron if I want more versatility. But I hate it when someone implies that they don’t think my hair looks as good in its natural state. If you want to pay a compliment, just say “I like your hair” and keep it moving.

 

“You left a roller in there”

OK this one may be my fault. Sometimes I ride to work with a couple of rollers in my hair for a little last minute encouragement for droopy curls. I always take them out as soon as I park…except for a few isolated incidents when one of them hides from me in the abyss. At least I have friends at work that will point it out before too many people see me. Did I mention that most of my rollers are hot pink? Yikes!

 

There you have it folks. Those were some of the most hair-raising comments I’ve heard in the office (pun intended). If you see someone around your office whose hair looks interesting to you, here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you navigate the situation:

  • DO be quiet – If you don’t have a compliment for them, it’s OK to keep your thoughts to yourself. I’m sure your coworker did not style his/her hair for your approval.
  • DON’T throw up your hands like you’re being held up in a bank. Believe it or not, that behavior can make someone a little self-conscious.
  • DO ask questions – I don’t mind questions from people who have genuine curiosity but if you feel yourself starting to say something like “Oh no, what happened?”, resist.
  • DON’T touch. This advice could save you the heartache of losing a limb.

Feel free to share some of your hair-related experiences in the comments below!

P.S. Shout out to my stylist Tonji at: More Hair Salon

R. Alexandria