Natural Hair Is Not a Man Magnet

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Natural hair
I think she's gorgeous but do guys?
I have a tight circle of friends who are as cute as they are kind. They’ve all been a part of my life for at least ten years — one has even had the pleasure of seeing me evolve from my days of big, explosive bangs and one-shoulder Guess overalls in high school, and homegirl isn’t afraid to dust off pictures as proof.

I’ve watched them go through as many hairdos as they’ve gone through cars, boyfriends, and addresses, and individually make the transition to natural hair. They wear it in different but fabulous ways: big, wild ‘fros, short and curly cuts, coils and two-strand twists. Creativity with their locks has also been somewhat of sociocultural experiment. My friends feel like they don’t get as much male attention as they did before they grew their relaxers out, and if they do, it ain’t by men who look like them. So it begs the question: are black dudes biased against natural hair?

Hark — I can almost hear the protesting now, especially from guys who consider themselves to be conscious and enlightened and oh so power-to-the-people. We’re all beautiful, no matter what shape, size, complexion, and yes, hair texture, they’ll insist. And to be fair, there are some brothers who authentically feel that way, though I’m convinced they’re few and far between.

More plentiful are the dudes who don’t realize or don’t care that they’re holding a very obvious candle for straight locks that bounce, whip, and shake. Honestly, if that kind of hair wasn’t the style preferred by the majority of men, Yaki hair weave wouldn’t be flying off the shelves at beauty supply stores and some poor woman somewhere out there wouldn’t be frying the kinks out of her roots as I type.

We’ve all been pounded with the conditioning — some more than others — that one kind of hair is better than the other. From the time we’re old enough to hold a thought, guys and gals are pounded with the idea that straight hair is pretty hair. Straight hair is nice hair. Straight hair is good hair. In elementary school, little boys crush on the little girls with the long, silky plaits. That’s the gateway drug, and the attraction runs all the way into adulthood. And most of us, at some point in time anyway, have burned our scalps and fried our tresses to appease it. I perm my hair but I didn’t always. It’s a temporary style choice that I’m sure I’ll get bored with sooner than later and transition out of, just like I transitioned into it.

Now more and more black women are foregoing the chemical treatments to let their hair breathe and just be. I’m excited to see so many beautiful ladies shed their wraps and rollers sets and get creative with the crown of gorgeous hair that they were born with. But with so much baggage still hanging over our community — cough, cough, like color complexes — I don’t think it’s completely preposterous that some black men have a hard time appreciating us in all of our natural glory.

Watch a mainstream hip-hop video, if you can stand it. At first blush, it seems like a victory to have dark-skinned girls included in the spectrum of shades representing black women’s beauty. But if they’re in there, best believe they’ve got a head full of shiny, tousle-able weave to balance it out. The day a chart-topping rapper parades an entourage of natural-haired women through his video shoot is the day I assume the post of fan club president. The message the casting sends is you can get a pass for being dark if you have long hair. Lengthy locks certainly up the beauty ante for any woman, far as that flimsy beauty standard goes.

It’s not that my friends don’t get compliments on their hair. They do. But it seems like something guys prefer to appreciate when it’s not their woman wearing it. The Man has expressed love for my hair the way it is. Before I even started writing this post, I asked him what he’d think about me going natural. “Your hair, your decision,” he said. His enthusiasm was underwhelming and honestly, not all that convincing.

If you’ve transitioned to natural hair, have you noticed a difference in the way men notice you? Do you think men prefer permed or straightened hair?

Image via ni_mykon/Flickr

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