What Do Men Really Want? Straight vs. Curly Hair and Why Self-Love Trumps All
by Shirley Kali Johnson, Soulistic Wellness
Whether you transition to natural hair from relaxed hair or you live a life of being natural with your curly or kinky hair, the transition and the everyday living with curls and kinks can be more challenging than just what products to use. Transitioning and making the choice to wear your hair natural often challenge most of the societal beauty standards that we have, and might trigger our own self-confidence and way we feel about ourselves.
Many women get a relaxer or opt to wear their naturally curly hair straight because we think this makes us more attractive to men. Before I went to college, straight hair meant a trip to the salon and having to deal with the stylist moaning about how much hair I have—and at least two hours of heat on my tender scalp. But in college I invested my hard-earned $25 into a flat iron. I was able to go straight in about an hour. What I noticed when I wore my hair straight was that I got much more attention, and I even felt better looking. Of course, there was not a real transition that occurred in the hour it took to flat-iron my hair – my skin, features and weight all stayed the same. The only thing that changed was my hair. Yet, I perceived myself as a more attractive and desirable woman all of a sudden. I noticed that Black men were much more attentive, and they loved to play with my hair and compliment it.
The choice to transition, or wear one’s hair naturally curly, represents more than just a choice in style, it represents a decision to see oneself truly, as well as confront some of the societal ideas about beauty and desirability.
I was at brunch with a friend a few weekends ago and we began talking about her transition to natural hair. We started to talk about not only the beauty standards but how men of different races received us with our hair. Our conversation started to confirm some of the ideas I suspected for awhile.
Why is it sometimes more difficult for a Black man to find beauty in a Black woman’s natural hair than it is for men of other races?
Why is it sometimes easier for people of other races to appreciate the natural textures of black hair than it is for black folks to?
, who has been natural for six years, shared part of her transitioning story with me. Once she decided to go natural and leave behind her weekly trips to the beauty salon to keep her hair straight to rock a curly do, the color of the men interested in her began to shift. She said: “One time, I was walking in SoHo with two of my close male friends—one a brother from Brooklyn and the other a white world traveler—and I posed the question: Do you prefer my hair straight or curly? Unsurprisingly (but perhaps disappointingly), my black friend said straight and the white friend said curly.”
Another woman, Tawni F.
, who has been natural for 10 years and wears her hair mostly curly and sometimes straight, recalled that as she transitioned, less men seemed to approach her with interest but more of them who did were “more diverse in race and style.” While in the past she attracted mostly black men, they also tended to be the “pretty boys,” and Tawni noticed that “high-maintenance hair and high-maintenance men” go hand in hand.
Once we give up the “high-maintenance” style, that means some of the men we once dated may lose their interest in us. It doesn’t take much to look around society and notice that so many of the black women portrayed on TV are either wearing fake hair or a very high-maintenance style. While the natural look is beginning to become a bit more portrayed, the vast message still sent to women is that the best thing to do with your hair is straighten it.
As we get to know ourselves as women, the truth is that we might find out that the high-maintenance habits that once served us are no longer what is best. And even though our hearts and spirits stay the same, we might notice that just the change in a hairstyle can affect how men look at us or are able to be attracted to us. Tawni noticed that even as she wore her hair naturally curly and dated a diverse group of men, she commonly heard them saying she would be “even prettier” with straight hair.
To hear that you are prettier when you are “unnatural” can not only be hurtful, but also influential in making one decide to give up on their natural selves. The fact that the men who we identify racially and culturally with can sometimes be the least appreciative of this journey to natural is saddening, yet also helpful in reclaiming the most necessary approval that we need – our own. Hakikah S.
has rocked many different styles with her hair, and she concludes from it all, “I learned from that to be true to my hair and myself. I think how you feel about your hair is a reflection of yourself and it radiates to others.”
The most powerful part of going natural and allowing your natural hair texture can be letting go of the need to have others approve you, and rather than waiting for another to find you attractive, insisting upon your own beauty and attractiveness. The more that we learn to love ourselves, we learn to teach others to love ourselves just the way we are. And once we are in love and approval of ourselves, then every man and woman we meet will feel the same way about us, too.
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