“Do you like my hair?” she asked, twirling a strand and smiling, hoping for an affirmation of her expectations.

He looked at the soft, flowing, dark brown locks, expertly sewn into the roots of her harder, black, African coils. The extensions were expertly attached. He could not tell, without looking closely, where her own hair ended and the attachments began. Looking at her expectant smile, he knew she wasn’t really interested in his opinion. She just wanted a gushy “yes”.

The hair was probably expensive. He’d heard stories of a few locks being sold for sums that were more than his monthly earnings. Like many beauty products, the provenance determined the price; he vaguely recalled that Brazilian hair had been in vogue for some time. One joke had it that if a forensic examination of hairs found in a Nigerian crime scene were conducted, the investigation would have to travel to another continent to find the suspect. Given how Nigerians love anything associated with white people, such an event might even be viewed with pride. It would be seen as further affirmation of the country’s global importance. This desire for western recognition, while good in some instances, was questionable in this case.

But she is important to him, he likes her a lot. And if he wants to keep her, it is necessary that he pleases her by giving her the affirmation she seemed to crave. However, he realized that telling her he likes something when he actually does not would create a problem for him. He would have to keep lying to her; this would make him resent her and strain the relationship. Furthermore, she would keep doing what he dislikes on the assumption that he likes it.

If, on the other hand, he told her he did not like it, the best outcome he could hope for would be a long conversation explaining his reason while avoiding criticism of her. She was not so fawning as to submit to his whim without justification. He had once had such a conversation with a friend, going on about the silliness of black women uglifying themselves by aping white women, suffering hair loss and wasting their money on something that (he imagined) most guys did not care about. The normally agreeable and rather timid girl had torn into him with a savagery that had shaken him – who the hell did he think he was? did he think she was trying to look good for him? And so on. He did not want to risk a repeat of that unpleasantness with this one.

He wondered if she would be convinced if he told her that he disliked the attachments because the hair did not feel nice against his skin, it was too itchy. Or he disliked how it looks and smells when it’s been on her head a while - brittle, dull and musty. Or perhaps talk about hair loss, how her hairline would become patchy, straggling clumps amid ever expanding bare patches, like the rainforest retreating from developers.
Finally, he said:

“I like your hair” he said. Stressing the word “your”.

She automatically began smiling wider in appreciation, then slowly froze as his meaning sank in. She narrowed her eyes and he mentally braced for impact.