My Ex-Boyfriend HATED My Natural Hair: 5 Things I Learned From It
“I find natural haired women less attractive than women with straight hair.”
This was something along the lines of what my ex once said to me mid-argument when I decided to go natural back in 2013. A baffling opinion that sparked the beginning of our ending, also became a sentence that revived in me something that had been perpetually swept under his rug throughout our four-year courtship — my self-identity.
That statement completely withered my self-esteem — which was already teetering on floss-like string. We were essentially “college sweethearts,” getting together during that ever-so-delicate self-discovery phase. If you were a sheltered-by-way-of-poverty, gullible, and sensitive college student — like I was — you were a prime target for getting swept off your feet by the likes of a guy who seemed like he ‘had it all together.’
As perplexing as his statement was, it made me realize the following:
He’s not the only one you should be upset with.
People’s reactions to your physical appearance are typically based on social constructs. We have all been spoon-fed fantasies of what is deemed attractive; in the case of black women, it’s even worse. Attributes that make us unique have gone from being routinely scrutinized to highly favored when appropriated in the name of fashion. For someone like my ex, who strongly valued how he (and his lady) were seen to the world around him, my decision went severely against his deeply embedded ideals of beauty.
You have more control over what you think of yourself than you think.
This dilemma typically lies with how much you allow what people think of you to control how you view yourself. When I cut off the remainder of my damaged permed ends, revealing a curly dark brown twa, I looked at myself in the mirror — and felt absolutely hideous. Every flaw I thought I had stood out even more to me.I felt as though my ex didn’t look at me the same — which was part truth and part me letting the things he said about my new ‘do dictate how I felt about myself. Moving forward, I’d approach him hesitant, indignant, and feeling judged.
Often times, you have to lose to gain.
Beauty is NOT defined by your hair alone. I know, I know, you’ve probably heard this many times; but this journey was what opened my eyes to that truth. His appearance-directed reaction was what, ultimately, helped me wake up to myself. It has been an experience where the storm occurred before the calm. Being the stubborn woman I am, I wasn’t going to back away from my decision. Perms started to be too much of a bother, and I had put in a lot of effort at that point. It was through that period of losing him — and my hair — that I gained a tremendous amount of insight about myself, and this ridiculous perception of beauty.
If a loved one is quick to dismiss changes in your appearance, they should probably be dismissed, too.
What bothered me the most about my ex’s reaction to my hair choice was his fervent unwillingness to accept that I could be seen as beautiful with my hair in it's natural state. I mean, this is how my hair naturally grows out of my head! But, he just wasn’t having it; and I realized I couldn’t have that. It’s unfortunate yet fascinating, the power that societal pressure can have on what we see as beautiful. At the end of the day, a significant other’s inability — or worse, unwillingness — to wholly accept you is grounds for a flag on the play.
True beauty really does lie within, but you have to be willing to see it.
One reason I’m grateful to live in a place like New York is due to the sheer variety of people you encounter every day. It’s an environment that forces you to interact with and consider other realms of beauty. For me, a chunk of that beauty is revealed when meeting people and experiencing their cultures, beliefs, food, and ideals. I’ve found that you have to be willing to open up your mind in order to recognize and acknowledge the beauty in it all.
It took me quite a while to eventually start embracing my new look. Soon after doing so, I began witnessing a slow, but steady, shift in the way natural hair was being embraced. Not just by outsiders looking in, but by other women who were choosing to come to terms with their natural beauty as well. Today, when I look into the mirror, I see me a lot more clearly, and it’s a pleasant sight! I’d be lying if I said I don’t still struggle with being self-conscious at times — that’s just natural. But, when my 12-year-old sister excitedly points out that we have similar hair and suggests we wear it in the same style, I am reminded of the impact embracing all of me has to those I may not even realize are watching.
Have you had a similar experience? We want to hear about it! Let's chat in the comments below.