Last night, I attended Dinner Delights with Afrobella – an awesome event put on by Soulafrodisiac! Another post will be coming shortly on that, but I was inspired to write this entry after the Q&A session with Afrobella.
She was detailing her transition from permed hair to natural, and mentioned that she relaxed her hair for the last time for her wedding. From that point on, she made the transition to natural hair, and I wondered, what did her new husband think? Then my brain started clicking even more, and I thought, how do the men in our lives make that transition along with us?
My question has nothing to do with a man’s “say” on his partner’s hairstyle. Each relationship is different, and whether you choose to wear your hair to please your man or to please yourself, that’s up to you. However, consider the Black man who has grown up around women with permed hair. Met you when you had permed hair. A while into the relationship, you decide to go natural. While you’re scrounging the net for styling and product tips to figure things out, he’s looking at you, attempting to figure things out too. What dynamics do you find there?
I’ll admit, this question is a bit selfish in nature, because the scenario I just posted is what I lived not too long ago. When I met my HomieLoverFriend, I was in my relaxer hey day. Thick, luscious straight hair that would swing around my shoulders or get pulled up into a cute topknot. The most “natural” he would see is when I threw in some cornrows or braids from time to time. Years into our relationship is when I started to suffer the extreme damage that inspired me to go natural (detailed here and here), but when I started my transition with kinky twists, even then he still figured it was “break time” and I’d be back to the relaxer soon. When I finally decided to cut off the remaining relaxed ends and rock my natural, he was kind of taken aback. It took him a WHILE to like it. It was short. I’d detangle and my curls would clog the bathtub drain. He would light up when I’d get it flat ironed, and would seem slightly downtrodden when I’d go back to the curls. It was just different.
I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just like it as much as I did. I went through phases of insecurity, then would combat that with overly aggressive statements like “Well, go getchu a permed chick then! This is ME! I am NATURAL! Hear me ROAR!” He’d look at me like I was crazy. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “It’s your hair and you’re happy with it.” And that was the beginning of the turning point.
When I really checked it deeply (word to Sean Paul), I had to look at things from his perspective. Nearly every woman in his life, from family to friends to past girlfriends had permed hair. That’s what he grew up seeing, and that’s what he grew accustomed to. Biracial girls were the ones who rocked their curls, but just a regla’ Black chick like me? I came to realize that he (like a lot of other men) was just not exposed to that. I began to see that my transition was his too – he and I were learning about natural hair simultaneously, and I couldn’t discredit his role in the journey. If we’re blessed to have a daughter, he’s already ahead of the game on natural hair care (I’ll have to teach him how to twist, though). More importantly, he will be able to instill in her the feeling that she is beautiful just as she is. Should we be blessed to have a son, he’s going to play a vital role in showing him that Black beauty is more than just what is shown on TV and in magazines. Parents are children’s first role models – if ours see Mommy rock a huge afro puff, a curly twist out, and flat ironed hair in the same week, AND see that Daddy loves her just the same everyday, imagine how powerful that could be for a Black child?
Anyways, I’m getting ahead of myself. The ultimate thing I had to learn during my journey is that I had to be patient. Not just with my hair, but with HomieLoverFriend too. I thought he was being unsupportive, when really he just was getting used to a different expression of me. I’d speak up when I felt he hurt my feelings, when really he was just asking a sincere question in his usual blunt style. Patience and discussion – those were the two most important things for me. He has his preferences like anyone else, but he loves ME. Every last little bit of ME. When you’re lucky enough to get to the point where you really, truly see that, it makes it all worth it.