Sunday, July 24, 2022

Desirability: Hair and My Past Dating Experiences


Hello! The Unleashed One here. I hope that everyone is having a good day thus far. It is expected to hit 100 degrees where I reside, just as it did yesterday. I was fortunate enough to get my morning walk done when the temperatures were between 70 and 80 degrees.

The following topic was inspired by a YouTuber I follow named Oh! Stephco. I will put the video below if you want to look at it first before reading the rest of this blog.

Stephanie was reacting to a video involving a young lady on Tik Tok (she also has videos on YouTube) who went viral after jokingly making the statement that white men found her natural features and natural hair more desirable than black men. I didn't see a big deal over the statement. Not only did I find Lipglossssssssss' approach funny ... I found it to be truthful.

When I was growing up, it wasn't hugely touted to be proud of one's natural hair. If anything, one should apply the "creamy crack" to smooth down unmanageable (read: nappy) hair.

My grandma would often place a hot comb to warm up on the eye of the stove as she moisturized my scalp with some Blue Magic. Then, once the comb got hot enough, she would go, one section at a time, to straighten my hair. The sizzle of a hot comb against hair is one sensation that cannot be forgotten. On me, my hair would look great for a couple of hours before the elements would cause it to shrink.

Around middle school, many girls I knew were starting to get their hair permed. Hot combing my hair was getting time-consuming. It also didn't help that there was a lot of pressure to fit in. My grandma didn't have the money at the time to pay a beautician, but there was this individual-in-training willing to perm my hair for a nominal fee. 

To make a long story short, it was a disaster. The person put a curl in my hair instead of a perm. As expected, I freaked out. The lady, then washed my hair again, and (a Beautician/Stylist 101 no-no) put the perm on top. 

Yeah, my hair started coming out soon after, and for a while, I rocked braids until my hair came back. Back in middle school/junior high, braids weren't popular, so I did get picked on.

However, once my hair achieved some length, I was perceived differently.

I picked up the message that when my hair was longer, I was seen as more attractive. When it was permed, or if not permed, braided. In one of my dating adventures, he and I went out after I had just taken my braids out (I like to give my hair a break for a couple of weeks before putting chemicals back in), and he wondered what happened to my hair. When I told him that I'd taken the braids out, the first thing he wanted to know was "when I was getting them back in".

Once I moved to Georgia in late 2001, I did plan on continuing the tradition of going to a hairstylist (since what I went through in middle school impacted me so much). However, I wasn't prepared for how much more it was to get a perm and style in Georgia vs. what I was charged by my hair stylist. For a while, I attempted to buy box perms and do it myself, but I discovered that the longevity of the perms was less and less the more I put them in my hair.

In 2002, I stopped perming my hair completely, choosing to rock braids or extensions you could clip in. This continued until I moved to New Jersey in 2003, and one of the first things I did was to cut the remainder of perm that was in my hair. I had enough hair that was considered a "teeny weeny afro", but I don't have a lot of pictures back from that time, but I am aware that I didn't get "looks of desirability" if you will. If anything, there were moments when I got mistaken as a guy.

In late 2003/early 2004, I started my loc journey. The looks I got were more of curiosity than anything. My grandma couldn't understand why I even got locs. Each time she thought of them, she would refer to them as "lil' twigs". I know that grandma didn't mean any harm; she just hadn't been around many people at that point who had them. I just wanted to find a way to care for my hair that didn't take a lot of manipulation. I entrusted my hair to a wonderful loctician for a huge portion of my loc journey until I was equipped with the know-how needed to retwist and care for them on my own. 

Again, the hair had to get to a certain length (to my shoulder or past my shoulder) to get the looks of enchantment. That was also when my grandmother and others around me began to become more accepting of my hair.

As far as my dating life, I wasn't "dating" because I was in long-term relationships. One relationship I was in started during my time in GA and ended in May 2008. The other, which eventually resulted in my first (and so far, only) marriage, began in November 2009 with the divorce being finalized in March 2017 (we got separated in September 2015).

January 2016 was when I first decided to see what was out there. The majority of the individuals who were in my dating inbox were not black. The outreach did not extend any further because I was focused on connecting with someone "like me" (if you get what I mean). But I wasn't getting much in the way of resonance.

Examples of responses in my early dating days:

Have you ever thought about getting your hair straightened? 😖
Would you ever remove your locs? 😶

Have you ever been told your locs don't make you look professional? 😡

Do you still have to wash your hair when you have locs? 😖

Too bad I can't run my fingers through your hair ... 😬

I discovered that it was more than just length. The hair had to be a certain texture - not as coarse. Plus, there were others who just equated me with the stereotype of people who had locs.

I took a pause from dating after those disastrous experiences until the spring of 2017. I came across an individual who absolutely loved the look of locs, being natural, the whole nine ... or so he said.

After I removed my locs, I noticed that he was different, almost upset that I had removed my locs. I had spoken about it numerous times, but perhaps he didn't take me seriously.

In any event, my experiences just put credence on this: When it comes to hair and perception of desirability, length and texture matter. 

Instead of trying to throw shade on the message — or even worse, do a Social experiment on someone without her permission just to prove a point —  why can't we as Black people accept that there is a huge amount of hypocrisy and that selection of a person whose hair possesses non-white traits isn't a preference but programming?

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