Wendy is stuck at jury duty this week and will hopefully—knock on wood!—be back
tomorrow or Thursday next week. Until then, here’s one of her best Dear Wendy columns.
I wanted another female’s approach to dealing with an unsatisfied husband. I am a black female who generally used to relax her hair straight since childhood. A year ago I told my husband that I had a desire to go natural, which he responded to with “whatever makes you happy.” So then began my journey – and it wasn’t an easy one. Needless to say I cringe at the idea of getting a relaxer again, since it took so much time to get it naturally to the length which it is now. I love my hair, and I feel confident – the problem? My husband hates it, and at least once a week tells me how unkempt, ugly and socially incorrect I look. Says he finds himself less attracted to me, and that he feels embarrassed to be seen with me unless my hair is bone straight. (Occasionally when I have flat ironed my hair, I have had the challenge of dealing with seriously frizzy hair.) Everyone else has been quite supportive, so these regular comments have been a great blow to my self-esteem, but how can I deal – or better yet how can I help change my husband’s instilled negative viewpoint on the hair that I was born with? It’s starting to become a really big problem in our marriage. Thing is my hair isn’t a statement which I am trying to make to the world, I just feel good about myself, I feel a sense of comfort in my own skin which I never thought existed. So what now? Should I just cave in to his persistence — or wait it out? — Frustrated Natural Wife
First of all, having grown my own hair out from a very short pixie cut, I can appreciate the “awkward” stages in transitioning from one hairstyle to another, so congratulations on getting to a style you love and feel good in — that’s the most important part! Of course, the style transformation isn’t really complete if your husband isn’t on board. Sure, you can say “screw it, it’s my hair” and do whatever you please and it would certainly be your right to do that, but since your husband’s constant nagging and name-calling is affecting your marriage, something needs to give.
If your husband thinks natural hair is so socially incorrect, it’s a little curious that he didn’t put up any kind of fight when you first told him you wanted to go natural. It makes me wonder if he’s using this bogus “socially incorrect” argument simply because he doesn’t like your hairstyle and is willing to say whatever it takes to get you to change it. There are tons of different natural styles you could go with — it’s possible he just doesn’t think the one you’re currently sporting is the most flattering for you. If he thinks it’s “unkempt”-looking, that could be a sign that you aren’t using the best products for your hair texture and style. Why don’t you bring home a bunch of magazines with pictures of black women with natural hairstyles, then have your husband go through and pick out some styles he might like on you. If he hates them all, then you know he’s truly anti-natural, which is a problem in itself. But if he’s open to some of the styles, take two or three of your favorites to your stylist and have her/him change things up. If your husband still pines for “bone straight” hair on you, consider having a professional stylist flat-iron it for special occasions, or you could even experiment with wigs (look to Sherri Shepherd on “The View” for some inspiration — she loves her wigs!).
If your husband proves to be anti-natural hair completely, talk to him about where these feelings come from. He may see you, his wife, as an extension of himself, and your hair an extension of your social and political beliefs — maybe beliefs he doesn’t necessarily share. To straighten or not to straighten is a debate so fierce in the black community, it recently got the attention of the New York Times. Chris Rock’s new documentary “Good Hair” addresses the debate, too. Maybe you and your husband simply fall on opposing sides of the debate, and if that’s the case, it’s important to discuss why. Even if you can’t be on the same “side,” hopefully he can understand that you feel good about yourself when you wear your hair natural, but as a compromise, you’ll occasionally get your hair professionally flat-ironed (or experiment with straight wigs) and he’ll quit nagging when you don’t.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.