Every girl wants to feel beautiful. When you see that look in a guy's eyes that searches deep into your soul, that makes your fingertips tingle at the slightest touch, that makes your heart do a hop-skip, you can't help but smile. During this euphoria phase, you're both giddy, bordering on ridiculous. There's no denying a connection that's real and rare.
But as mom may have told you, finding that special connection often comes only after sorting through your fair share of bungled relationships with blockheads. For a curly girl, dating dilemmas can be even more complex when you factor in the guys who expect you to lose your curls and mimic the stick-straight locks of cover girls and superstars. Maybe you even expect yourself to live up to the same stereotype, and don't even know it.
How to deal? The answer isn't exactly cut and dry. Just ask 18-year-old Rylee Lutz. Only two years ago, she was waking up bleary eyed every school morning before dawn to begin her two-hour, curl-flattening ritual. It was her twisted little secret, and it ruled her love life. She never even went swimming with her boyfriend, fearing she would be discovered.
"I didn't want anyone to know," says Lutz, (Curl type: 3B).
But she couldn't keep her secret for long. While out boating one sunny day, her friends finally persuaded her to get in the water. She ran out of excuses, and just figured it would be easy enough to keep her head above water. No big deal.
"Then I get splashed and I'm just, like, (mad)," Lutz says. "My hair got all wet and my boyfriend said, 'Well, I see now why you never wear your hair curly!'"
Her response? Silence.
But inside, her mind was a screaming chatterbox: "Why do I have this hair?!" It was a cruel mantra.
Dating experts say what we feel inside often shows up in our relationships, whether we realize it or not.
"If you've straightened your hair every day (and then he sees you curly), you not only set him up, you set yourself up because this is the image you project for yourself and for him to see," says Maryann Karinch, co-author of "Date Decoder" and other human behavior books. "Not only may he not like your curly hair, but he's getting on some level that you don't like it either. And maybe in his awkward way, he's encouraging you to do what you've always done before."
Or, maybe he really is just a blockhead.
"If you're with someone who is so superficial that he wouldn't like you or think you're attractive just because of your hair, he's not a good guy for you," adds Dr. Debra Mandel, psychologist and author of "Dump That Chump."
Looking back, Lutz knew she picked the wrong guy. But it took time (and plenty more pain) before she was ready to face the inconvenient truth.
"I learned that you have to be yourself," says Lutz, who lives in Appleton, Wis. "If you're confident, it really shines through."
Sounds simple, right? Just grab yourself some confidence and get on with it. If only it were that easy, says Lutz, who stayed in that rocky relationship a few more months, and continued her rigorous straightening regimen for another year. That is until one early morning, during her usual two-hour prep, she decided to set herself — and her curls — free.
"My dad came in my room and said, 'What are you going to do when you go to college? Are you going to be in your dorm room for half the day?'" she recalls.
Lutz realized she couldn't keep up the facade any longer: "I was just like, this is ridiculous."
In that moment, she vowed to find a way to embrace her curls, even though she still heard that nagging self-conscious voice.
"I thought, 'Guys don't like curly hair, so they're not going to like me,' or whatever," she says. "But it's kinda silly because now I love my curly hair. It started to grow and become really healthy."
Fast forward a year to high school graduation, and Lutz is voted "second best hair in a class of 400," she says. "Even guys said, 'Your hair is sweet now. It looks awesome!'"
Her love life is sweeter, too. There's a new boyfriend and, yes, he loves her curls.
"My boyfriend now knows me so much better because it's the natural me. And now that I enjoy my curly hair, people can tell," Lutz says. "I think you should really own what you have!"
Got a Curl-Phobic Mate?
When your boyfriend makes not-so-nice comments about your curls, how do you know if you unwittingly picked a bad boy or if he's really a good guy in disguise? Dating experts reveal five secrets to figuring out whether to love him or lose him.
Keep it real, no curl cover-ups
If your hair was straight when you met your boyfriend, and you almost always wear it that way, should you really be surprised when he resists your natural curls?
"People will often feel deceived if what you present to them is not the real thing," says Dr. Debra Mandel, psychologist and author of "Dump That Chump." "It's better early on to say, 'I have curly hair, and if you don't like curly hair, let's not keep dating.'"
Mandel says women aren't doing themselves any favors by making too many changes, then hiding behind them.
"It's cool to make some changes when you're already confident about who you are, trying a different look or style," she says. "But (straightening your hair) because you're trying to cover it up? That's not the right reason."
Don't punish him for telling the truth
If you ask your boyfriend whether he prefers your hair straight or curly, just be mindful you may not get the curl confirmation you're looking for. And if you get angry at the truth, don't be surprised if his silence speaks volumes in the future.
"Don't ever ask a question if you don't want a real answer," says Maryann Karinch, coauthor of "Date Decoder." "You have to look at your own deal breakers. If it's important for you to be accepted for being a curlyhead, you should really only be with guys who appreciate your natural good looks and are not trying to change you."
At the same time, Mandel encourages women to not take their boyfriend's preferences too personally. If he's not crazy about your curly hair, that doesn't always mean he's not crazy about you.
"We can't help what turns us on," Mandel says. "As long as the guy we're with is turned on by us in total, and not just in one aspect, it's okay that he has a preference about one thing or another."
Give him a chance to lean into change
If at first glance he doesn't like your curly locks, stop and take a breath. Don't just assume the worst and kick him to the curb.
"It's always important to have a conversation about it before jumping to conclusions," Mandel says. "When there's a change, sometimes it takes a while to get used to it. Straight to curly, that's a pretty dramatic change."
Or, maybe he just doesn't want anything to change, period. Karinch says that's when you probe a little.
"You can say to him, 'Are you willing to give this curly look a try for a week or two? Then if you still feel the same way, let's talk about it,'" Karinch suggests.
After that, the decision is yours, but at least give him a chance.
Draw the line, when it's time
Then again, you may not think he deserves a chance.
"If he complains all the time about your curly hair, if he makes you feel bad about yourself and says it's ugly, then dump him," Mandel says.
On the other hand, maybe he's indifferent. If you have an otherwise rock-solid relationship, you have to determine how much the need for curly praise really matters to you.
"If he's mature about it and says, 'It's okay, but (curly hair) is not my preference,' and doesn't hold it against you, then he's a keeper," Mandel says, "as long as the rest of the relationship is good."
Get out of his head and into yours
Before dissecting his every word, remember to focus on your needs first, Karinch says. After all, you can't change other people, the only life you have control over is your own.
"What do you want? What are you looking for?" she asks. "Don't just try to change yourself for the guy. It's important that you know what your expectations are of him. Don't try to twist and turn your life around to be whatever he wants."
In the end, we're all looking for a connection. Be true to yourself, and you'll be well on your way to finding it.
Curlyheads Speak Out on Boys Behaving Badly
Love is always one of the hot topics on the NaturallyCurly.com message boards. And when a recent post asked for advice on how to handle a curl-bashing boyfriend, curlyheads responded in droves. Here, a snapshot of the support and tactics they shared, which ranged from reassuring to radical!
"If I ever date a guy who says he doesn't like curly hair, I'll tell him I don't like body hair (which I really don't) and tell him he needs to wax EVERYTHING." — Amandacurls
"If you're looking for a boyfriend who likes your hair curly, don't ever straighten it. He'll see that's who you are and if he doesn't like it, he'll leave. If that's why he's leaving you, then good riddance!" — coolaqua93
"In the past, I have experienced 'men' telling me to straighten my hair, so I told them I would — when they shaved all their curly body hair." — CurlyHairedFarmer
"Tell your boyfriend you don't like his curls in some places and you can borrow a flat iron to straighten it." — tulipan
"I don't need any guy's approval, including my boyfriend's, on my hair. He is entitled to his own opinion, and just because he thinks my hair is lame doesn't mean I should go cry a river and dump him." — N.D. Aube
"Make sure you get a man that loves you for you because you're going to be saying hello first thing in the morning for a good many years." — lexygirl
"It isn't worth changing yourself to make someone else happy. Be true to yourself (and your hair!) and the men will follow." — LoloDSM