âCan you wash your hair?â
âHow did you get your hair to do that?â
âI donât know you, but can I touch it?â
Those are only a few questions that 29-year-old Dr. Erica Jones gets about her hair at work. The board-certified family medical practitioner has been sporting her ‘locks for 10 years. She has received plenty of sideways questions and found herself in several awkward situations.
In one instance, during a check-up, Jones says she bent down to listen to a patientâs heart and lungs, only to find the patient reaching up to touch one of her dreads that escaped from her ponytail. Instead of getting turned up, Jones quickly regained her composure and laughed it off.
Dealing with painful hair situations in the workplace isnât only an issue for natural sistas. Those of us who rock weaves, relaxers and other hairstyles are also up for questioning, too. Whether your straighter-haired counterparts are inquiring about your decision to rock your ‘fro, or they have difficulties understanding the complexities of a sew-in or relaxer, having to always explain how black hair works can make you feel like the spokesperson for all women (or men) of color.
How do you deal?
âWhen people ask me how my hair grows and how I wash it, I tell them that it grows just like yours and I wash it just like you do,â Jones says. âMy hair sparks conversation from people who arenât used to seeing natural hair and who are genuinely interested. I handle it by being open and light-hearted when approached with questions regarding my hair. If they ask to touch it, sometimes Iâll ask, ‘Why?’ Usually they want to know what it feels like and if itâs real.â
I Am Not MyÂ Hair
Instead of feeding into the drama, Jones lets her smarts, charisma and confidence speak for themselves.
âI know that Iâm good. I know my facts and I know that Iâm professional so my hair has nothing to do with my job,â Jones explains. âOnce you reach a certain educational level, knowledge should outweigh anything thatâs on top of your head. I can control how I present myself and my work ethic, but I canât control what others think.â
Jones advises to be aware of the company culture or the workplace environment that youâre in.
âRegardless of money, I donât want to be involved in anything where would my hair would be an issue, because Iâm not going to be comfortable being myself and that wouldnât allow me to perform to best of my ability,â Jones says. âLife is too short. Do what you want to do and what you love to do.â
How do you handle off-the-wall questions or situations about your hair at work? #SoundOff and follow Jamie on Twitter @JayNHarrison.