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How to handle hair comments?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I am a multi-racial mom (AA, Caucasian, Native American in about equal parts) - the sort of person who used to be asked "what are you?" a lot. Many people assume I am Black, but I don't really identify as anything in particular, besides, "of color". My DH is Caucasian and our DS, if I had to pin a race on him I would say maybe looks Hispanic?

Anyway, I have gotten comments from white women who were both probably around 60, about what pretty hair he has. His hair is basically straight with a slight wave, for now. I would call it Kennedy-esqe if he had more if it. One was pretty offensive and said "oh, it's not tightly curled at all" and the other just went on and on about how pretty it was.

I don't know what to say to these people. They are assuming that I have "bad" hair because I am brown (I don't - it is simply curly and I use a flat iron b/c curls are hard for me to handle), and that I am happy that he doesn't have "bad" hair.

I think my child is beautiful. If he would have come out with an afro or if his hair changes to one, he would be no less beautiful. I don't get it and I don't know how to respond to this. I know they don't perceive it as rude, but it is just as rude as commenting on someone's weight.

Anyone have any good comebacks for the next time this happens?
post #2 of 14
With my son(I am white, dad is black, hair is very curly but not very tight), I used to get "Oh, he must get his curly hair from his dad!" and I would reply, "Nope, his dad is bald" ;-)

I really don't think some people get it, and snappy comebacks are just lost on them. If it was a stranger, I would just smile and bite my tongue. If it was someone I knew, I would probably try to educate them a little, so they don't offend someone else and embarrass themselves.

I actually had a woman who had a biracial child of her own stop me in our apt building parking lot when DS was a tiny baby. She said "Oh, he's so pale---don't get him in the sun or he will get darker! Oh and look at his blue eyes--don't get too attached to them, because they will turn brown. And look at his straight hair(was stick straight when DS was born)--you know it will get kinky curly, right?" I looked at her like she was crazy and asked her why she had a baby with a black man if she wanted a white baby. LOL, some people......
post #3 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by IAMommy View Post
They are assuming that I have "bad" hair because I am brown
I know that's really frustrating. But I am curious. Are you sure they think you have "bad" hair? (I certainly can't say because I wasn't there)

That's not a concept that really crosses most white people's minds, especially in that age group (60s). Unless they have had a lot of intimate contact with African Americans over the years (close girlfriends, dating a black man, etc.), they aren't going to get how issues about hair can be very delicate.

It is, however, very common to comment on how adorable a little kid is. Unless I thought there were truly some malicious intent behind the comments, and as long as it wasn't hurting my son in any way, I wouldn't say anything. I might still be annoyed, but I wouldn't say anything.
post #4 of 14
I get many comments on my kids' hair, and I take them as they are meant to be: compliments. I say thank you, smile, and go on with my day.

That's all you really need to do, what purpose will a snappy comeback serve? If the comment is something like, "You're so lucky that it is straight" or the like, maybe just a "We would love they way Johnny looks no matter what his hair looked like. He's perfect to us!" Smile and walk away, make a graceful exit.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses. I wasn't looking for a snappy comeback, per se, just maybe something to more draw awareness. Like I said - the one comment was rude, the other was just really strange the way she went on and on about it. The rude comment worried me because the woman who made it was about to have adopted grandchild from Ethiopia. She made some comment about his hair too, contrasting it with her adopted grandchild's hair who is from Central America. I feel for that Ethiopian child with his curls (he's cute as a button - she had a pic) - I hope that she doesn't say anything inadvertently hurtful to him in the future. I know people don't mean to be insensitive, but I wish they understood how their comments come across.
And, it doesn't bother me if people tell me my son is cute - it's that these comments are specifically about hair and ignoring all else.
post #6 of 14
I relate! I used to get this a lot myself.

"You're Jewish?!? I would have never guessed. You really don't look it".

This was meant as a compliment. One guy told me how that I didn't "have" to tell anyone I was Jewish, as if I wanted to hide it!!

One time I was explaining to someone how my sister was much more "typically Jewish looking". They gasped and said "How could you say such a thing about your own sister!" I was all confused. "My sister is beautiful AND she looks more Jewish than I do. That's all. Are you inferring that looking Jewish is something bad??" That shut her up! It was also totally true (my sister looks like Sarah Jessica Parker). I'm much taller with a straight nose and blond hair.

So I would hit the nail on the head. You don't need a snappy comeback. You can simply say "Curly hair is cute too" or you could even ask "Are you concerned about the upkeep?" Make an innocent question or comment that sheds light on what they're "really" talking about.

One friend from Africa, married to a white guy was going on about her kids' hair. I thought she was upset about her dd's hair being so curly while the son has softer curls. Turns out, she was just complaining about taking care of it. I was all "But she has cute hair!" thinking it was about how her dd looked. I'm all confirming that her dd was still beautiful while my friend was annoyed with me because I'm not the one who has to do the treatments and combing...

So here I was, doing the opposite and still digging my own grave!

Btw, hope that wasn't the mother or mil of my friend who is about to adopt from Ethiopia!!
post #7 of 14
Quote:
One friend from Africa, married to a white guy was going on about her kids' hair. I thought she was upset about her dd's hair being so curly while the son has softer curls. Turns out, she was just complaining about taking care of it. I was all "But she has cute hair!" thinking it was about how her dd looked. I'm all confirming that her dd was still beautiful while my friend was annoyed with me because I'm not the one who has to do the treatments and combing...
I think there's always a possibility for someone to get upset or offended, even no offense was meant, because the person saying something is saying it from a different context than the hearer hears it.

My three sons are half-Ethiopian, but only one of them has "Ethiopian hair". The other two have looser, softer curls. The looser curls are definitely easier to take care of and keep healthy. Ds himself though, comments on the different kinds of hair between him and his brothers. Sometimes his hair annoys him, other times he likes to play at combing out an afro. Mostly though, he's just happy because he has his Baba's hair and he likes that physical connection to his father. Whenever we talk about hair, it's not in the context of "good or bad" or more or less beautiful. Comments from other people may or may not be in that context, I try not to presume motive. But often comments from African-American women about the boys hair are directly related to the amount of care necessary for keeping hair like ds's nice, and they phrase it that way.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
I don't think this woman was Jewish, so probably not your mom or MIL. I've never seen her at my Temple or the synagogue.
The whole looking Jewish thing is another story! I'm Jewish, but people always assume my husband is the Jewish one because they never see any Jews of color. There certainly aren't many in the midwest!
post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by IAMommy View Post
I am a multi-racial mom (AA, Caucasian, Native American in about equal parts) - the sort of person who used to be asked "what are you?" a lot. Many people assume I am Black, but I don't really identify as anything in particular, besides, "of color". My DH is Caucasian and our DS, if I had to pin a race on him I would say maybe looks Hispanic?

Anyway, I have gotten comments from white women who were both probably around 60, about what pretty hair he has. His hair is basically straight with a slight wave, for now. I would call it Kennedy-esqe if he had more if it. One was pretty offensive and said "oh, it's not tightly curled at all" and the other just went on and on about how pretty it was.

I don't know what to say to these people. They are assuming that I have "bad" hair because I am brown (I don't - it is simply curly and I use a flat iron b/c curls are hard for me to handle), and that I am happy that he doesn't have "bad" hair.

I think my child is beautiful. If he would have come out with an afro or if his hair changes to one, he would be no less beautiful. I don't get it and I don't know how to respond to this. I know they don't perceive it as rude, but it is just as rude as commenting on someone's weight.

Anyone have any good comebacks for the next time this happens?
Well of course your child is beautiful. Fluffy, curly 'fro, smoother curly locks, or straight as straw tresses...your child is beautiful.

Being african-american, I've dealt with the hair comments all my life. I always interpret the comments in line with the person making them, and I don't usually find that people from the generation you described make the comments in a positive manner. Still, no matter the intentions, most people are just curious about the different texture of curly hair, and sometimes that curiosity is packaged in a stupid/silly/rude comment. I just give back accordingly. In the case of the lady who commented on how NOT tightly curled his hair was, I would have simply asked her if there was something wrong with tightly curled hair. Or if she didn't like tightly curled hair...the other one was just saying it was pretty, so I would probably have agreed with her and made an additional comment on the beauty of ALL naturally curly hair, which society always seems to want to straighten for some odd reason.

One of my midwives this afternoon was touching my hair in a curious way, and while my mother would have been horrified and probably would have told her off (again, different generation!), I knew she was just curious and needed to touch it for whatever reason. I didn't need to say a thing.

If I'm too pissed off to trust myself to speak, I seal my lips and just call the first person who I know would understand and vent on them. That always works.
post #10 of 14
I am white and my children are adopted from Ethiopia. I get hair comments all the time. While they may be well-meaning, and often the people are just making conversation, hearing them over and over gives each comment a cumulative effect. Already my daughter is beginning to notice that her hair gets a lot of attention. Soon, she might start to not want that kind of attention, again people may be well-meaning, but the take home message for people hearing repetitive comments like this is to highlight their difference from others. Some kids are fine with being different and getting attention for being different, but many aren't.

When I hear comments like this my concern and focus is entirely on making sure my daughter is comfortable (DS is too young to be affected by any of this yet). I don't worry about the other persons' awareness or comfort at all (obviously I stop short of being rude, but my absolute primary concern is my children). Usually this means taking the attention off of DD and her hair as quickly as possible, or changing the attention so that we are discussing similarities rather than differences. Example: someone in the grocery store (and these interactions tend to happen in the grocery store) asked if DD's hair gave me a lot of trouble. I looked at the woman quizzically and said not any more trouble than my own hair gave me. My tone of voice indicated I was completely confused by the question (even though I wasn't). Then I asked the woman a question about her hair.

When DD receives a compliment about her hair, I thank the person and mention something else about DD that emphasizes her connection with others- oh look, DD, you and 'random hair-complimenter' are wearing the same color shirt, and let the conversation continue that way (or bring the conversation to a close quickly, depending on my mood and whether I think the person is likely to bring up the hair again).
post #11 of 14
Well I have boring, straight, long hair. So hair that is curly or tight or ringlet...it's just amazing to me.

But clearly I should keep my mouth shut!
post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by IAMommy View Post
Thanks for the responses. I wasn't looking for a snappy comeback, per se, just maybe something to more draw awareness. Like I said - the one comment was rude, the other was just really strange the way she went on and on about it. The rude comment worried me because the woman who made it was about to have adopted grandchild from Ethiopia. She made some comment about his hair too, contrasting it with her adopted grandchild's hair who is from Central America. I feel for that Ethiopian child with his curls (he's cute as a button - she had a pic) - I hope that she doesn't say anything inadvertently hurtful to him in the future. I know people don't mean to be insensitive, but I wish they understood how their comments come across.
And, it doesn't bother me if people tell me my son is cute - it's that these comments are specifically about hair and ignoring all else.
I'm just crashing in * I alway click the new posts button* but I would be one of those people who would comment on hair! I'm always stopping people, oh "look at those curls" or "omg, her eyes are so bright" or "I love those rolls!" I just love babies, all babies.. and they all have a special cuteness about them! I love baby curls too. I never knew this was an issue?!?! I live near Clearwater Beach, Fl and this community is very multi cultural.. ugghh.. hope I haven't pissed anyone off yet
post #13 of 14
I am Scandanavian on both sides, and have naturally curly hair. I get tons of comments on it, and take no offense. Of my three kids, one has my hair and the other two don't.

We got TONS of comments on her hair when she was little (she looked like Shirley Temple a bit). I think she actually liked the attention - but she has always been a bit of a ham and super outgoing/social.

At 12 she started straightening her hair (to my dismay) and REFUSED to wear it curly. One day she did wear it curly, and everyone GUSHED. Now at 13, she wears it curly sometimes and straight sometimes.

I think comments that insinuate that curly hair - or straight hair for that matter - is bad are rude. I think "your dc has gorgeous hair" is hard to take offense to. I'm not going to stop giving compliments that are positive.

I do think taking age and background into account is good before reacting to comments. I try to take them with the intent the giver meant.
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kailey's mom View Post
but I would be one of those people who would comment on hair! I'm always stopping people, oh "look at those curls" or "omg, her eyes are so bright" or "I love those rolls!" I just love babies, all babies.. and they all have a special cuteness about them! I love baby curls too. I never knew this was an issue?!?! I live near Clearwater Beach, Fl and this community is very multi cultural.. ugghh.. hope I haven't pissed anyone off yet
Oh, you might not need to worry at all! And having to second guess everything you want to say can be a strain, and even more awkward in its own way.

It's really a question of context. Other people and perhaps the OP might have different experiences, but the times when I've found hair comments difficult have been when they've been a conversation opener by a complete stranger. The whole vibe of those conversations is really weird. It's like the only thing they notice is my child's hair.

But when we're already in a conversation, have already connected about something else, and hair is just one more thing to talk about, then it feels really different- comfortable and appropriate.
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