I’ve always been pretty easygoing about my hair. I abhor anything that I perceive to be relatively high maintenance or restricting. I love the versatility of my hair, hence the reason I’ve been natural since 2007. I moved to New York City many moons ago to be closer to my then-boyfriend, and at the time, I had worn my hair natural. He’d seen me in braids, twists and a bevy of other protective styles with my natural hair. Never once did he complain, and in fact, he complimented me often and would occasionally play in my braids.
Fast forward to a few years later. We planned a weekend rendezvous in another city where he was stationed. It had been weeks since we saw each other and the excitement of seeing him was at an all-time high. I decided that it would be a good idea to get gussied up for our dinner date and headed to a salon and completely changed my hair: I got a pixie cut. Everyone thought I looked cute–except for my boyfriend. When he came to pick me up, the look on his face was certainly not what I expected. It was a strange mix of excitement, dread and sadness.
Throughout dinner, he kept mentioning my hair and the fact that I’d cut it. He kept asking why I did it, when I did the cut, and why so short as though I had willfully mutilated myself in some way. It got so bad that he couldn’t bring himself to be intimate with me later that evening. Any other sensible person would’ve probably given him a piece of their mind after such a reaction, but morning came and I wanted to get a better sense of why he felt the way he did.
He said to me that changing my hair was a drastic adjustment. He’d been so used to seeing me with my natural hair, and that was the image he was looking forward to when he picked me up. He then went on to say that I should have asked him before going so short (as I came to find out, he has a thing for long hair that he was trying to work through with me) before worriedly asking, “How long is it going to take to grow back?”
Throughout the course of our relationship, I became very aware of his preferences and subconsciously tailored my hairstyling decisions towards them. I wore longer weaves and braids more often than not, even becoming slightly obsessed with the length retention of my own natural hair. It just seemed like an easier way to avoid a fight. One time I challenged his preferences and said that if he wanted me to wear my hair a certain way, he should sponsor my hair endeavors financially. The argument then turned into one around the idea of women needing to tailor their grooming and beauty habits to appease men’s preferences. You know, on account of that whole “men are visual creatures” and “unless you want to date yourself” way of thinking he (and other men) had going on.
I am way older, and much wiser since I parted ways with that man. I’ve learned to do what feels right and comfortable for me while bucking convention and undue pressure about my hair. Women are visual creatures, too. We like what we like. I have my preferences – I love men with beards. But you will be hard pressed to find me turned off if my significant other decided to switch it up and shave his beard off for a bit. Hair comes and goes, people shouldn’t – not over such insignificant things.
Have any of you been in this situation? Does your boyfriend or girlfriend really get a say in how you wear your hair? Do they factor into your grooming habits?